I found it incredibly fulfilling to do this review. It’s hard for me to imagine a world without imagination. So many people stop being a kid once they hit a certain age. They take everything for granted and push aside creative experiences as wastes of time. It’s comforting to know that a man like Hayao Miyazaki exists to reassure all us dreamers out there that you’re never too old to be a kid.
Studio Ghibli has dished out its fair share of great animated films. ‘Howls Moving Castle’ (2004) by far is my favorite, followed closely by his rendition of ‘Tales of Earthsea’ (2006). For anyone who has not seen ‘Earthsea’ I strongly recommend it. It’s definitely one of his less hyped up films and is beautifully adapted for our creative minds to absorb. It brought a tear to my eye with its visual magic and storytelling genius. But this isn’t about ‘Earthsea’ its about ‘Howl’.
The movie starts off with a girl named Sophie who works in her mothers hat shop. A war is currently being fought between two kingdoms, but for now the action has not reached the towns and cities it effects. Sophie is a plain jane who does not possess the fiery finesse of her mother and sisters. One day she is rescued from two very rude soldiers by Howl, a dark and mysterious wizard whose reputation leaves young girls swooning for his affections. After explaining the incident with her sister, she retreats back to her hat shop where the terrible Witch of the Wastes, a woman who seals the youthfulness from innocent girls, casts a wicked spell on her. Sophie, now undoubtedly an old woman, travels into the wilds beyond the city to try and find someone to rid of her this curse. After running into a very helpful scarecrow, she soon finds herself in the living room of Howl’s moving castle. Taking this as an opportunity, she recruits herself as the new maid after promising the castles fire demon Calcipher that if he breaks the spell on her she will find a way to break the spell on him. Thus starts her incredible adventure with Howl and his house full of misfits as they try to stay out of sight from being recruited in the war while Sophie tries to save Howl from an irreversible fate.
There has yet to be a Ghibli film without some sort of fantastical magic and wonder instilled from the beginning. Howl is no exception to the case. Throughout the film you are poured into a world full of witches and wizards, where magic is seen as either a taboo or a blessing in disguise. Sophie’s character is very much relatable to any girl who feels she is not good enough. It’s comical how she deals with Howl’s vanity. Howl acts as a spoiled pretty boy but one you would not want to mess with. It’s an odd coupling but it certainly holds a powerful message behind it. The underlying story of the war acts as a strong footnote to the goings on. The main antagonist here is actually Howl, who is being hunted down for using his magic irresponsibly. There are no open ended loops to jump through, the movie sails through with a straight forward direction. Besides the amazing world Miyazaki throws us into, there is plenty of action to keep you on edge. It’s a very magical love story plunged into the depths of a pointless harrowing war. It’s refreshing to see all the characters come full circle towards the end. Even the friendly scarecrow carries out till the end of the film, creating a surprising but much needed end to the war.
There is no denying the majesty Miyazaki presents to his audience. With a dynamite soundtrack and star voiceover cast, including Billy Crystal and Christian Bale, he creatively constructs a film that resonates an ambiance of imaginative storyline left open to the imagination. Most people have not delved passed his most popular accomplishment ‘Spirited Away.’ To them I say give ‘Howl’ a try. Although more for the adult audience, it touches many facets of the imagination which would adapt well to an audience of all age.
Munky Rating: A+