I was first introduced to Howl's Moving Castle at a friend's house three or four years ago. I came in about 1/3 of the way through and was properly confused. The friend loved the book and couldn't reconcile herself with the movie. She gave me a good lecture on how much better the book was. ;-) I still came home wanting to see the rest, but my family isn't big into anime, so it got dropped somewhere.
I was at another friend's house and I saw it sitting on the shelf and I was like, "Dude! Can we watch this?" And we did. :-)
We were out at a gigantic mall and had just gotten high on cheesecake before we went book sniffing in Borders. We ended up both buying a copy of Howl's Moving Castle, partly because we wanted to read it and partly because it just smelled so good. Later we felt guilty, so decided to purchase them as gifts for each other. Somehow it felt less like a unwarranted expense.
I made my sister read it. So far everyone I had talked to liked which ever they experienced first. Book if they read first, movie if they watched first. I liked the movie better, although I enjoyed the book. My sister was far from eager to watch an anime film, but I actually got her drawing pictures from the movie before she even saw it. ;-)
It was getting bad. "I hate fish", "what a pretty fire", and other quotes kept hindering our communication. She simply had to see the movie...and by this time she really wanted to.
(I actually do not hate fish, btw.)
(I actually do not hate fish, btw.)
And, on Tuesday in the exhaustion of our recent experiences and the battle against nasty colds we watched it...snuggled up on the couch in the darkness.
It was amazing.
So, that's my experience with Howl's Moving Castle, but I'm pretty sure you want to actually hear about it, not my boring history in relation to it.
by Diana Wynne Jones and published in 1986 by a division of Harper Collins.
Rollicking, quirky, funny, unexpected, and just plain random. I loved the characters. I enjoyed the story, but felt like it lacked some of the depth and cohesiveness of the movie. It was was really was just plain good story telling, unapologetic and fun. Not a great work of literature, but a good story...especially if you like randomness.
It's uniqueness, surprise words, and characters make it pretty irresistible.
Directed and written by Hayao Miyazaki (2004)
English version starring Christian Bale, Jean Simmons, Billy Crystal and Emily Mortimer.
You should see this movie even if you aren't a fan of anime (which there is no reason not to be unless you were scarred by the Pokeman craze...like me).
It's creative and winsome and beautiful.
It's not necessary to love, but I think it is necessary to appreciate. Besides...I'm pretty sure you'll love the characters at least.
The best movies (animated, action, drama, anything) you can watch over and over and still notice new things.
I wouldn't have expected this from a simple (but beautiful) film like this, but it is true. A lot of creative weaving was put into the details to make this story one much larger than two hours can hold, but at the same time very understandable and fun in those two hours.
I noticed new things every time I watched it.
I admit that some of the lines, especially of the romance, could be taken as cheese. For me, they worked. It wasn't taking itself too seriously and somehow Christian Bale (Howl's voice) can just pull of those cool lines that would seem cheesy by anybody else (think Batman Begins). To me it was awesome.
The movie is creative (almost disturbingly with it's flying battleships and hatted blob men), gives food for thought and conversation, has outstanding music, and is beautiful and colorful.
You should try it.
Book vs. Movie
The movie plot is drastically different than the book. I think I like the movie's better.
Normally I think the movie should stick closely to the book. After all, you could just make up your own story if you're going to change it that much. But in this case, I think everything was justified. (I also saw the movie first, so I'm going to be bias.) The most important thing is to stick with the characters. It is unforgivable when when a movie director takes a well loved fictional character and twists them to do something totally uncharacteristic. This is where Howl's Moving Castle comes clean.
The characters are very true to themselves. Howl and Sophie, while they might end up doing some things not in the book, are very true to the spirit of the Howl and Sophie on the printed page. Micheal is a much younger boy in the movie, but his lines and character are very similar. The bad characters are rather drastically changed, but that's okay. :-)
There were three things that were different in the movie that I really liked.
1) Howl, although girls are mentioned, is not always chasing them.
2) The whole Howl curse thing made a lot more sense and was a lot cooler. (Not sure how to explain it better than that.:-)
3) They break out of their various spells without using added magic. Wizardry in general is not portrayed very positively. Sophie does not have magical powers (which I liked better). Although there was a very clear line between "black" magic and not black magic, in the book, it was still used in ways that hardly seemed fair. And at the end Howl goes on being a wizard and Sophie is learning more about the power she has.
I liked how the movie, by the end, kind of seems to be saying that magic has created a lot of problems and when they reverse that magic, life is how it should be. Kind of almost like, Howl was grabbing to much power and that's how his whole curse thing started out.
I don't know how to explain this all very well, but it had a more Lord of the Rings message then a Harry Potter one. (Even if you love Harry Potter, you have to realize that there is a big difference.) It was just more "deep" and cohesive, I thought.
Howl is very interesting.
I love that he loves beauty and that his room is full of color and stuffed animals.
That is just down right awesome.
Near the end Calcifer says that Howl's heart is still that of a child. For some reason, I think this is the sort of child-like wonder G. K. Chesterton and N. D. Wilson would approve of. A fascination with the colorful and the beautiful and the unusual.
In the movie, the character development with Howl is well done and he is certainly more mature in the areas he should be at the end. He loses his selfishness and self proclaimed tendency to run.
Is the movie anti-war?
I don't think so.
Sophie is believable and relatable and still maintains uniqueness and individuality. She is polite and compassionate. Sophie and Howl seem to fairly easily forgive the Witch of the Waste and actually harbor her in their castle. Come to think about it, compassion and kindness play a big part in the movie.
What about the poor prince at the end? The once adorable turnip head? Sophie is his true love, but he is not hers. It's so sad. But you can't stay sad for long considering the circumstances. The Witch of the Waste is awesome in this scene, by the way. :-)
From the Movie
Sophie: "Let's run away. There's no use in fighting."
Howl: "Why? I'm done running away. Finally I've found something worth protecting with my life. Its you."
You can see more awesome quotes here, which for the sake of brevity, I shall not include.
I could probably ramble on forever...but I'll quit.
I know several other people who have read the book that have not seen the movie, so we should be having some more parties soon. ;-) That will give me some more time for analyzing and enjoying.
If I was going to give this a review I would give the book about a 7 and the movie a 9.
If you watched it and/or read it, tell me what you thought.
Thanks for reading,