In Hayao Miyazaki's latest animated masterpiece, journey beyond imagination and enter a "breathtaking fantasy world" (Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times) filled with adventure, humor and heart. Sophie, a quiet girl working i... more »n a hat shop, finds her life thrown into turmoil when she is literally swept off her feet by a handsome but mysterious wizard named Howl. The vain and vengeful Witch of the Waste, jealous of their friendship, puts a spell on Sophie. In a life-changing adventure, Sophie climbs aboard Howl's magnificent flying castle and enters a magical world on a quest to break the spell. Featuring the voice talents of Jean Simmons, Christian Bale, Lauren Bacall, Blythe Danner, and Billy Crystal, Miyazaki's artistry comes to life on DVD with inventive characters, unique storytelling and richly detailed animation. (c) 2004 Nibariki ? GNDDDT« less
Elizabeth X. from CATSKILL, NY Reviewed on 5/2/2010...
I loved this movie I got it from a friend and now I wan to buy it!!! :)
0 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Brad S. (Snibot) from DALLAS, TX Reviewed on 3/31/2010...
I only have 2 words for this movie. "awesome, awesome" why twice? because it is that good.
First, it is studio Gibli, and they are known (well known) for attention to detail, this movie is no exception, fog, smoke, birds in the distance all move with grace, and seem very realistic.
The story is simply captivating. Both English and Japanese language voice talents are astounding, what only a company like Disney is known for and has made billions of dollars with. The script is outstanding, props to the writers.
This film only competes against other Gibli work for best in class, and they really stand as a class in their own, they make some of the best animes around. If you like stories about witches this is one of the very best.
3 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
Rani L. (Mina) from WASHINGTON, DC Reviewed on 12/29/2008...
Another great masterpiece of Miyazaki's. I love its story. Great animation and colors. Such a sweet film.
5 of 5 member(s) found this review helpful.
A Wizard Boy Meets a Girl: Poetic Fantasy in Magical World
Tsuyoshi | Kyoto, Japan | 04/13/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"(In fact 4.5 Stars) Though 'Howl's Moving Castle' ('Hauru-no Ugoku Shiro') may not be Miyazaki's best film, it is still far more enjoyable than many other films, Japanese or American, animated or not. I for one very much enjoyed watching it, and I love the film for its interesting characters and the rich textures of the designs, especially the fantasy world itself where witchcraft and humans' mundane works can be seen side by side. And the titular six-legged castle that really walks among the wilderness is something you never see except in his films.
Miyazaki's new film is based on a book of the same title written by Diana Wynne Jones. The film's story is told from the viewpoint of a 18-year-old girl Sophie, who is working at a milliner's shop every day. But she can hear the sound of bloody battles from the distance, and it is clear that this beautiful country, where witches and wizards live among humans, is going to see another war sooner or later.
But apparently Sophie is still leading an ordianary life until her uneventful routine days are suddenly broken by one accidental meeting with wicked 'Witch of the Waste,' who turns her into an old woman with a curse. Seeking for her place to live, Sophie goes to the wilderness where, the townspeople say, a young wizard named Howl wanders. In fact, Sophie encounters Howl's Moving Castle in the foggy moutainside, and she decides to hop in. There, forbidden to talk about her curse, she starts a new life with young and handsome Howl, who speaks to her kindly like a prince, but at times acts like a spoiled child.
[MIYAZAKI'S LOVE STORY] You will be impressed with many fantastic and colorful images created by Miyazaki. You might find an anti-war message deep in the film's story, but will find the romantic relations between Sophie and Howl is the most touching and impressive part of the film. Sophie's romantic feeling towards Howl is expressed in a unique way (which I don't disclose here), and Miyazaki, as usual, is very good at drawing the character of this independent heroine. One interesting thing is, probably this is the first case in which Miyazaki attempted to show a love story in his films. And a kiss too.
I must say that not everything works in 'Howl's Moving Castle.' I haven't read the original book, but it is obvious that Miyazaki made changes. Not that I'm blaming them. But the story is sometimes told too hurriedly, and when you think something (actions or whatever) will start, it ends abruptly. Howl's character is full of contradictory traits, that's good, but his complicated personality could have been more effective and convincing with more detailed episodes about, say, his mentor magician (and politician) Madam Suliman or Witch of the Waste.
