Howl's Moving Castle Poster

Howl's Moving Castle (2004)

Animation | Family   
IMDB Rayting:   8.2/10
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese

When an unconfident young woman is cursed with an old body by a spiteful witch, her only chance of breaking the spell lies with a self indulgent yet insecure young wizard and his companions in his legged, walking castle.

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surenm 20 March 2005

I think this is possibly Miyazaki's most intriguing movie. All of his other films are very linear and even though their highly varied worlds may be visually stunning and highly creative, I feel the dreamy world of Howls Moving Castle is by far the most captivating, bizarre, and imaginative of all the worlds Miyazaki has ever envisioned.

What I love about this movie is that it's highly emotional without a great deal of logic or plot or story to get in the way. In this way the film is simple, pure, and extremely beautiful. It is as if the characters go from one emotion to the next, in a world that is as random as one's own dreams. Some people have complained about the lack of plot or story or serious character development, but even though the characters are fairly static, their emotions and the physical changes they undergo as they go through these emotions brings out a higher truth that is seldom given such artistic and natural freedom.

I think this is a very smart movie in many subtle ways and it's one that I look forward to watching again on the big screen and then on DVD. Although it flirts from theme to theme to theme with a kind of animated attention deficit disorder, the landscapes and utter unabated surrealism left me stunned and never bored.

Also, from a quizzical character design perspective, Howl is certainly one of if not the most beautiful characters that Miyazaki has ever created. Howl is an interesting departure from Miyazaki's more classical wabi-sabi anime style that most of his heroes and heroines are drawn in as Howl is definitely a very contemporary bishonen.

If you're looking for quaint settings, dynamic characters and a very involving character or plot driven story, you're not going to necessarily find them here, but you will find an equally stunning and pleasing movie if you let yourself go and enjoy this passionate, heartfelt and surreal Miyazaki dream.

soanim8ed 6 June 2005

Howl's Moving Castle is as marvelous and magical as Miyazaki's other great work. Something in Disney's advertising or the description I read gave the false impression that it was going to be sub-standard work meaning it was still going to be better than anything DreamWorks Animation was doing (Madagascar was sooo pedestrian).

While not as awe-inspiring as Spirited Away or action-packed as Mononoke, it does work on the level of Kiki's Delivery Service as a girl is forced to be better than she thinks she can be (well, that's not a big surprise, that's all his films). And as with all Miyazaki stories, the story teaches without being preachy. And the lessons learned are represented in character changes and in the character's physical appearance as well. It's that same attention to detail that has made Pixar so great.

The animation is wonderful. The castle is itself is a mesh-mash of so many haphazardly arranged pieces that an engineer would have an aneurysm just sorting them all out and yet it works. Through magic, of course. The magic being Howl's and the authoritative hand of Miyazaki's direction. The airships (wow, airships in a Miyazaki film? Who would have thunk?) are great variations of one's he's used before and there are some rather dark and beautiful scenes of a world at war.

Most of the voice work was very strong including Christian Bale (Howl) and Emily Mortimer (as the young version of the heroine, Sophie). The voice that surprised me was Billy Crystal as Calcifer, the little flame that could. He's the heart of the castle and only annoyed at his first few scenes then becomes a very likable character.

There a few clunky moments in the plot line where transitions between story points weren't very strong, but overall it's another outstanding film from Studio Ghibli. Even my 40 year old partner, who had spent the day mountain biking, was dead tired and had never seen a Miyazaki film stayed awake for the entire 2 hours. When we left at 3:30 in the morning still jabbering away about all the imagery and meaning, we realized we had seen true art.

cornishogre-1 10 July 2005

When I read some four years ago that Diana Wynne Jones had sold the rights for Howl's Moving Castle to a Japanese animator, I wondered. The book (one of my very favorites, which I re-read at least once a year) takes several fairy-tale conventions and merrily turns them upside down. Ms Jones refuses to allow her imagination be neatly pigeonholed as hard sci-fi or straight fantasy, juvenile or adult. This story (as all of her stories) revels in word play. I really wondered how it would all come out translated into Japanese.

I'd never heard of Miyazaki. Then I saw Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, The Cat Returns, and Kiki's Delivery Service. Wow. I think Ms Jones and Mr. Miyazaki must be kindred souls. His movies share a lot with her novels – a whimsical sense of humor, impossible to pigeonhole into a category, magic and mischief, and a firm respect for the audience's intelligence. I began to pace the floor in anticipation of the movie.

I saw the movie today. I was not disappointed. The soul of the story is intact, Sophie and Howl and Calcifer are nearly as I imagined them. Yes, there are some plot adjustments. Think of it as the Series 12C version (for those who have read Ms Jones' Chrestomanci books.) The main elements are there, some re-arranged, some changed, yet with a full understanding of the original. Much like the 2004 version of Peter Pan – much was changed, but the soul is the same.

