Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Howl's Moving Castle Review

Very rarely do I find myself particularly engaged or fascinated by a movie. As a fairly avid film fan, nothing is truly new or unique. You realise that every theme and idea has been recycled in some way, and even the big time summer blockbuster's have mostly been remakes or retreads of old classics. Then finally, after watching nothing but complete garbage for the last few weeks, I found Howl's Moving Castle. Being the hard-core otaku that I am, I basically had to see it.

You put your left foot in you put your left foot out. And you shake it all about!

Created by Hayao Miyazaki (the genius behind such films as Spirted Away and Kiki's Delivery Service), Howl's Moving Castle felt like a breath of fresh air. Even at it's least inspired, Howl is still one of the best animated films I have seen in a very long time. Kind of makes me wonder what's been wrong with the Disney Studio over the last decade. While they continue to create uninspired animated trinkets like "Chicken Little" or "Meet the Robionsons", a bunch of Japanese guys manage to make something like this. Gimme a break! Isn't Disney supposed to be the leading animation studio in the world?!
Speaking of Disney, this film brings to mind many old classics. It really reminds me of sitting down and watching The Lion King for the very first time. As a kid, I was so completely immersed in this world whenever I plopped it into the VHS player. It wasn't just a great animated movie, it was also a fantastic film. The characters in Howl's Moving Castle are developed with the same care and detail as any live-action film, making the movie feel like something much more then your average cartoon romp. That isn't to say that it isn't without humor or those silly zany moments that keep younger audiences engaged; it just feels more personal.

Christian Bale is the voice of the film's leading man "Howl". But geeks everywhere truly know him as the first decent Batman in "Batman Begins". Billy Crystal lends his talents too!

From begginning to end, Hayao Miyazaki packs every frame with a vibrant amount of detail. The moving castle is a great example, resembling what happens when you mix an Imperial Walker from "The Empire Strkies Back" and your average garden toad. Many of the set-pieces later on in the film are really dazzling. One of my personal favorites was the view of a gorgeous landscape from the top of the castle. You know you're watching a great movie when you've almost forgotten that the people and world onscreen were hand-drawn by some Japan's finest talents (and they really did a bang-up job).
That's not to say that I don't a few little gribes about the movies. The ending was far more sastisfying then any movie I've seen recently, but I still felt it lacked something. I really can't put my finger on it, but something was missing for me. And while the dubbing was for the most part superb, there were a few moments when I felt the voices were just a little off. But when you take into consideration that this minor detail only creeps into about one minute of the finished film, it isn't going to annoy or distract anyone from the movie. Now what might is the defenite difference in story-telling style when compared to American films. Howl's Moving Castle isn't particularly a fast-paced movie. Young kids might get bored.. but since when aren't they bored? Screw them! I'll take the beautiful vistas and fantastic musical score over 'Stitch' any day.

Just in case I didn't warn you before.. this movie is kinda weird. But a good weird. Like Wizard of Oz meets Beauty and the Beast weird!

So in conclusion: see this movie and thank me later. Trust me, you'll have a great time. May the geek be with you!
Final Film Rating: A-

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