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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Howl's Moving Castle - 2004

Howl's Moving Castle is in my opinion Hayao Miyazaki's most underrated film. Famous, and probably most popular, critic Roger Ebert said about the film, "While the movie contains delights and inventions without pause and has undeniable charm, while it is always wonderful to watch, while it has the Miyazaki visual wonderment, it's a disappointment." This of course is probably one of the main reasons the film gets so much criticism from so many young movie lovers, because obviously everything Ebert says is correct and he knows all things about cinema, right? Well, that is one of the very frustrating things about the unnecessary criticism Howl's Moving Castle receives, but the point is what I saw in the film was a masterpiece. Rich in characters, with beautiful animation and hands down the most impressive storytelling from any Hayao Miyazaki film. Yes, even over Spirited Away.

While walking through the streets one day an 18 year old girl named Sophie (Emily Mortimer) is literally swept off her feet by a well known wizard, Howl (Christian Bale). This angers the Witch of the Waste, and she puts a curse on Sophie turning her into a 90 year old woman, Sophie then goes to live in Howl's castle with the hopes of curing her curse. She then befriends a fire demon, Calcifer (Billy Crystal), and he tells her if she frees him from Howl, he will make her young again. Like Calcifer, Howl can see through the spell, and he learns to love like he never has before.

Well, I must admit this was quite the complex story, and I have even heard some say they were confused by the entire film. And that is understandable because if I was going to complain about something in the film, which I most certainly am not, it would be that some parts of the story were only briefly explained, such as the war that is going on during the entire film, though it worked fine in the end. The thing I loved most, however, was the storytelling. I loved every single thing about it, and could not complain about something in it if I tried. This was about as close to perfection as an animated film will get. I will admit, it was a little weird at times, but it felt like a different version of Beauty and the Beast to me. The character development, and relationship development between Howl and Sophie were fantastic. The characters were unforgettable, and this is one of the things that make the audience be able to relate to the film. We all fall in love with the characters so early in the film that we are sitting at the edge of our seats during the climax, praying for a good ending, which is just what we were given. Howl's Moving Castle not only connects with the viewer as an entertaining and beautiful animated film, but it connects with the audience emotionally as well, and that is how it succeeds to be one of my favorite animated films ever.

The acting was great by everyone, Christian Bale does a fine job as Howl, even though he was actually hard for me to recognize. Billy Crystal was as always hilarious and his part was written up by a brilliant script. However, I loved Emily Mortimer as the young Sophie the most. As she was supposed to be, Mortimer is perfectly innocent, that captures the hearts of anyone in the audience. Along with Spirited Away, the acting was the best of any Hayao Miyazaki film I have seen so far.

The animation was, well what should I say about it? It's Miyazaki, we all know it is going to be incredible. At times the animation is so jaw dropping that it in itself, with the unforgettably beautiful musical score, tells the story. I am in awe over the talent Hayao Miyazaki has to draw up a film such as this one, some people are blessed, and he is one of them. But the thing I hate most is that Howl's Moving Castle lost to Wallace & Gromit at the Oscars, which is one of the most disgraceful things I have heard.

Overall, Howl's Moving Castle is one of the finest animated features I have ever seen, and arguably Hayao Miyazaki's masterpiece. It is hard for me to take anything over Spirited Away, but I will admit that it was at least close. Filled with spectacular animation and characters as well done as any. Howl's Moving Castle is better than most Pixar, or most anything Disney has ever done for that matter. If you don't like it, and that is was one of Miyazaki's weakest like Ebert, get over it.

Story: 10/10
Writing: 10/10
Acting: 10/10
Direction: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Final Rating: 10/10


  1. Yes i agree its underrated and what ebert said about it was unfair. Its animation and story telling is what makes it brilliant.

    And Nice Review like many i saw it when it first came out and i do like it more over Spirited Away.

  2. Exactly, glad you agree. I am not sure which I like better at the moment, but this and Spirited Away are my two favorites so far, with Princess Mononoke close behind. Thanks Jesse!

  3. I don't actually understand what Ebert didn't see in this film. And I agree about it being like Beauty and the Beast. They're both sweet. This film is perfect. The first time I saw this one I was absolutely blown away. Great review Matt!

  4. Yeah, I guess Ebert as his own opinion, me and him don't agree to often anyways lol. Thanks Jericho!!

  5. I liked your review, after not getting Ebert's.
    This is maybe my favourite Ghibli, or at least the one I wouldn't mind watching tens of times more (lost count), I even like it better than SA. I had no difficulties understanding the plot the first time; however on subsequent watches there were even more details solidifying the storytelling. For me this movie was like a ride in an amusement park, fast enough to have fun but not so fast as to break necks.