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Howl's Moving Castle (2004)

aka Howl's Moving Castle

Directed By: 
Details: 119 mins · Japanese · PG (USA)

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Moving

Miyazaki films have always held a special place in my heart, acting as some of the most comforting and genuinely enjoyable films I have seen to date. Howl's Moving Castle is no exception, and while I feel like it is slightly bogged down by some of the ideas it tries to present, it is one I will ultimately come back to time and again.

Taking place during an undescript war, our main character, Sophie, is an ordinary hat shop owner who has never done anything for herself. When caught up in a covert battle between the Witch of the Waste and Howl, two magical entities who roam on the outskirts of society, she is turned into an elderly lady and forced to leave home in fear of what her family may think of her. Joining the company of Howl and his motley crew soon afterwards, Sophie and company work together to live as peacefully and normally as possible while facing the struggles of wartime.

Per usual, the visuals of this film are brilliant, only accentuated by the mechanical atmosphere, ...(more)

Miyazaki films have always held a special place in my heart, acting as some of the most comforting and genuinely enjoyable films I have seen to date. Howl's Moving Castle is no exception, and while I feel like it is slightly bogged down by some of the ideas it tries to present, it is one I will ultimately come back to time and again.

Taking place during an undescript war, our main character, Sophie, is an ordinary hat shop owner who has never done anything for herself. When caught up in a covert battle between the Witch of the Waste and Howl, two magical entities who roam on the outskirts of society, she is turned into an elderly lady and forced to leave home in fear of what her family may think of her. Joining the company of Howl and his motley crew soon afterwards, Sophie and company work together to live as peacefully and normally as possible while facing the struggles of wartime.

Per usual, the visuals of this film are brilliant, only accentuated by the mechanical atmosphere, never becoming steam punk, holding a fairly unique aesthetic. All of the character designs are exciting and enthralling, making each figure feel wholly interesting and recognizable.

Speaking of the characters, most of them are rather fantastic, both in nature and portrayal. Sophie, played by both Emily Mortimer and Jean Simmons, while occasionally feeling like she can take a back seat, is one of the best heroines in animated film I've seen in a long time. Howl, voiced by Christian Bale, is also well written, with a mystery about him that carries throughout and enables much of the magical going-ons that makes the story feel visually stand-out. Calcifer, played by Billy Crystal, is the goofy side character that, while being the comic relief, brings much charm and emotion to the tale. Various other characters fill this eclectic world, but these three serve as our primary points of view.

If I had one flaw to speak of when referring to this piece, it's that it can be a little to vague at times. Miyazaki loves his metaphors, as was seen in Spirited Away, and this is rife with them, perhaps more so. and while that isn't a bad thing, it still leaves me slightly confused about certain portions of the movie, even after multiple views. However, this can easily be seen as a positive, giving people reason to see it all the more often.

This review is short because I'd rather not give too much more away. Miyazaki films are to be experienced, not spoiled. Be sure to take the time to see this one, for though not his best, it certainly marks one of the directors high points. (less)

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gave

meh

I really don’t get the hubbub. It’s a pretty decent high fantasy sure, but the plot meanders a bit too much. Too many character beats don’t make sense, chief among them the wholly unearned redemption of the Witch of the Waste – just because she’s powerless, that doesn’t erase all the horrible things she’s done.

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Magical

My favorite Miyazaki film. Favorite.
The only thing is that it can get a little slow and boring and one part of the ending sort of just pops up and clears itself up.
The rest is just wonderful. The design and unique elements in it are fantastic to watch. I love Bale's voice as Howl.

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Cast:

No_movie_poster Sofi
Small Hauru
No_movie_poster Arechi no Majo
Small Karushifâ
Small Marukuru
No_movie_poster Koshô
No_movie_poster Kakashi no Kabu
No_movie_poster Kokuô
No_movie_poster Hin
No_movie_poster Sariman
Small Sophie
Small Witch of the Waste
Small Madame Suliman
Small Young Sophie
Small Markl
Small Calcifer
No_movie_poster Sophie Hatter
No_movie_poster Madame Suliman
No_movie_poster Kokuô
Small Calcifer

Crew:

