94 of 99 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a "Howl"
Not a lot of directors would be brave enough to take on a love story between a girl-turned-old-lady and a wizard missing a vital organ.
But Oscar-winning director/writer Hayao Miyazaki tackles a new fantasy realm in in "Howl's Moving Castle." In this case, it's the world of fantasy dowager Diana Wynne Jones, and he wraps the storyline in humor,...
Published on 24 Nov 2005 by E. A Solinas
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars great film
Just a quick review... both me and my 8 year old loved this film. I got introduced to Miyazaki from one of my other, older sons, who is very into anime. All I can say is, great film , very entertaining, kept my 8 year old, who is very much a 3D computer generated type film person.. he loved Up, Meatballs, Monsters vs Aliens, for example, very entertained.
Published on 1 July 2010 by P. Wareing
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94 of 99 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a "Howl",
But Oscar-winning director/writer Hayao Miyazaki tackles a new fantasy realm in in "Howl's Moving Castle." In this case, it's the world of fantasy dowager Diana Wynne Jones, and he wraps the storyline in humor, romance and genuine flair. No, it's not faithful. But it is fantastic.
Sophie (Emily Mortimer) is a plain, unhappy young woman working in a milliner's shop. But then the evil Witch of the Waste (Lauren Bacall) comes into the shop, and turns her into a hobbled old lady (Jean Simmons). Sophie ends up wandering into the Moving Castle, a chicken-legged chaos machine, and encountering the sexy, immature wizard Howl (Christian Bale), smart-aleck fire demon Calcifur (Billy Crystal), and preteen apprentice Markl (Josh Hutcherson).
Sophie appoints herself the cleaning lady and starts whipping the castle into shape, trying to deal with Howl's temper tantrums and the rapidly deepening war. And, of course, trying to de-curse herself. But when she runs an errand that Howl is too scared to deal with, she finds that her new boss has some sinister problems of his own -- including a missing heart.
Don't expect much fidelity to the humorous fantasy novel. Miyazaki takes plenty of liberties with the story, leaving out characters and adjusting others. As a result, it feels more like his story than Jones', with the earmarks of his style -- blobby monsters, colorful rural settings, intense anti-war messages, strange machines, and a Jules-Verne atmosphere of Victorian technology. But "Howl's Moving Castle" is very different from the others Miyazaki has done, since he kept the British flavour of the original book.
Moreover, it's a love story. Miyazaki has vaguely touched on romance in prior movies, but here it's full-blown, and surprisingly un-cheesy. In less skilled hands, having Howl say "I finally found something worth protecting. It's you" would seem inane. In Miyazaki's hands, it's not. And even though Sophie looks elderly through most of the movie, Miyazaki never falls into trite observations about inner beauty. He just lets the story show it.
Not that it's all lovey-doviness -- Sophie's housecleaning and Calcifur ("Sophie, help! I'm going out!") provide plenty of amusement. And the animation is as close to flawless as you can get, from the chaotic absurdity Castle to the breathtaking aerial battles that Howl swoops in on. Tiny details are everywhere, from painted ceiling beams to elaborate doorknobs. Calcifur is the one sore point -- he's not done badly, but he looks vaguely artificial.
There are a few flaws in that the story could have used a bit more fleshing out -- at times the relationships between the characters are sketchy. Not much detail, for example, is given about sorceress Suliman (Blythe Danner) and her relationship to Howl, why she's so peeved at him. And it's a bit hard to comprehend why Howl's condition would turn him into a monster bird.
And while there are the usual "howls" that the English dubbing is inferior to the original Japanese vocal work, the American voice actors did exceptional work. Christian Bale and Billy Crystal are the major standouts -- Crystal is funny and dry as usual, while Bale is sultry, sexy, soft-spoken and deep. Except, of course, when Howl runs around the house wailing that his hair is ruined.
"Howl's Moving Castle" moves on a little too fast in places, but it's still a breathtaking, romantic, colorful ride. A wonderful story, told by one of the few filmmakers who could do it justice.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars dreamlike and touching film,
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Miyazaki's finest!,
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Howl's Moving Castle review,
This review is from: Howl's Moving Castle [DVD]  (DVD)This film is great! I bought it from a shop in my town last september and haven't watched it until last night, and it was brilliant! It was so heart warming and the friendly atmosphere the film had was very nice. The graphics are brilliant - what more could you want on a film?
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful...,
This review is from: Howl's Moving Castle: Limited Edition Sleeve Design (Exclusive to Amazon.co.uk) [DVD]  (DVD)Miyazaki never disappoints me. And this is definately not going to be an exception. It is truly breathtaking, fantastically animated, and the sotry captures your heart. Although I have not read the book, alone, this animation stands brilliantly. I love how the themes of love, which is not based on beauty alone, is emphasised here, and the colour of the characters are done spectacularly. The music was beautiful, and I'd say this is almost on the same level as Spirted Away.
Thank you, Miyazaki, for letting me delve into your realm of fantasy once again!
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Master Piece,
This review is from: Howl's Moving Castle: Limited Edition Sleeve Design (Exclusive to Amazon.co.uk) [DVD]  (DVD)Howls moving Castle, is a stunning film.