(If I am not mistaken, 'Howl's Moving Castle' is a rare case for Miyazaki who prefers to use his own stories, and this is the first time he adapts someone else's story in 15 years, last time being 'Kiki's Delivery Service. But 'Kiki's' story written by Eiko Kadono is not long -- I know, I read -- while 'Howl's' story is, I think, much longer. Maybe these facts have soemthing to do with my complaint.)
Greatly helped by Jo Hisaishi's beautiful score, 'Howl's Moving Castle' is full of imaginative power, with one strong heroine you can relate to (though she is 90-years-old), plus memorable supports including fire damon Calcifer, (not a bad guy at all), and ubiquitous Prince Turnip who always appears at the right moment. Flawed, to be sure, but enjoyable fantasy tale with a healthy amount of humor and lots of imagination.
The review above refers to the original Japanese version. I know the English version includes the voices of Christian Bale, Jean Simmons, and Billy Crystal, but as I have never seen the version, I did not talk about them. Still, as Mr. Miyazaki is not likely to approve any changes done to his films, I hope what I saw in Japan, you will see in your country."
A real "Howl"
E. A Solinas | MD USA | 07/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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 Hayao Miyazaki tackles a new fantasy realm in in "Howl's Moving Castle" -- namely, that of fantasy dowager Diana Wynne Jones.
Sophie (Emily Mortimer) is a plain, unhappy young woman working in a milliner's shop -- lightened only slightly by a mysterious wizard who rescues her one day. But then the evil Witch of the Waste (Lauren Bacall) comes into the shop, and casts a spell on her, turning her into an ancient old lady (Jean Simmons). Sophie ends up wandering into the Moving Castle, a chicken-legged chaos machine, and encountering the sexy if childish 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 war brewing all around them, and trying to cure her peculiar curse. But when she runs an errand to a castle in Howl's place, she finds that her new boss has some sinister problems of his own -- including his missing heart, and impending transformation into a monster.
Don't expect much fidelity to the novel; Miyazaki takes plenty of liberties with the story. As a result, it feels more like his story than Jones', with all the earmarks he usually has -- 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.
It's also different because it's a love story -- and a surprisingly un-cheesy one. In less skilled hands, having Howl say "I finally found something worth protecting. It's you" would seem inane, but Miyazaki keeps it brief and powerful. 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 tell us that.
The animation is virtually flawless, from the chaotic absurdity Moving Castle to the breathtaking aerial battles with the bird-man Howl. Tiny details are everywhere, from painted ceiling beams to elaborate doorknobs. But there are also quiet, entertaining moments, such as Sophie attempting to houseclean the entire Moving Castle. Calcifur is the one sore point -- he's not done badly, but he looks vaguely artificial. I suppose a fire demon is hard to animate.
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, or why she's so peeved at him. Or about the nature of Howl's increasingly dangerous magic and why he did what he did to lose his heart.
While there are the usual "howls" that the English dubbing is inferior to the original Japanese, the assorted voice actors did exceptional work in the American version. 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 shrieking 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."
Trying to decode the story ...
Ken | Hong Kong | 02/05/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Probably many people find the story confusing. I felt the same thing when I saw it in the theater for the first time! The story seemed arbitrary and I couldn't connect the pieces together. But when I watch it again on the DVD, I realize the movie is probably about one thing: personal freedom.
Howl is a free person. He doesn't has a heart and even his home (which is usually characterized as a stable point in one's life) can move :-) He is disguised as different wizards in different counties, and when Sophie asks him how many identities he has, he said "Enough to guarantee my freedom". When Sophie confronts Suliman, she comments Howl as "selfish and cowardly and unpredictable, but he's straight as an arrow. He only wants to be free." But in Miyazaki's world, nothing is black and white. According to Suliman, Howl's power is too great for a person without heart, and he will eventually becomes a monster (some political figures come to my mind).
Sophie, on the other hand, is bounded by responsibilities. She is young, but her heart is old. She refuses the invitation from her friends and keep working at the hat shop. When her sister asks her "Are you going to spend your life in that shop?" She replies "It meant so much to papa. Besides, I'm the eldest.". Even her sister asks her to "look out for yourself".
When Sophie is turned to an old lady, it actually set her free because the good thing of being old is that one has "so little to lose" She becomes more adventurous and takes control of her life. She is very assertive as being the cleaning lady in Howl's castle and even tames Calcifer to cook her food. For Howl, his turning point comes when he refuses to move his castle anymore (I'll leave it to the reader as why he does that) By the end of movie, he regains his heart. He feels terrible because it is like "trapped under a stone". And Sophie says, "Yes, a heart is a heavy burden".