Small Hayao Miyazaki Director
No_movie_poster Rick Dempsey Producer
No_movie_poster Ned Lott Producer
No_movie_poster Joe Hisaishi Original Music Composer
No_movie_poster Toshio Suzuki Producer
No_movie_poster Takeshi Seyama Editor
Small John Lasseter Executive Producer
No_movie_poster Atsushi Okui Director of Photography
No_movie_poster Yôji Takeshige Art Direction
No_movie_poster Diana Wynne Jones Author
No_movie_poster Tomohiko Ishii Producer
No_movie_poster Noboru Yoshida Art Direction
Small Hayao Miyazaki Writer
No_movie_poster Diana Wynne Jones Story Contributor
No_movie_poster Takeshi Seyama Editing

Plot:

Sophie, a hatter, is a responsible 18-year-old girl who encounters a mysterious wizard named Howl while on her way to visit her younger sister. The Witch of the Waste, who pursues Howl, comes to the hat shop and curses Sophie by transforming her into an old woman. Seeking a cure for the curse, Sophie travels into the Wastes and finds a living scarecrow, who takes her to Howl's castle. Here, Sophie meets the fire demon Calcifer, the source of the castle's energy and power. Calcifer offers to break the curse in exchange for Sophie's help in breaking the spell he's under, which keeps Calcifer bound to the house. When Howl appears, Sophie announces that she is the castle's new cleaning lady, hired by Calcifer because he was sick of how dirty the castle was.

Currently, Sophie's country is caught up in the beginning of a war with its neighbor following the mysterious disappearance of the other realm's Crown Prince. Howl receives summons from the King, who orders his various assumed identities to fight in the war. However, Howl comes up with an idea to send Sophie, under the guise of being his mother, to the king to profess the cowardice of one of Howl's two aliases. At the palace, Sophie runs into an asthmatic dog, Heen, who she thinks is Howl undercover. She also meets the Witch of the Waste, who Suliman, the king's magic advisor, punishes by draining all of her power, causing her to regress into a harmless old woman. Suliman tells Sophie that Howl will meet the same fate if he does not contribute to the war. As Sophie vehemently protests these measures, the Witch's spell temporarily weakens due to the love in her words. Suliman realizes Sophie's true relation to Howl and her strong romantic feelings towards him. Howl then arrives to rescue Sophie, Suliman tries to entrap Howl, but with Sophie's help, they manage to escape.

Sophie learns that Howl transforms into a bird-like creature to interfere in the war, but each transformation makes it more difficult for him to return to human form. Sophie fears that Howl is preparing to leave them, as his remaining time as a human is limited, he returns to interfering in the war. Sophie's mother shows up and is actually under Suliman's control and leaves behind a bag containing a "peeping bug" under her orders. The former Witch of the Waste discovers it and promptly destroys the bug by tossing it into Calcifer. Unfortunately, Calcifer gets sick after eating the bug, rendering him unable to protect the castle from being discovered.

A few hours later, the city is carpet-bombed by enemy aircraft while Suliman's henchmen invade the flower shop Howl made for Sophie. After protecting the flower shop from the bombing, Howl draws the guards away just after healing Calcifer. He tells Sophie he is not going to run away anymore because he has something he wants to protect before leaving to interfere with the war. Deducing that Howl must be saved, Sophie moves everyone out of the castle and removes Calcifer from the fireplace, destroying the castle. She offers Calcifer a piece of her hair to strengthen him enough to power and energize a portion of the castle. They head toward Howl when the former Witch of the Waste discovers Howl's heart within Calcifer. The Witch takes the heart and refuses to let go of it although it is burning her. Sophie pours water onto The Witch of the Waste making Calcifer lose all his strength and power. The segment of the castle is split, and she and Heen fall down a chasm.

Making her way toward Howl's heart, Sophie enters through the door into the black region and discovers a recollection of how Howl and Calcifer meet: Howl eats Calcifer, who then gains his heart. Sophie finds Howl, having now lost his human consciousness in bird form. They head back to the group, and Sophie asks the Witch for Howl's heart. She gives it to her and Sophie places the heart back inside Howl, returning him to life, and freeing Calcifer. She kisses the scarecrow on the cheek as thanks, who reveals that he is actually the missing prince and was trapped in the form of a scarecrow until he received the kiss from the woman of his desires. Heen shows the scene of their happy end to Suliman, and Suliman decides to put an end to the war. Howl, Sophie, and the others are seen high above the bomber planes upon a new moving castle, while the bombers return from the war.

Release Dates:

Theatrical : 2005-06-10 : United States of America

Theatrical : 2005-09-22 : Australia

Theatrical : 2005-09-01 : United Kingdom

DVD : 2006-03-07