Howl's Moving Castle: Review/Synopsis
by: Johnny Du
While computer animation is kicking hand drawings to the curb in the
U.S., it's nice to see that the classical animation form still thrives
in Japan. What strikes me about Howl's Moving Castle is just how
colorful it is. Studio Ghibli shows no signs of slowing down When it
comes to creating gorgeous panoramic scenes, diverse character designs
and finishing things off with a flourish when the colors are applied.
It can't be underestimated how the wide range of colors used in this
film really help things stand out even more and accentuate the
fantastical aspects of this film. Yes, the mood for the most part is
grim throughout the movie.
Though the title suggests otherwise, Howl's is really about Sophie, a
young woman working in a hat shop who encounters a mysteriously
handsome stranger in the streets one day. This encounter sets off a
long chain of events and encounters, as Sophie encounters a witch
(whose curse on Sophie ignites the rest of the film), a talking flame,
an apprentice, a scarecrow with a turnip head and of course, the
enormous moving castle. The storyline is vintage Studio Ghibli,
weaving normal settings with magical elements to create a hybrid world
where you know some of this stuff is implausible in reality, but you
could not care less because of this amazing imaginative world that the
filmmakers have created.
In addition to the beautiful colors, the strong and wonderfully
diverse cast of characters is this film's greatest strength. The
characters are more or less stereotypical, yet their physical
appearances and interactions with each other ensure a unique feel to
it all. Sophie is your vintage vulnerable protagonist, Howl is the
brooding guy with a heart of gold, Calcifer is the spastic sidekick,
Markl is the curious assistant, the Witch is evil but not as cruel as
you would think. These characters are both
easily identifiable in the roles they fill, while charmingly original
in the flair they bring to those roles.
I won't go so far as to proclaim that this is the Best! Ghibli! Ever!
- but this is a visually spectacular treat that shows Miyazaki and
Studio Ghibli are still chugging along.