There are other wonderful things in the movie. For example, this is probably one of the few movies that tell me what it is really like to be old. But I do want to highlight the thread about personal freedom as it will help you to tie up the pieces of the story."
Another magnificent film fantasy from Hayao Miyazaki
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 06/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Well before HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE, Hayao Miyazaki had established himself as the finest creator of feature length animated films in the history of cinema. So pointing out that this marvelous film isn't quite as good as his very best work really isn't very illuminative. He has done at least three or four films that are better, but that cannot be said of any other animator. This film suffers only by comparison with his own work, not with that of anyone else.
A number of Miyazaki's films have been set in non-Japanese settings, so this one's being imagined in a vaguely European locale really isn't terribly unique. In every other way, this is an exceedingly typical Miyazaki creation. There is, for instance, the preoccupation with flying, fields of non-identical flowers that wave in the breeze (each drawn separately by hand and not computer), richly detailed landscapes, and eccentrically designed rooms. There is hardly a moment in this film that isn't a delight to gaze upon.
In two ways this film stands comparison with anything that Miyazaki has done. First, he has created a host of astonishingly vivid and convincing characters. What is marvelous about them is that none of them are simple, but are wonderfully complex and often deeply flawed. Howl of the title is a powerful sorcerer, horrified by the absurd war being waged in the land, but in danger himself of turning into a giant bird of prey. He is struggling with sanity, infected by the insanity that he sees throughout the world. The central character, Sofia, begins the movie a young, simple girl who embroiders hats in a hat shop, but who is turned into an extremely old woman by a witch's spell. Through the rest of the film the spell waxes and wanes, sometimes maintaining completely the illusion of her being ancient, but sometimes in sleep restoring her completely to her youth. At times she appears a blend of old crone and young girl. There is also a extraordinarily well-conceived scarecrow that lays claim to be the finest such creation since THE WIZARD OF OZ. There is even an animal, a dog that is the utter antithesis of all the too cute, too loud sidekicks that populate the Disney films. Almost immobile, unexpressive, he can't even quite bark, but can only manage a bit of a wheeze.
The second way the film stands out is visually. With one exception, every aspect of this film is magical and unique. For instance, the scarecrow is fascinating to watch at every moment, despite the fact that except for being able to hop about on its post as if it were mounted on a pogo stick, it is incapable of facial expressions or moving either arms or hands or legs. As usual in Miyazaki, every aspect of nature is vibrant and alive, but even more than in previous films his interiors are stunning. Each room is filled with bric-a-brac and personal items that make them feel actual and lived-in unprecedented in animation.
So why does HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE fall short of Miyazaki's very best work, even while it surpasses the work of most others? There are two reasons. First, Calcifer the Fire Demon, at least in the English version (I have not seen the Japanese original), is both uninventively drawn and poorly voiced by Billy Crystal. The drawing I dislike because in contrast with everything else in the movie, Calcifer is drawn as an orange blob with eyes and mouth, a hunk of poorly differentiated color in contrast with everything else onscreen, which is carefully nuanced and hued. It is one of the least imaginatively executed characters in all of Miyazaki. I love Billy Crystal, and have thoroughly enjoyed his work way back in the days of SOAP to the present, but he just wasn't appropriate for this film. His loud, somewhat brash New York accent simply didn't mesh with all of the others. The second major problem I had the film was the last quarter of the story. At a certain point the story lost both its coherence and its pacing, and failed to maintain pace with the earlier parts of the movie. The movie did not fall apart, but neither did it remain equally marvelous throughout.
One other element in the film was both a delight and a mild disappointment: the Castle itself. Visually, this is one of the most amazing things one will see in an animated film, and the magical door that allows one to exit in any of four places suited it perfect. The only problem is that we don't get to see much of the interior. Virtually the entire action is kept inside one room in which all seem to eat and sleep. I wanted Sophie to explore!
These minor points aside, I enjoyed this film very nearly as much as I have any of Miyazaki's other films. If you are a Miyazaki fan, it is highly unlikely that you will have any reaction other than sheer delight, and if have not seen Miyazaki before and love this one, you will be delighted to learn that he has done even better."