Sunday, June 04, 2006




Having little experience in the Anime realm, I have to admit I’m probably not the most knowledgeable reviewer to examine a film such as this. But what I DO feel I’m fairly qualified to do is to evaluate stories. Animated or not, films are a valued method of reaching out to viewers and creating entertainment.

HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE had some great animation and interesting concepts, the story was so nonsensical in so many places that I found myself shaking my head wondering why I was watching it.

The story (if I’m not mistaken) is about Sophie, a young milliner (hatmaker) who lives a mundane life until she’s afflicted by a curse put upon her by the (initially) evil Witch of the Waste. The curse comes in the form of age, turning Sophie instantly from a vibrant young girl into a ancient old hag. In order to break the spell, she must find Howl and his moving castle. But with the curse comes the added insult that she cannot tell anyone about it. So once our heroine meets up with Howl, she’s unable to tell him what she needs and instead becomes the moving castle’s housekeeper.

Within the house she finds a young boy who wants to be just like Howl. She also meets and befriends the power that helps keep Howl’s castle constantly on the go: a type of fire called Calcifer. And with the castle comes a multitude of problems: Howl’s carelessness and difficulties of "the heart", a war against outside forces, and the threat of the Witch of the Waste.

Again, the animation in the film was great. It was excellently colored and moved in an almost Van Goghish fashion across the screen. But oh the story!

There’s never an explanation given as to the war that is constantly circling this strange land. Why and how it got started are never fully explained, even though much screen time is given to the machines of war. Why and how the young boy who lives in Howl’s castle came to be there are never explained either. Nor is any explanation given to the powers of Calcifer, the fire that drives the castle (the ending touches on it slightly but very ineffectually.) There are plenty of other non-sequiturs but those are the biggest. Too bad, really, as there were some great voices amongst the cast ...from
Christian Bale, Billy Crystal and Lauren Bacall just to name a few.

I don’t mind films that leave a certain amount of exposition up to the viewers interpretation, but there needs to be some rhyme and/or reason for the basic constructs of a movie. HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE left me howling for too many explanations.

Oscar Nominated: Best Animated Feature

Click here for the Howl's Moving Castle movie trailer!


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