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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 19 March 2017
Fantastic film! one to watch again & again!
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on 29 April 2017
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on 2 May 2017
My wife's favourite Studio Ghibli film!
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on 19 January 2008
I've been a fan of Miyazaki's work since I first saw My Neighbour Totoro and Porco Rosso during a mid-90's double bill and fell in love with the intricate stories, simply, yet larger than life characters, and the always breathtaking visuals. A recent Film Four retrospective on the work of Miyazaki and the famed Studio Ghibli has given me the opportunity to reacquaint myself with some of his earlier works, which has really been great preparation for readying myself for a second helping of this!!

Howl's Moving Castle is loosely based on the well-known book of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones, with Miyazaki and his collaborators opening up and elaborating on the text in order to incorporate many of the more recognisable Studio Ghibli trademarks. So, whereas the book once focused more clearly on the character of Howl, a wizard of dubious reputation, Miyazaki puts more emphasis on the character of Sofi, a heroine in the classic Studio Ghibli tradition. As the story unfolds the changes in the text point back to that earlier Miyazaki classic Porco Rosso, with the film continuing the idea of a character transformed by a curse (in this case, the young Sofi is cursed into the body of an old hag), seeking redemption in a anachronistic universe sometime during the First World War, that is overrun with flying machines, magical potions and other such Ghibli-like touches, such as fire demons, witchcraft and supernatural underworlds.

As with Porco Rosso, the film's setting and the use of iconography suggest deeper themes that most children probably won't pick up on, meaning that this is very much a film to be cherished by adults and adolescents too!! As with all Miyazaki's work, the animation is astounding, here advancing on the lush visuals of previous film Spirited Away to create perhaps the most jaw-dropping animated film ever made (though Mamuro Oshii's Ghost in the Shell 2 and Katsuhiro Otomo's Steamboy are both serious contenders). The colours are rich and vivid throughout, whilst the attention to even the most minute of period detail is impeccable, all adding to that sweeping Miyazaki grace, his feel for characters and his deft understanding of how to construct a sequence (both in terms of action and drama... making the film both magical and plausible in equal measures!!).

Howl's Moving Castle might be a little too obscure and sober for some viewers, especially when compared to some of Miyazaki's more celebrated works, such as My Neighbour Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service, however, some perseverance reveals it to be every bit as memorable and beautiful as those two films, whilst the subtle references to early Miyazaki works like The Castle of Cagliostro and Laputa - Castle In The Sky make it an integral and equally magical entry into the Ghibli/Miyazaki canon.
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on 6 March 2007
This is a movie I'd easily watch over and over again.

The plot of the movie (briefly) is this. Sofie, a lonely hat maker, is rescued by the mysterious wizard Howl one day. This contact brings her the unpleasant attentions of the Witch of the Waste who transforms Sophie into an old woman. Sofie, unable to speak of the curse, leaves home to find the Witch and be turned back to normal. Along the way, she finds Howl's Moving Castle where she finds refuge as his 'cleaning lady'.

The story is essentially one of love and the pointlessness and waste of war. Two kingdoms are at war over a missing Prince. Howl, ever the mystery man, is summoned by both kingdoms to fight on their side as his two alter ego's (Pendragon and Jenkins) answer to different kingdoms.

The war factor itself isn't a huge part of this story if I'm honest. It's used to show the potential destruction of Howl as he engages in the evil of war (against his will). The development of the love between Sophie and Howl and the desire to break the curses both have is the main plot.

The characters I found interesting, and in Calcifer the Fire Demon's case, amusing. Calcifer, voiced by Billy Crystal, was easily my favourite. The Witch of the Waste was also a very interesting one. She is madly in love with Howl, and her ultimate goal is to win his heart. However, the Witch does change in the depth of her character in the film and illustrates a parallel similar to Yubabba and her sister in Ghibli's Spirited Away.

The animation is as beautiful as you'd expect from a Studio Ghibli film. Visually stunning and hugely colourful, I couldn't take my eyes off it. The voice cast also deserve a mention. Christian Bale voices Howl, Lauren Bacall is the Witch of the Waste, and of course, Billy Crystal. The voice cast illustrates just how high quality Studio Ghibli films are.

The only down sides are (like the negative reviewer mentioned) was the fact that quite a lot isn't explained. I only discovered a missing Prince was the cause of the war after watching it a few times. It then clicked at the end with regard to Turnip Head. This wasn't too clear if I'm honest. Secondly, the war itself seems to take place in a huge black bubble which Howl can fly out of. I'm still not entirely sure what if it is a bubble thing or just a general depiction.

Thankfully the slightly confusing aspects are far outstripped by the rest. I found this film hugely enjoyable and definately one I can watch time and time again.
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on 24 October 2006
If you dont know who Hayao Miyazaki is, you're in with a treat with this movie though you need to go get some of his other work 'My neighbour Totoro' and 'Spirited Away' (won an oscar) at the very least as soon as possible! These are Japanese animated movies and as such are a little more sophisticated than the typical US fare which is aimed at young children. The animation and art in this movie really is spectacular, sharp with vibrant colours. The background music is quite pleasing to and the drama of how its been storyboarded, well you just have to see it. I'd recommend you watch the subtitled version as the Japanese voice actors in my humble opinion do a better job than their american counterparts - having said that the US team did a good job with such luminaries as Billy Crystal playing the fire demon Calcifer (see now if they made it in the states what would the fundamentalists say about a cute demon as a hero?) This really is a must get and even ranked among Miyazaki's other films, it stands out as one of the masterpieces. Enjoy.
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on 3 May 2008
See some of the other reviews if you want more detail, but I'm just going to say this film is brilliant. You'll be wishing life was as cosy as this! It just fills you with a warmth from beginning to end. It's definitely on a par with my other favourite animated film, the zany Spirited Away which you must also watch. I viewed it in English, which some say is taboo, but either way you're going to love it. When you buy this it will truly be an unregrettable DVD purchase. Actually, stop reading these reviews and buy it now!
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on 3 September 2007
Miyazaki has always been a brilliant director and all ghibli films tend to be brilliant. But to follow up 2 masterpieces like Princes Mononoke and Spirited Away was always going to be tough. However Miyazaki has managed to keep up with the high standards he has set for himself. Like Spirited Away HMC is an all out fantasy adventure with colourful worlds and larger than life characters. Essentially the film attempts to emulate the sucesses of Spirited Away by creating another imaginative and colourful fantasy film. However the film does fall short of Spirited Away and if you were expecting another film of that calibre you may be dissapointed. There are many similarities with the film. A young girl is trapped by a curse (Chihiro/Sophie) and helped by a young man who can change into an animal and fly (Haku/Howl), she is followed by a silent but loyal friend (No Face/The Scarecrow) and some cute little animals (the bird and hamster/the dog) and there is a female witch as the antagonist (Yubaba/Suliman and the witch of the waste). Despite the fact that it doesnt quite live up to the reputation of its two immediate predecessors, Howl's Moving Castle is an excellent fantasy film and is well worth a watch.
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on 13 March 2006
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
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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, 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 and English 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.
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