The Howl-Bound Heart

Howl’s Moving Castle – I finally got around to watching this today. I’d already read the book a few years ago, but I’d forgotten parts of it, due to Diana Wynne Jones’s tendency to introduce a lot of intricacies in plot and character. I knew they’d changed a lot, though, and Wikipedia gives a pretty good overview of the changes made. It almost seemed like Hayao Miyazaki had read part of the book, and then made up his own ending. I guess the best way to sum it up would be to say that he used elements of Jones’s story to make a typical Miyazaki film. It was heavy on anti-war themes and the importance of seeing everyone’s point of view, as evidenced in how the Witch of the Waste ended up reforming instead of being killed. Some of the character changes were probably just to simplify things (e.g., Sophie having only one sister, the scarecrow being one enchanted person instead of two, and the other fire demon not appearing), but the combination of Suliman and Mrs. Pentstemmon into one character was weird. The kingdom (Ingary in the book, but unnamed in the film) also changed from a fairy tale setting to a place with steampunk technology, including airships, bombs, steam trains, and automobiles. The design of the moving castle itself was very much in this vein, and I have to say the whole thing looked like something out of a Final Fantasy game. I guess that’s what you get in a Japanese movie based on a British book. All that said, the movie was really very good, as I pretty much expected. I think it would be fair to say I’m now both a Jones AND a Miyazaki fan, so the very fact that a movie involving elements of both even exists is cool. The visuals were great as usual, and I thought the portrayal of Calcifer (voiced in the English translation by Billy Crystal) was cute.

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5 Responses to The Howl-Bound Heart

  1. I thought the simplification of the plot and even the combining of the characters worked, and I liked the setting and all the details… BUT I just could NOT appreciate it because I couldn’t get past how completely they changed Howl. THAT WAS NOT HOWL! I don’t know what they thought they were doing– attempting to make him more of a dashing hero I guess, but instead it just made him BLAND, and it totally ruins the chemistry between him and Sophie (who they DID get right otherwise, luckily seeing as she is my #3 Literary Girl-Crush and I was all prepared to judge them harshly for THAT if they failed). And ironically they leave him his freak-out over his hair-dye fiasco, but it actually looks WORSE in this context because here he comes off as just randomly Ridiculously Vain whereas in the book you find out that he’d really just gotten dumped and that was the last straw. You know? It’s just, Howl is just a unique and memorable and complex character and they TOOK ALL THAT AWAY BECAUSE THEY THOUGHT IT WOULD MAKE HIM MORE APPEALING! AND IT DOESN’T! DANGIT!

    So I found myself unable to enjoy the movie as much as I maybe could have otherwise.

    • Nathan says:

      I don’t know that the movie really developed Howl that much at all, beyond presenting him as a coward.

      • I don’t even think they presented THAT well– they TALKED about him being a coward all the time, but didn’t even really SHOW the way he tries to slither out of everything! And why on earth would they show him spending his spare time in what is apparently a war zone? How does that show his cowardice at ALL?!

      • Nathan says:

        Yes, running away from the Witch of the Waste while also trying to stop bombs seems rather contradictory to me.

  2. Pingback: Faber John Lives…Somewhere in Time | VoVatia

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