Howl’s Moving Castle : A Hayao Miyazaki Film

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We’ll celebrate the most celebrated animator, Hayao Miyazaki’s 70th birthday with a review of one of his best ever, Howl’s Moving Castle. this is one of the best movies Ghibli Studios has put out, which is really something, since they are all spectacular in their own right. Set in a 19th century steampunk nation of some sort in Europe, the focus is not the titular character, Howl(English VA, Christian Bale), an eccentric wizard, but to a plain young woman, Sophie(English VA, Emily Mortimer), who has the misfortune to cross his path one day and becomes the pawn of his enemies through magical means.

A steam-driven vehicle of huge proportions settles itself on a pasture outside a city, and Sophie sees this as she is working on sewing at hat at the millinery shop where she works. The other girls in the shop say it belongs to the evil wizard, Howl, and that he preys on pretty girls and uses them for experiments. At closing time, Sophie’s boss asks her to come have a drink with her, but Sophie declines and concentrates on getting her work done, then changes her mind, and goes out. We see all kinds of steam-powered vehicles rolling through and flying over this town. Sophie gets on a bus, then is accosted by a couple of soldiers as she heads to the bakery. They try to invite her to tea, but she declines as she says she needs to meet with family. A beautiful golden-haired man intervenes, and sweeps her away, and says he’ll escort her anywhere she wants to go, but not to be startled because he is being followed. He rises them up in the air to get them away from the street and from those who would cause them harm. They walk/fly a short distance, and he sets her down on the bakery balcony. This is where Sophie’s life changes completely. The stranger was Howl, the wizard everyone has been warned to stay away from.

Later, Sophie is back at the millinery, and she meets the Witch of the Waste(English VA Lauren Bacall), Howl’s fiercest enemy, who craves to devour his soul. The witch casts a really nasty spell on Sophie, she ages her into an old crone. Sophie realises she cannot stay in town, and heads out to the fields, wondering what to do with the rest of what looks to be, her very short life. She encounters a scarecrow hopping around in the field with a turnip for a head. A sweeping chill wind covers the field as a battleship flies overhead, and the scarecrow directs her to the castle for shelter. This leads to old Sophie becoming Howl’s maid, and she really has a job to do. Howl’s apprentice, Markl(English VA Josh Hutcherson) and a small fire demon, Calcipher(English VA Billy Crystal), keep Howl’s business steady, and get him magical jobs, but they are very bad housekeepers, and Sophie tackles the steampunk castle on a cleaning vendetta.

Howl is a wizard that everyone seems to be after. He has shape-shifting abilities, and has made many, many enemies in his time. This movie is primarily about Sophie and how she gets caught up in the magical politics of her country and how she outsmarts all these wizards and witches that have put her in this spot. Miyazaki always weaves the greatest tale into his Ghibli productions and the book Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, is no exception. Everyone will love this movie.

I give this film a Musing review of ★★★★★★