For those who wonder, here are the differences between the movie and the novel. I've tried to phrase them carefully to avoid spoilers for either fans of Ms Jones's work who have yet to see the movie, and those who have seen the movie and have yet to read the book:

• Why the witch bespells Sophie

• Where the door opens when the dial points to black

•Sophie's sister Martha, and the plot line involving sister Lettie are not in the movie • Mrs. Pentstemmon, Miss Angorian, Mrs. Fairfax are also missing, but elements of each are woven into other characters in the movie • Michael (Markl) is a different age • The battles – magical and military – are quite different (but equally spectacular) • The dog appears at a different time, with a different, yet just as mysterious, agenda • The scarecrow's relationship with Sophie is different • Thelevel of technology is different. (I did miss the 7-league boots)

My advice: go see the movie. It's magical and beautiful and funny. Then, if you are a Diana Wynne Jones fan, check out the rest of Miyazaki's films. Now is a great time, as many of his films are available on home DVD. If you are a Miyazaki fan, hie thee to a library or bookstore try Ms Jones' books. (There is a sequel to Howl's Moving Castle – Castle in the Air.)

And enjoy!

WritelySo 23 February 2005

What an amazing achievement! This is by far the best example I have ever seen of animated characterization. The expressions and the nuances and the emotion captured in this film are truly breathtaking. I love all of Miyazaki's work, but in Howl's Moving Castle he has managed to take it to a level that to me sets the standard.

It has all of the classic stunning Miyazaki panoramas, rich settings, exciting and unusual machinery, and brilliantly conceived creatures that are often humorous and fanciful. The characters are all very expertly crafted and developed, but what really enchanted me were their expressions and the subtle but powerful ways that he chose to elaborate on their connections and emotions. It is very difficult to describe, but they come to life in such a powerful way as to seem entirely real and unique.

He achieves this within the medium - not by really imitating or parroting film or live action, but by artfully exploiting the medium to enhance and capture the subtle interactions that make up relationships. He shows his audience what his characters are thinking and feeling by carefully chosen gestures and facial expressions, rather than relying always on dialog, etc. I was completely swept away by this skillful use of animation - I have never anywhere else seen anything that begins to come close to it.

The story is fantastic - I haven't read the novel, but it had all of the elements I have come to enjoy in Miyazaki's work - there is the humour, the lighthearted moments, the strong, insightful, loyal, and honourable characters, the lyrical drama and action sequences. The pace is perfect - it flows nicely and is always exciting, suspenseful - I got very caught up in the characters and their struggles and hopes. The themes were expertly handled with Miyazaki flair - and always richly meaningful and perceptive.

I can hardly wait to see what this brilliant artist creates next!

life_on_screen 12 January 2005

"Howl's Moving Castle" opened here in France on Jan. 12th (as "Le Château Ambulant," natch), and I saw it at an avant-première. As a raving fan of Miyazaki and of Diana Wynne Jones, I feel lucky to be an American living in France -- I see there's no release date announced yet for the U.S. Sorry, folks, and blame Disney!

I understand the feelings of viewers who have criticized the movie as trite. I find it's less imaginative, in terms of character development and emotional profundity, than Miyazaki's best masterpieces. However, even a pedestrian Miyazaki movie is infinitely more rich, frightening, imaginative and humane than any six Disney films put together, and there's a lot to love in "Howl's Moving Castle."

I am glad I didn't reread Jones' book before seeing the film; even going on my six-year-old memory of the novel, I can see the movie's a very loose adaptation, and I think Jones fans would do best to try to take the movie on its own merits instead of looking for a faithful adaptation. That said, Miyazaki is surprisingly successful, at moments, in capturing the richness of the novel's characters: the peculiar co-habitation of charm and terror in Howl the sorcerer and his demon companion Calcifer, and the pragmatic strength of will that makes us love Sophie, the protagonist, who embodies both the fairy-tale archetypes of the young girl and the old woman at once.

Miyazaki's directorial trademarks are here in spades. Most of them lend strength and power to the film: his passion for open landscapes, his vision of the power and horror of war, the uncompromised way his movies work to empower children, and especially girls. A few of them are just Miyazaki quirks that fans will recognize with amusement (walrus mustaches, cobbled European squares, and flying machines for everyone!) Richer and stranger, though, are the very successful integration of two things that Disney animation never even approaches: the way even a children's story can blur lines between an enemy and a friend, and the cohabitation of the monstrous and the sublime. Enemy, ally, monster, beloved: Miyazaki gives both visual and moral weight to these disturbing contradictions, and certain scenes in "Howl's Moving Castle" evoke a frightening sublimity I have never seen elsewhere than in "Princess Mononoke."

