Howl movie vs. book (was Re: [DWJ] help needed...)

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at
Tue May 16 18:31:43 EDT 2006

On Tue, 16 May 2006 09:24:10 -0700 (PDT), Elizabeth G. Holtrop wrote:

>Are there any readers out there who saw  Howl-the-film first and prefer it to Howl-the-book?

Not me, of course, but none of my kids have read the book yet.  They all
LOVED the movie.  As in, "we'd rather watch Howl's Moving Castle on DVD five
times instead of this Harry Potter thing released the same day."  I knew
going into it that the movie was going to be substantially different from
the book and I didn't want them not enjoying the movie because of it.
Because I also knew that the movie on its own was going to be great.  If
there had never been a book--if Miyazaki had come up with the story on his
own--there wouldn't have been anything to compare it (negatively, in many
cases) to.

When I watch a movie based on a book, I expect it to be its own story.  As
long as it's true to the essence of the book, I don't worry so much if
certain sections have to be left out.  I was re-reading _Adventures in the
Screen Trade_ over the weekend and William Goldman has quite a lot to say
about the process of adaptation--about how much has to be cut from a book to
make a *good* movie.  So I was pleasantly surprised to see how much of
_Howl_ made it into the movie, both actual scenes and ideas.  Especially the
green slime.  :)  I don't think they needed to lose the idea of Sophie
talking life into things; it was actually in the movie, but never identified
as such.  And emphasizing the war...well, that's just Miyazaki all over, and
was probably the only change to the book's plot that annoyed me.  But at
least there was a war, or the possibility of war, in the book--it wasn't
just something he tacked on for fun.  

I've seen movies where it was clear the screenwriter or director had just
taken the title and made a completely different story.  That bothers me.
What's the point of adapting a novel if you're just going to change
everything?  At that point you're just trying to capture some of the
audience who loved the book.  Sorry folks, I loved _Snow Falling on Cedars_
too much to see it mangled on screen.  Miyazaki's film still managed to
capture the spirit of DWJ's novel, so I'm happy with it.  And there was the
green slime...that was my favorite scene, and it was pure Howl.

I recommended the book to my mother-in-law, who is "teaching" a class on
literature--what she really does is read aloud to the class, which is made
up of delinquents and losers and a handful of good students.  It may be the
only way some of these kids absorb any sort of literature.  Anyway, her plan
is to read the book and then show them the movie.  She's so excited about it
because she really liked the book, and I hope it works for the class.
(Though it smacks a little too much of post-Orwellian instruction and _The
Missing Persons League_....)

Melissa Proffitt

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