Film #91: Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

HowlsMovingCastleSophieSteeringaka: ハウルの動く城 (Hauru no ugoku shiro)
director: Hayao Miyazaki
language: Japanese
length: 115 minutes
watched on: 22 September 2013

I’ve been slowly rewatching the Ghibli movies and decided to watch Howl’s Moving Castle last month. The last time I watched it was about five years ago, and I’d mostly forgotten what happens during the movie except the broadest of details.

It’s an adaptation of the novel by Diana Wynne Jones, which I haven’t read. It’s set in a pseudo-Europe in which the most powerful people are witches and wizards, as far as I can tell. The title character, Howl, is one such wizard, and as can be predicted, he lives in a moving castle. The castle also acts as a kind of teleporter, and has several alternative exits in various cities.

The main character is Sophie, who starts as a young woman but is bewitched by the wicked witch to be old and frail. Ironically, this sets her free from some of her insecurities, as she takes on not only the looks, but also the carefree attitude of the oldest of women. She runs away and meets Howl, and then they have to try and defeat… uh… someone. Maybe the witch who controls the king or something like that.

Towards the end of the movie I started becoming disengaged with it, losing track of the plot and dozing off a bit, which I think basically sums up my general feeling about the movie: not Miyazaki’s best. I think this might be one of the ones which would be better in the book, although I don’t know for sure. There were just a little too many plot strands and minor characters to keep track of, many of whom weren’t fleshed out fully. In the background to the story there is a war on, but I can’t remember what the war was meant to be about.

In general I think the other Ghibli films are better. This is certainly alright – I suppose overall I did like it – and it fits the Ghibli mold very well, but it wasn’t as fulfilling as some of the other movies. I think Ghibli’s original stories tend to be better than their adaptations: that might be it, anyway.

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