View Full Version : Howl's Moving Castle

06-18-2005, 03:01 AM
Well I get to have the first word on this new movie.

A Christian Bale week for me, with Batman Begins last night, and Howl's Moving Castle tonight. For those unaware, Bale voices the male lead in the story, something I didn't even know until the credits. At first I was a little disappointed that like his Miyazaki's previous Disney released American movies, this one was dubbed. With the cast assembled though, and the somewhat European look of most of the characters, it didn't seem odd that they were voiced by English speaking actors.

The cast also includes Billy Crystal, who plays a heart on fire, as well as Lauren Bacall and *gasp* Jean Simmons. It all works and like Miyazaki's other films, everything makes sense in his world. Walking houses, witches, spells, a talking child's heart, a wheezy dog, and black blobs/spirits, are all well within reason. Miyazaki remains the most imaginative animator in the world. Although this may not be up to his previous film, the perfect Spirited Away, the film does succeed on many levels. A compelling love story, unlike the forced one in Batman Begins, great animation, and just an all around enchanting atmosphere.

I would give a brief plot synopsis, but well I'm a little confused as to what the hell the picture was about, and if I tried to explain it, well it wouldn't make any sense. On the other hand, try and explain the plot of Spirited Away, it doesn't work in conventional terms. Truthfully though it's hard for any filmmaker to follow up a film like Spirited Away, and even Princess Mononoke which was again pefect animation. So we can't jump down Miyazaki's back for falling a little short, but the bar wasn't set as high. The film doesn't have the grand scale of the last two, it is simpler, and feels much more in tune with Kiki's Delivery Service (like that film this one includes witches).

I fear that NO ONE is going to see this film. There were a whopping 5 people in the show I saw, and the parking lot was full. But well release a movie the same weekend as Batman and don't be surprised if no one notices. Glad I got to see it though, and I look forward to hearing all of your takes on it.

oscar jubis
06-28-2005, 08:58 PM
I am not quite ready after the first viewing to make comparisons between Howl's Moving Castle and Spirited Away. I'll just say I was totally enraptured by Castle, as was Chelsea. The small kids sitting behind us seem to derive a great deal of pleasure from the characters' constant transformations and the ever-shifting environs.

Often, when I enjoy a movie this much, I am most curious about the negative reviews. I was not surprised there were few truly negative ones. One in the Washington Post was written by a fellow who apparently fell in love as a child with the source novel by Diana Wynne Jones. The critical approach was almost entirely based on how unfaithful the movie is to the novel, in his opinion. Dude needs another job.

Others found the plot "confounding" or lacking "sense". I am more tolerant of this viewpoint, no matter how foreign to me. It would seem that the best use of animation is to create wildly imaginative environments that can't be replicated via live-action. I find it liberating to walk into a movie that dispenses with natural laws and "logic" takes a backseat. But not everybody wants to buy into Magic. Some people demand to know "why". As in, why is it that the castle's unassuming door opens onto a different place every time? "It's magic" says Mr. Miyazaki. If that's not good enough, then maybe the movie is not for you. Hope you can recommend the movie for its amazing sights anyway.

The one that bothered me was Ebert's 2 and 1/2 star review. America's most well-known crit called it "spectacle without meaning". How can anyone miss the pointed anti-war stance of Howl's Moving Castle is beyond me. Actually, I'll call its stance utterly pacifist_at one point, Howl states that it doesn't matter whether the flying machines hovering above are ours or theirs, implying that either way they are meant to kill and destroy. This is only the most obvious meaning or message the film contains. Take for instance Sophie's extremely charitable attitude towards the witch who caused her misfortune, and the way Howl cannot help but see beauty in Sophie no matter how aged her presentation. I could go on Mr. Ebert.

08-07-2005, 04:26 AM
Originally posted by oscar jubis
The one that bothered me was Ebert's 2 and 1/2 star review. America's most well-known crit called it "spectacle without meaning". ...

I have just read his review.

Pardon me, but did he really corroborate his case?

Nothing personal, but to me, a lot of reviews (e.g., this one by Ebert) are
-- predominantly plagued with "summary"/"narration" of the film
-- plus some background/history of the director ...

Para 1 - intro + history
Para 2 - overall impression ... ok
Para 3 - more elaboration on the intro
Para 4,5,6 - summary
Para 7 - his views ... worth reading ;)
Para 8 - conclusion
Para 9 - watch on screen

Hmmm ... maybe a 100-150 words review would have been great ...
*naughty grin *

08-07-2005, 04:58 AM
I have also read some postings from IMDB ...

Look at the LAST 2 posts here ...

Hmmm ... maybe I should watch the Chinese dubbed version too ... hee hee

oscar jubis
08-07-2005, 07:33 PM
Originally posted by hengcs
Nothing personal, but to me, a lot of reviews are
-- predominantly plagued with "summary"/"narration" of the film

I agree. Most reviews concern themselves primarily with answers to the question: Well, what is it about? and privilege storytelling over everything else that cinema can potentially offer. A lot of reviews of movies read like reviews of books or plays. I think this is true of folks who actually get payed and published. Many are unfamiliar with the medium, might not know what a pan or a dissolve is, would struggle to properly describe a scene (granted, it's not easy to do). I propose that many reviewers familiar with film grammar and syntax are probably discouraged by editors who fear alienating the readership.
On the other hand, I often find these "plot-plagued" reviews help me recall visual memories of movies I watched some time ago. I do think it's important for a review to include at least a description of the premise, but a detailed plot summary is not necessary.