With many animation films relying on CGI now, Howls moving castle moves away from the ten a penny films such as Madagascar, Ice age and Chicken Little. Don’t get me wrong they are not bad films, but animation is more than how real a studio can make a chickens feathers look. The animation in these films is more than that. You feel that someone has put time and feelings into these sorts of films. Although it is not as good as princess mononoke or spirited away Hayao Miyazaki still produces a film which makes you feel happy and pleasant at the end of it. It also has funny moments such as the wheezing dog, and what happens to the wicked witch, but it’s more than that. The film has a story line and just allows you to forget about reality, which is why I have given it 5 stars. Hayao never lets you down
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Beautiful' almost seems too simple a word,
Just about every scene and element in HMC is...well, 'beautiful'. In just about every other hand that could become overwhelming, but a lot of the beauty is subtle enough, so it doesn't hit you in the face or tire you out. HMC has benefited from a unique mix of European and Japanese, in all aspects, ranging from the story to the visuals. Dianna Wynne-Jones's original novel has been modified--as it had to be--and added-to with story elements close to the Japanese soul, like militarism and the dissonances between nature and civilized man; thus creating something that should ring familiar with audiences from both worlds. It could just have been a somewhat dissonant mix of these disparate cultural elements; but in this instance even the dissonances only serve to enhance the dreamy fairy-tale mood pervading the film.
The visuals are unusual for an anime flick and add to the 'European' flavor. The world depicted is an odd melange between motifs familiar from early 20th century Europe--think some halcyon romantic vision of Germany or Austria--with trains blowing billowing plumes of smoke and steam-technology driven conveyances in the city; and impossible aerial vessels, both tiny and huge, hovering above. A colorful idyll of everyday life--something that could have been taken from an Austrian operetta--is contrasted with the fiery destructions wrought by indiscriminately waged war that spares no one. No dead bodies are shown, but they can easily be imagined underneath the rubble.
The visuals also deviate from the usual common in the world of anime, in that the images are in constant motion. Nothing like the stereoptypical, low-cost, technique that mixes static elements, such as characters, their faces frozen in the rictus of a single expression or two, set against a moving background that's basically a short repeating sequence of frames--or vice versa, of course. Faces move as wholes, not just in parts--as, of course, does the Castle itself: possibly the most amazing, dementedly organic, technological structure I've ever seen.
I love Japanese animation, but it has some stylistic quirks that grate on me occasionally. HMC avoided most of those and replaced them with something much more poetic. Add to that the voices of Christian Bale (Howl) and Billy Crystal (Calcifer, the Fire Demon), JeanSimmons and Emily Mortimer (Sophie, old and young) and Lauren Bacall (Witch of the Waste) and it even worked in dubbed translation--though the Japanese original with subtext sometime differs considerably from the dubs; which had to be fitted to make mouth movements and words match up as much as possible: a feat accomplished with amazing skill.
The story of HMC, even with the added dimension and complications of Miyazaki's screenplay/adaptation, is still very simple and to the point. It's all about love and redemption and becoming a full human being and finding purpose. Miyazaki added a note about the tragedy befalling those forced to get involved directly in the details of battle, and the impact this has on their spirits--surely a very pertinent topic at any time, and maybe even more so now.
What was maybe the most amazing thing was a total lack of cynicism about the main character's motives and aspirations. Even the Witch of the Waste--love the play on words here!--turns out just a sad disappointed creature, for whom things have just gone awry. The only real eviloder in the piece is the King, an air-headed war-monger without the slightest trace of conscience or sense of perspective, who deals with war and killing like it was a video game. But he appears for less than a minute, as if to emphasize his ultimate insignificance for history and everything. Can there be any more implied contempt than by this limitation of 'screen time' as it were?
The whole thing is held together by the whimsical and occasionally erratic and hard-to-fathom vision and mental processes of Hayao Miyazaki; and it may be this whimsy and the connections he made in his head between this and that and the other--and which somehow made it onto the screen, occasionally explicit, but often hidden in tiny details of story and/or visual design--that make HMC into the extraordinary work of art and beauty it is, and which takes it from 'great' to 'masterpiece', a term I use very seldom. There is stuff in here we'll probably never understand; and I quite like that. Only the simple-minded or the dull need everything spelled out and things neatly arranged in sensical patterns. Life isn't 'sensical'; we would just like to pretend it is.
Rent it. Buy it. Just don't miss out on it.
Till Noever, owlglass com
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars another absolute classic from studio ghibli,
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Phenomenal,
This review is from: Howl's Moving Castle: Limited Edition Sleeve Design (Exclusive to Amazon.co.uk) [DVD]  (DVD)I didnt even know this movie existed until my 18th birthday when i took some friends to the cinema. The only thing out that we hadn't already seen was "Howl's Moving Castle." So we took a chance and dived in not knowing a single thing about the film. Boy am i glad we did! This movie is simply gorgeous, in every sense of the word. Miyazaki has quite rightly been crowned the "Walt Disney of Japan" and this film really does fall into that category.
The settings are beautiful and the story grabs you from the word go. The characters are varied and lifelike drawing you in further. You immediately develop an empathy for the main characters, and you find yourself almost praying for a fairytale ending. And being Miyazaki, this does not disappoint.
Given that the director's last picture, Spirited Away, won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, this film did have a lot to live up to. After seeing Howl's Moving Castle I can honestly say Miyazaki has not let any standards slip.
In my opinion, this film is near perfect. It has a beautiful story, complimented by a moving score, and epitimises any person's fantasy of castles, witches and magic spells. I only hope it receives the recognition it deserves.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent,
This review is from: Howl's Moving Castle [DVD]  (DVD)This is perhaps the most accessible of the Studio Ghibli productions for the UK audience ( closely followed by Kiki's Delivery Service )
Unlike "Spirited Away" ( with it's Japanese bath houses and radish spirits ) this has a more british edwardian or european feel for the first half before the bombing sequences
Yes there are gaps in the back story and it does vary from the original book but on its own merits this is a masterpiece
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Howl's Moving Castle [DVD]  by Hayao Miyazaki (DVD - 2007)