Very imaginative and fantastical, I loved and felt conflicted over Howl’s Moving Castle when I first watched it. While I own it, enjoy it, and replay it often, the ending was a little disappointing, and the story seems to lose focus during the finale. However, that’s not to say it’s a bad movie! Not in the least!
I’m a big fantasy lover, so there was a lot of things to entertain me here, and there were several enjoyable characters! So, for today’s Weekend Flick, I want to give a little love to Howl’s Moving Castle!
Howl’s Moving Castle
Adventure | Fantasy | Magic | Drama
2004 | 119 minutes | PG
The wizard Howl’s walking castle is glimpsed on the outskirts of city, causing girls to gossip. Sophie is uninterested, she simply wishes to continue her unexciting life of making hats. However, two things shake up her life: a handsome sorcerer rescues her from soldiers and an offended witch casts a spell on her, causing her to shrivel into an old woman. Sophie, her spirit uncrushed by her old body, decides to travel out in the Wastes to find help in lifting the curse…which is hard to do, when she can’t even physically speak of what’s happened to her. She encounters Howl’s castle first hand and discovers the strange and engaging world that is hidden within it.
I did love the fantasy elements of this movie; such as the magical walking castle. It seemed like an endless maze within, with hidden corners and rooms full of potions and plain old sloppiness. A door that serves as a portal, witches and wizards, fantastical creatures, and good old-fashioned magic keep the film entertaining and delightful, as animation is the perfect form for magic to look its realist!
I loved that the main lead in this character was a woman–a young woman turned old and remaining old for most of the film. Old people aren’t scary or mean or villains, but they’re often painted such in animated movies–so I really liked seeing an old likable woman be the heroine for once. It’s such a nice change of pace! Sophie herself was a decent enough character; I liked her determination a lot.
The rest of the cast was good. I really liked the little boy Marco, he was adorable. The fire demon Calcifer was an imaginative fantasy creature, entertaining without being too silly.
I have a few more issues with the character Howl. He looks awesome and has cool powers, but I never felt like I knew or understood the character himself. He (and the story itself) reminded me a bit of “Beauty and the Beast”, but I didn’t click with him, and his feelings for Sophie seemed to come out of nowhere. I’m still a tad mystified after a couple of rewatches, so I’m left to assume he was not rendered well as a character. Darn shame. I guess we need mysterious entities as characters every once and awhile?!?
The sound of this film is phenomenal. The soundtrack is absolutely beautiful, it’s one of my very favorite parts of the film itself. Melancholy, sweeping, homesick and touching, the music is just wonderfully perfect. I watched this with the English Disney dub and I really loved all the voices too. The two actresses who played Sophie were well picked. Billy Crystal was awesome as Calcifer and put some extra spark to the flame. And Batman himself, Christian Bale, had a wonderful voice for Howl, deep yet calming (he is one of two Batmans to voice a Studio Ghibli character!)
This is also one of the most beautiful Studio Ghibli films. I know, it is easy to say that about most of them XD but the color palettes and fluidity of the animation and visuals themselves was just gorgeous. One of my favorite parts was when Sophie and Howl cooked eggs and bacon, everything looked so delicious. (I give this film credit for making me learn how to crack eggs with one hand! I can do it like Howl now!)
Sadly, my main issue with this movie is that a big plot thread wasn’t clearly resolved. The film starts out quite strong, but gets too busy with different story threads during the last half. Ultimately a main story plot thread–a major problem set up at the beginning!–was not clearly resolved. The film danced around the answer, but then ended I was left thinking, “Wait. What happened?” I was left disappointed when the film ended because of that.
And I never fully bought Sophie and How’s love story, which became a large part of the film by the ending. I didn’t understand Howl and I was more interested in other parts in the story than wanting Sophie to find love, so that part holds down the film a bit for me as well.
For these reasons I must keeping my star rating down a tad from what it could be.
Still, I have to say this is good watch, especially for fantasy lovers. Sophie is a nice female lead, Calcifer is a hoot, the story holds it own till the end (and most people don’t have a problem like I do, so you might not either) and the animation and music is stunning! Even if it has a poor ending, I still recommend that animation lovers give this film a watch!
Star Rating: 4/5 | Rewatchability: High | Definition: Bacon Has Never Looked So Good