My Thoughts on: Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

If you’ve never seen any of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated films then let me tell you, you are missing out! They are masterpieces of animation with deep, thought-provoking stories and unforgettable characters. Thanks to a deal Studio Ghibli has with Disney, all of his films are readily available in the U.S.. Today I want to talk about one of my favorite Miyazaki films: Howl’s Moving Castle.

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Based on the novel of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones, Howl’s Moving Castle tells the story of Sophie (Emily Mortimer), a young girl who runs the family hat shop and seeks no adventure in her life. One night however, she’s cursed by the Witch of the Waste (Lauren Bacall) and transformed into a ninety-year old woman (Jean Simmons). Forced into a new life, Sophie eventually finds herself residing in the magical castle of Howl (Christian Bale), a powerful wizard, just as a brutal war is starting to develop.

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There are so many things to love about Howl’s Moving Castle. As with all of Studio Ghibli’s films, the animation is superb; Sophie’s transformation happens so quickly that it takes you a moment to realize it’s happened at all. Calcifer (Billy Crystal), the fire demon that powers the moving castle, is one of my favorite characters with his smart-ass remarks (“May all your bacon burn…”). The castle itself is one of the coolest magical environments you’ll ever see. Inside (once it’s cleaned up) it looks like a perfectly normal house. But if you flip a switch by the door, you can walk out into different towns! The design of the towns is a mix of late-nineteenth, early twentieth century architecture with a bit of steampunk scattered throughout (just look at the cars in this film and you’ll see what I mean). Magic is also considered a fact of life, people go to see wizards the way we go to see a doctor.

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The big message of the film is about how terrible war is. As a powerful wizard, Howl is recruited by both kingdoms to fight, but he doesn’t want to, in fact it’s revealed he spends a lot of time sabotaging the armies to make it harder to fight. The film was strongly influenced by Miyazaki’s feelings regarding the war in Iraq.

Howl’s Moving Castle really is beautiful and I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it before. If you have seen this film, what did you think about it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day 🙂

See also:

Animated Film Reviews

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