Monday, August 20, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Howl's Moving Castle


Hiyao Miyazaki came out of retirement for like the third time to do this adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones’ book. It was originally going to be directed by Mamoru Hosodu of Digimon(although he went on to do the awesome Summer Wars!), but bugged out early, so Miyazaki stepped in to fill in the part. Like Castle In The Sky, Miyazaki elegently fuses steampunk with magic in this romantic fantasy.

Taking place in a European-like country, Sophie Hatter is a young hatmaker(convenient name!)that has a brief encounter with the bishonen sorcerer Howl. Sophie has a curse put on her by the spiteful Witch of the Waste who is jealous of Howl flirting with her. Sophie is now turned into an old version of herself, so she heads out into into the land known as the Wastes to find a way to break the curse. With the help of a living scarecrow(shades of Wizard Of Oz), Sophie makes her way to the mobile castle of Howl himself, which is powered by the fire demon Calcifur that is under Howl’s service. Sophie takes on the role of Howl’s housekeeper, although she can’t tell him about the curse she’s under. Howl on his own becomes aware of Sophie’s enchantment, but also starts falling for her inner-self, just as Sophie is stricken with him. While all this is going on, a war has been escalating between Sophie’s country and an opposing kingdom. Howl is called in to be of service to their king, but has set up multiple aliases to keep from being drafted. He sends Sophie to the castle to answer for him disguised as his mother, although its trap set by the royal sorceress Madame Suliman. The Witch of the Waste is caught in her trap first and has all her magic stolen from her, reducing her to an old woman. Howl rescues the both of them, and then tries to set up a new life for everyone away from the war. Suliman sends her goons out to hunt down Howl, which seems a bit wasteful of resources since she should be using them to help fight in the war going on. Howl ends up using too much of his magic though, and it causes the castle to fall apart. Sophie has to travel deep inside Howl’s psyche in order to bring him back from turning into a monster from his overuse of magic. She manages to save him, and at the same time the curse on her is lifted(even though her hair is still grey). It’s revealed that the scarecrow is the prince from the warring country, and returns to stop the conflict, while Sophie and Howl go to live happily ever after in their new “castle in the sky”.

The movie goes off in a different direction towards the third act than that of the original novel, plus a few things are altered like Howl being a skirtchaser, as well as less emphasis on the actual war going on around the characters. There is a real sense of romance in this movie as opposed to some of Miyazaki’s others, at least in the sense of a more mature nature instead of between two children. Visually, its one of the best anime movies of the 2000s, and finely handles CGI with 2D animation. Its been met with mixed reviews, even though I believe it has a well-thought out storyline, especially for a Miyazaki film which sometimes tends to get a little muddled near the conclusion. The Disney dub is fair too, with Billy Crystal as Calcifur, even though Christain Bale is a little weak at time as Howl(especially when he uses the Batman voice). This is a great storybook fantasy, and one of my personal favorite animated movie classics.

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