Howl's Moving Castle

If you have not yet seen the film, there may be some spoilers in here for you!  
If this is the case, I will.. you know I cannot even think of what I will do. But I can say that the first film of the year was a good one!

Seeing Howl’s Moving Castle was spontaneous, doing some homework I found that they were showing it, and we (me and Catherine) knew we had to go see it; after the Odeon, decided that they wouldn’t show it.
Of course, the experience could have better, if I had not decided to… watch the Japanese version with subtitles.

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki–of much fame and renowned for his great films, depicting many walks of life, always idea for both children and adults- Starring Christian Bale (Howl), Emily Mortimer (Young Sophie), Jean Simmons (Old Sophie), Billy Crystal (Calcifer), Lauren Bacall (Witch of the Wastes) and Josh Hutcherson (Markl).

Howl’s moving castle is probably the third Miyazaki film that I have laid witness to, and all of the films that he is involved in are superb. There is some anime out there which is ok, but everything Studio Ghibli throws out is magical, it has the flare of a great animation. The moment you sit down and watch the first few minutes, you know that the film is going to take you on a fantastic story, be it sad, funny or haunting.
HMC is a little on the side of magical arts that I do not usually care for, but nonetheless I digress.
HMC follows Sophie, a simple hat maker from a small town that has never seen the sea before. One day she is saved by Howl from some soldiers that were harassing her, Howl flies her to safety but inevitably gets her wound up into even bigger danger. Becoming cursed by the Witch of the Waste to be the 90-year old woman that she sees herself to be, after being cursed she runs from her simple life to the wastes, until she takes up home in Howl’s moving castle. The film to me seemed to be an exploration of age, as well as the normal fairytale love story, with a happy end, alongside a bit of war and conflict added to created an all round top movie.

One thing that I love about films like Princess Mononoke and much the same with HMC is that it is an animation (meant for children) but adults can relate to the situations, and there is material in the violence and screenplay that makes it both a clever and disturbing movie if you are an adult, although I did find that many people in the cinema were laughing at parts most probably intended for children to enjoy.

In comment to the actors, I loved Jean Simmons as Sophie, it may have just been partly because I loved her character; but Jean Simmons gave the character this quality that I just fell in love with. The same also has to be with Lauren Bacall’s Witch of the Waste. This is another reason to why I love Ghibli films; you can fall in love with almost every character. As usual I cannot complain for the actors, as I would be complaining about their voices. Everyone was pretty good, although I felt that I preferred Markl’s voice in Japanese.

As for the story, I feel as though there was not really much of story. There were ideals; fighting the war, ageing, love etc but in all these separate ideas were formed together to make a great –albeit confusing- journey, rather than a story. But the screenplay itself was good; I pretty much felt that I was watching the same film, with the same dialogue. (This sometimes can not be said about translated dubs)
So.. why did I like the film? Firstly I love the style that Ghibli draw, it always looks like it belongs in a fairytale (not deformed like some anime, or too detailed like some animations), then there are always the lovable characters, (Calcifer, Witch of the waste, the weird dog, turnip man). The stories picked when creating a Ghibli movie are always top notch, the level of mysticism, and imagination that can be drawn out from one story is always used to itself potential, and stories and always complete, so that when the film is over you are satisfied with the result.

Well as for bad points, one shared opinion seems to be that of confusion. Many critics at the release of HMC said that it’s really a film for a child, because as an adult they did not understand anything that was happening, now with this I do not agree. But there was a degree of confusion that I felt with all of the curses floating around, especially that of Howl and Calcifer’s. Nothing else to say.

Overall is was some nice Miyazaki, perhaps not as focused on the war as much as his other films, and perhaps not as engrossing as Princess Mononoke, but some great memorable characters, and situations. A fun film that all the family can enjoy, although like most Miyazaki films it has its ‘scary’ animated parts, which if I were a kid, would scare me a little.

Cptalbertwesker Rating – 8/10
Very strange to watch anime at the cinema, but great to see all the other people that would venture forth on a cold Monday night, to see a ‘cartoon’. Good o’ to the Civic theatre to upping their seats, although they could invest in a quieter projector.


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