Howl's Moving Castle
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In Hayao Miyazaki's latest animated masterpiece, journey beyond imagination and enter a "breathtaking fantasy world" (Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times) filled with adventure, humor and heart. Sophie, a quiet girl working in a hat shop, finds her life thrown into turmoil when she is literally swept off her feet by a handsome but mysterious wizard named Howl. The vain and vengeful Witch of the Waste, jealous of their friendship, puts a spell on Sophie. In a life-changing adventure, Sophie climbs aboard Howl's magnificent flying castle and enters a magical world on a quest to break the spell. Featuring the voice talents of Jean Simmons, Christian Bale, Lauren Bacall, Blythe Danner, and Billy Crystal, Miyazaki's artistry comes to life on DVD with inventive characters, unique storytelling and richly detailed animation.~(c) 2004 Nibariki - GNDDDT
Like a dream, Howl's Moving Castle carries audiences to vistas beyond their imaginations where they experience excitement, adventure, terror, humor, and romance. With domestic box office receipts of over $210 million, Howl passed Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke to become the #3 film in Japanese history, behind his Spirited Away and James Cameron's Titanic. Based on a juvenile novel by Diana Wynne Jones, Howl's Moving Castle marks the first time Miyazaki has adapted another writer's work since Kiki's Delivery Service (1989). Sophie, a 19-year-old girl who believes she is plain, has resigned herself to a drab life in her family's hat shop--until the Witch of the Waste transforms her into a 90-year-old woman. In her aged guise, Sophie searches for a way to break the Witch's spell and finds unexpected adventures. Like Chihiro, the heroine of Spirited Away, Sophie discovers her hidden potential in a magical environment--the castle of the title. Using CG, Miyazaki creates a ramshackle structure that looks like it might disintegrate at any moment. Sophie's honesty and determination win her some valuable new friends: Markl, Howl's young apprentice; a jaunty scarecrow; Calcifer, a temperamental fire demon; and Heen, a hilarious, wheezing dog. She wins the heart of the dashing, irresponsible wizard Howl, and brings an end an unnecessary and destructive war. The film overflows with eclipsing visuals that range from frightening aerial battles to serene landscapes, and few recent features--animated or live action--offer as much magic as Howl's Moving Castle. --Charles Solomon
The Many Worlds of Hayao Miyazaki
The works of Miyazaki
The Art of Howls' Moving Castle (book)
Stills from Howl's Moving Castle (click for larger image)
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Miyazaki's new film is based on a book of the same title written by Diana Wynne Jones. The film's story is told from the viewpoint of a 18-year-old girl Sophie, who is working at a milliner's shop every day. But she can hear the sound of bloody battles from the distance, and it is clear that this beautiful country, where witches and wizards live among humans, is going to see another war sooner or later.
But apparently Sophie is still leading an ordianary life until her uneventful routine days are suddenly broken by one accidental meeting with wicked 'Witch of the Waste,' who turns her into an old woman with a curse. Seeking for her place to live, Sophie goes to the wilderness where, the townspeople say, a young wizard named Howl wanders. In fact, Sophie encounters Howl's Moving Castle in the foggy moutainside, and she decides to hop in. There, forbidden to talk about her curse, she starts a new life with young and handsome Howl, who speaks to her kindly like a prince, but at times acts like a spoiled child.
[MIYAZAKI'S LOVE STORY] You will be impressed with many fantastic and colorful images created by Miyazaki. You might find an anti-war message deep in the film's story, but will find the romantic relations between Sophie and Howl is the most touching and impressive part of the film. Sophie's romantic feeling towards Howl is expressed in a unique way (which I don't disclose here), and Miyazaki, as usual, is very good at drawing the character of this independent heroine. One interesting thing is, probably this is the first case in which Miyazaki attempted to show a love story in his films. And a kiss too.
I must say that not everything works in 'Howl's Moving Castle.' I haven't read the original book, but it is obvious that Miyazaki made changes. Not that I'm blaming them. But the story is sometimes told too hurriedly, and when you think something (actions or whatever) will start, it ends abruptly. Howl's character is full of contradictory traits, that's good, but his complicated personality could have been more effective and convincing with more detailed episodes about, say, his mentor magician (and politician) Madam Suliman or Witch of the Waste.
(If I am not mistaken, 'Howl's Moving Castle' is a rare case for Miyazaki who prefers to use his own stories, and this is the first time he adapts someone else's story in 15 years, last time being 'Kiki's Delivery Service. But 'Kiki's' story written by Eiko Kadono is not long -- I know, I read -- while 'Howl's' story is, I think, much longer. Maybe these facts have soemthing to do with my complaint.)
Greatly helped by Jo Hisaishi's beautiful score, 'Howl's Moving Castle' is full of imaginative power, with one strong heroine you can relate to (though she is 90-years-old), plus memorable supports including fire damon Calcifer, (not a bad guy at all), and ubiquitous Prince Turnip who always appears at the right moment. Flawed, to be sure, but enjoyable fantasy tale with a healthy amount of humor and lots of imagination.
The review above refers to the original Japanese version. I know the English version includes the voices of Christian Bale, Jean Simmons, and Billy Crystal, but as I have never seen the version, I did not talk about them. Still, as Mr. Miyazaki is not likely to approve any changes done to his films, I hope what I saw in Japan, you will see in your country.
As adapted by Miyazaki from the book by Diana Wynne Jones, Howl (voice of Christian Bale) is a melancholy young wizard (considered a heartthrob by some of the book's fans) who lives in a castle with doors that open into completely different locales. A young boy and a fire spirit (Billy Crystal) are among his few companions.
Into his life comes Sophie (Emily Mortimer), a young haberdasher transformed into an old woman (Jean Simmons) by the selfish, corpulent Witch of the Waste (Lauren Bacall, voicing her second animated role). These are characters that all follow their own arcs with twists and turns aplenty.
"Howl's Moving Castle" is a spectacular viewing experience, rich in sweeping panoramas and astonishing detail, even for a Miyazaki film. You just cannot see it all in one sitting.
Pop in the Blu-ray and take a look at the scene in which Sophie enters Howl's chambers, infinitely adorned in glistening jewels, spinning objects and undulating formations. You can't even be sure how deep the space is -- seeing it in 3-D would only literalize it. Once the film was announced on Blu-ray, this is the scene I most wanted to see and it did not disappoint.
Blu-ray & DVD include:
Blu-ray-only Bonus Feature
Original Japanese Storyboards
Blu-ray & DVD Bonus Features
Behind the Microphone
Interview with Pete Docter (coproducer of the English version with Rick Dempsey)
Hello Mr. Lassiter: Hayao Miyazaki Visits Pixar
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