Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Weeks Too Late: Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle. Directed & Written by Hayao Miyazaki.

Preconceptions: I've been thinking a fair bit about filling in the holes in my Miyazaki knowledge. It's a safe bet that I'll enjoy the flicks of his I haven't seen, given that my least favourite (Ponyo) was still reasonably good. Initially, I'd intended to review Kiki's Delivery Service, but the disc came broken in twain, which I took as a sign to watch Howl's Moving Castle instead (and by sign, I mean I had no option).

General Review: I'm known far and wide as a woman who disdains love stories and, for the most part, this is true. 9 and 3/4 of all romantic comedies make me want to kill with acid vomit (the whole genre gives me acid puke, little known fact). Love being shoe-horned into a story where it doesn't belong causes me even worse monstrous mutations - at least I can safely avoid romantic comedies. All this build up is really to stress that this was a particularly good love story. None of my possessions went hurtling towards the TV and my eyes were safely stowed in their unrolling position. It reminded me that I
can enjoy a bit of romance that isn't pandering, cliche and written by committee. Alright, it was maybe a touch predictable, but in a classic fairy tale way that felt like a deliberate stylistic choice rather than the usual tedium.

To say that it was beautiful reads as both condescending and obvious, of course it's beautiful, it's Miyazaki. Still, with the exception of Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle is the prettiest one yet. Also, even though we weren't talking about environmentalism this time round, it contained that mixture of vibrant colours and sets contrasted harshly with smog. The very fact that the movie had nothing to do with saving the planet made the juxtaposition more interesting to watch. Again, no shocker, but the character design was interesting, the monsters were cool and the horrific transformations were properly horrific. I also love how old witchy women look in the Miyazaki style and have a deep fondness for chicken footed, chuffing tiny dogs (of course I do). I will say that until he comes up with something new to do with them, the goo monsters that I adored in Spirited Away have become repetitive.

Speaking of repetitive (and because I can't leave well enough alone) I notic
ed a handful of score that I've heard in some of his other movies. I'm not sure if this is something from the original un-dubbed Japanese version or something put in afterwards by Disney, but it felt like a strange bit of corner cutting in such an elaborate movie. I mean, I'd rather have ten more minutes of animation than entirely fresh music, but it seemed like expense wasn't a huge issue and so it felt odd.

I adored Lauren Bacall and would love to hear more of her in witch roles. Christian Bale's sandpaper-y "I'm Batman" voice was occasionally tiresome, (yes Mr. Bale, we're well aware that you're Batman). However, his light-hearted and shallow voice while playing Howl in a good mood was hilarious.

The story, as I mention
ed briefly above, was charming. Yes, it would be easy to complain that the main chick character spends a lot of her time doing housework, but Sophie wasn't the "some day my Prince will come" milk-sop we're so often forced to settle for. She's active and heroic in her own right. She solves her problems on her own, not needing divine (or magical) intervention for much besides retrieving lost shawls. I worried that two hours might mean that the story was spread a bit thin (a major problem I had with Ponyo) but that was not the case. I was actively engaged the entire time.

While I won't say I'm glad that Kiki's Delivery Service arrived crushed for my convenience, I am glad it gave me an opportunity to see this. It's well worth picking up and has my whole-hearted endorsement. If you love Miyazaki already, this is probably no surprise to you, if you don't know him, this is a great movie to start with. Don't worry, the love fest is over and I promise more horror movies and hate soon.


  1. I love Miyazaki's works. My favorite, and in my opinion, one of his most beautiful films is Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.

  2. i adore this movie, and ex turned me onto it (i was already a fan of the director), i've had siblings watch it now they are all fans. it is amazing. i guess it varies wildly from the novels it is base don, but it is sooooo beautiful, and well acted, written, EVERYTHING.

  3. @Lyn I luurrved Nausicaa. I also dig how while there are some stylistic similarities, he really goes for different looks in a lot of his flicks, not just keeping with a house style.

  4. @bairdduvessa I've never read the novel, but I have to admit this sparked a desire to. It was SUCH a rad movie.

  5. i'm tempted to read it as well. btw i am curious as to your thoughts on Thor.
    mine of course are up on my blog.