howl's moving castle

Jadwiga Zajaczkowa / Jenne Heise jenne at
Tue Jul 5 13:01:38 EDT 2005

Juergen, Sarah, Becky and I finally went to see Howl's Moving Castle. I 
was prepared for it in two ways: Diana Wynne Jones had said she liked it 
(and she wrote the book) and the DWJ list said it was extremely untrue 
to the book. 
So, I was able to enjoy it. A lot.
First of all, it deviates significantly from the book storyline, and the 
ending has a much different feel, but I could see how Diana would 
appreciate it. Miyazaki has taken the ideas of the characters and taken 
them in a different direction, but the movie characters are entrancing 
anyway. He's also moved the story from generic-16th-17th c. fairytale 
time frame to Edwardian fantasy time frame, and added an active war. 

Some people said they didn't like the movie Howl and Sophie, because 
both are much 'softer' in the movie. We see Howl following his 
concience, instead of pretending not to have one. (However, the green 
slime scene is still there, with a brief twist...) We see Sophie 
genuinely being taken aback, instead of being as 
verbally fiesty as we remember her from the book. But Howl is still 
shallow in a number of spots; Sophie is definitely a girl of spirit. But 
her spirit is more like that of the heroine of the folktale East of the 
Sun and West of the Moon, rather than being a dynamo powered by 
grumbling. :)

Miyazaki's scenery and animation is exquisite as usual. Especially the 
Star Lake and some of the other landscapes, and his trademark Edwardian 
steam backgrounds; his wierd flying machines. I want to retire to the 
landscape of a Miyazaki film someday. Best of all is the flying castle 
itself, which is, in the movie, a walking castle on bird legs 
(reminiscent of Baba Yaga's cottage). Unfortunately, we all felt the 
animation of Calcifer, the captured fire demon in the hearth, was poor-- 
too wobbly. Billy Crystal was fine as the voice, though.

Now, Howl himself. Being the sort of girl who as a teenager was madly 
susceptible to anime, I admit I have a fictional-crush on Miyazaki's 
conception of Howl. He pushes all the teenage girl emotional/hormone 
buttons in exactly the way he should. In Diana's book, we never see Howl 
being really charming, though there are a number of points when we get 
glimpses of it. Here, he's all charm and power. Sophie's power is less 
obvious, and it's not entirely clear she is a witch... but, well, she's 
pretty clever for a non-witch.  

The most important difference is the changeover from a Georgette-Heyer, 
verbally-sparring-to-the-end setup, to a more 19th century, courageous 
but wounded hero and brave woman who saves him. It takes the fairy tales 
apart and puts them back together in a very different way. But it's 
still magical, and it still was a great film. And even better, if you've 
read the book, there's still suspense because the plot is different. :)

-- Jadwiga Zajaczkowa, Knowledge Pika jenne at 
""So that's what librarians do: Share knowledge. Share pleasure. Share 
ideas for a better world." -- MaryLaine Block

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