Thursday, 24 April 2014
Howl's Moving Castle (2004)
You should see this film. It's good.
Okay, with the 'review in ten words or less' out of the way, let's offer a little more context. Howl's Moving Castle is based - loosely - on the novel of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones. The adaptation is from Studio Ghibli, and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. As such, it's filled with many of Miyazaki's trademark elements: flying machines, an elderly woman who initially appears more malevolent than she is, a pretty but not sexualised young woman in the lead role, anti-militarism, creepy blob creatures, and amusing animal sidekicks all make an appearance.
'Plain' Sophie lives a quiet life looking after her father's hat shop while her more glamorous sister enjoys a much more active life. Sophie's life gets a whole lot more interesting when she refuses to serve a late visitor to her shop, however. This is the Wicked Witch of the Waste, who surses Sophie to become an old woman.
Leaving her home, Sophie encounters a living scarecrow (shades of The Wizard of Oz, and it has been argued that the novel was Jones's version of that tale). This scarecrow leads to her to the eponymous moving castle, which strides beetle-like across the land. As a consequence, Sophie finds herself as the new cleaning lady for the wizard Howl and his strange household. All this is set against the backdrop of two countries going to war over a missing prince, and Howl's efforts to undercut the military power of both sides and prevent attacks.
Sophie must learn a few lessons about herself - and incidentally and quite literally mend Howl's heart in the process - or things could get very, very bad indeed.
This film has a strong voice cast, lovely animation, nice design, and a script that's frequently funny, often touching, and occasionally a little scary. Well worth a watch.