Howl's Moving Castle
Being a big Hayao Miyazaki fan, I've been following his latest creation with the same enthused interest as any of his films deserve. Howl's Moving Castle was a bit different because it's his first film based on a book of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones instead of his own original material. While the animation is great, what you would expect and more, there are a few problems I had with the film which keep it from being as good as his last few films, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away.
Before getting into the movie itself, I should let you know two things that probably affected the film for me. One, I much prefer seeing anime sub-titled than dubbed. And two, I read the book as soon as I found out Miyazaki was making a movie about it.
I felt the voice acting in this film was probably the worst out of the recent dubbings Disney has made for Miyazaki's other films. Christian Bale's performance as the wizard Howl sounds like a wooden Keanu Reeves and sounds read from the page rather than acted. But worse, is Billy Crystal's portrayal of Calcifer, which, to me, takes anime dubbing back to the 80's. He's just awful. The rest of the cast is good but I couldn't help wishing I'd seen the film on my first viewing sub-titled.
While reading the book, I was able to picture what Miyazaki would do with it, and it was definitely suited to his style. I felt it would be an awesome movie in his hands. Even though there is quite a bit of similarity to the book, the script diverges a bit and at the end, turns into a story that's quite different from the book, and I liked the book a lot better. The film is slow, and that's fine, but the ending seemed rushed, like they took their time and remembered five minutes before the script was due they had to tie up all the loose ends. And while I could read-between-the-lines having read the book, there are definitely things that didn't get enough explanation during the film I felt would have made things more coherent. This is a huge reason I'm now intersted in seeing the sub-titled movie since I'm sure it will be more true to Miyazaki's own written words and I have to believe it will make more sense.
That's about all I can say against the film and they are things that the sub-titled version may fix for me. I definitely hope so.
As you would expect, the film is gorgeous and the animation is truly something to marvel at. Aside from the ending feeling rushed, it's another film you get lost in and although I enjoyed it, I'm interested in what reaction people will have who haven't read the book.
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