I think the film suffers from a slightly hurried pace, especially with respect to the protagonists' character development, and the result is a loss of the subtlety that makes Jones' book such a gripping fairy tale. Her Howl is more ambivalent, and her story is a more complex investigation of adolescent heartlessness and the growth of the heart. The ending, which falls back too much on clichéd imagery and deus-ex-machina, also could have been better handled. All that said, "Howl's Moving Castle" contains lots of treasures and will, I think, stand up to repeated viewings. Miyazaki fans will be delighted, and kids around the world should be given the chance to taste this latest rich, respectful children's tale. (Be warned, though: there are moments as terrifying as those in "Princess Mononoke," and younger kids will need their parents with them.)

On a final note, as few hardcore fans of Japanese anime will need to be reminded, the movie is doubtless best seen in its original version with subtitles. The Japanese voice acting is terrific -- although the voice of "young Sophie" do

Andrea_R 1 October 2004

I Don't get words to express what I felt when coming out of the cinema, Howl's Moving Castle is an absolutely fantastic film and has even out Laputa and Totoro as my favourite Miyazaki film.

The story is amazing and the characters and creatures are as excellently crafted and fun to watch as ever. The voice actors and music are perfect Joe Hisaishi in my opinion is the best contemporary composer.

My only criticism (very little) is maybe the ending (last minutes) that rises suddenly, far from the habitual perfection of the catharsis final of the Miyazaki's films but nothing important

The movie has a really bad thing of the film: THE LONG WAITING TO SEE IT AGAIN!

ESSENTIAL

whitetigah 6 September 2004

(first of all: sorry if my English is not the best out there, but it's not my native language)

I was lucky enough to see the world premiere (at Venice Film Festival, September 5, 2004).

Not only the art and animation is breathtaking (with almost no CGI), but the story is also above Miyazaki standards.

The characters are wonderful, each one with his (or her) own personality. Among them the best is for sure Calcifer, the Fire Demon, who is actually an almost all-powerful being, but is often underestimated by the other characters ("If you don't obey, I'll pour water on you!").

The music is one of the best parts of the movie. Even if you don't notice it, it is always there, always conveying the right feeling.

Bottom line: this is an excellent movie. If you liked other movies by Miyazaki (such as Mononoke Hime, Spirited Away, Laputa Castle in the Sky...) you cannot miss it.

deegola 23 February 2005

It's hard to make any movie that follow after 'Spirited Away' So, when you watch, you have to try and keep an open mind....which is hard to do since the characters, and the whole feel of the film seems so much like his previous works.

But what fun this film is! And interestingly beautiful. I could watch most any of his movies, just to look at the beautiful scenery. I love some of the incredible imagination that goes into his works.

I could easily recommend this film. No, it's not the better than the rest, but I feel it's definitely worth your time.

I look forward to seeing the film again, maybe I will understand some things a bit better.

chiarasf 14 September 2004

In a time of war and falsity here it is a dancing poetry from Japan against all the cruelty and pain. The moving castle leads us to a magic place where life has a strong value and elderly people have an important role to play. Also in an apparent hostility or in a scarecrow, Hayao Miyazaki gives us the chance of finding a friend and not letting the dream go down. The perfect technique and the emotional stream are in complete harmony. If the jury of the Venice Film Festival had been more far-seeing, it would have given a more prestigious prize to this masterpiece.

ngchiho 30 July 2005

Since 1984, that 20 years ago, I have watch every movie Miyazaki make and mostly on cinema. Howl's is a long wait for me since the Spirit Away. After I seen this movie, it is still very enjoyable to me but there is something in my mind still questioning. Miyazaki want to tell us a love story, that we are sure but may be there is some more. After i read a local film review, the question is entirely clear now I seen this movie into another perspective.

Yea, Sofi is the main character and the story are spin around her adventure. However, Miyazaki seem want to look into the aspects of modern Japanese man through Sofi view point. Howl is a powerful wizard; however his life is not as happy as other thinks. Every success had a price. He was chased by 2 waring parties who want to own his power, he living in a mess inside a moving castle which was keep hiding from one place to another place. Only thing that keep him going is his great style of hair and the believe that he is looking handsome. That why Miyazaki choose Takuya Kimura as Howl casting, in fact, Kimura is a top idol star in Japan which is share a similar burden as Howl, he is handsome, he is popular but he is not free, all the decisions are subject to his manager company, he could not date a girl openly. Yet Kimura married Kudo Shizuka despite all the opposition from his manager company. That strike the similarity that love shall triumph all. Even the war could be stop and the teacher of Howl would not stop him at the end.

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