Jun 10, 2011
jal90 (All reviews)
I love the Studio Ghibli films. So far I think it is safe to say that Miyazaki is my favourite anime author, and I doubt anyone will ever take his place because I have grown so attached to the work of this man and his ideals reflected on the way he conceives animation, that I can't think of a deeper connection with one's style in any way.

That is the reason why "Howl's moving castle" was, at my first viewing, a serious disappointment. It was the first time a movie by Miyazaki didn't transport me to the world and imagery it showed. Almost two years later, however, and trying to bring another perspective about this film, I have watched it again, and while this has worked with some other works, it seems "Howl" is still my thorn in Miyazaki's filmography and will always be.

Of course the world introduced here is amazing. This is probably the most gorgeous and visually powerful film Miyazaki has ever done, just watch the scenery, the many traces of impressive imagery, and of course Joe Hisaishi with another solid performance. It's a pleasure for the senses, such a beautiful experience to look at and hear that surely makes it worth viewing.

But that is not an excuse for the many plot holes and sudden changes in character behaviour. That is, in the same way we have a really eye-candy experience given only by the -already known- technical skills of Miyazaki and his group of animators, the story is always lacking.

I would seriously like to be able to fill my review with interpretations and theories about this fascinating world, but quite honestly, didn't find any thread to follow or to keep my interest on. I just can't sit through what in my opinion are clear character and story inconsistencies sucking the emotion or the involvement in whatever the movie is trying to tell me. I won't go with specific scenes to avoid spoiling anyone, but will just say that I find it really disappointing to find that Sophie, the girl who is supposed to introduce me to the story and let me see the events from her eyes, looks so incoherent and variable in her interaction with many of the elements, say the Witch of the Waste or the reactions at some magic events happening around her.

The construction of the storyline is pretty poor, and that is fully shown at an ending scene that feels rushed and ridiculous, where there is not any hint to follow why some characters make some relevant decisions, and looks just plain lazy writing. Really, really lazy, and unsatisfactory. I don't know the original source, but I know Miyazaki far enough to be sure that the fact the novel may or may not be good shouldn't affect the quality of the movie, as in his adaptations he chooses to change stuff freely in order to adjust it to his own subjects and concerns.

It has been said that in this case the plotline is secondary, and it should be seen as a fascinating travel around a world full of magic, where the logic is not needed and if it appears it doesn't make any effect in the enjoyment of the movie. I couldn't disagree more with that statement. During my experience in Miyazaki's works, I have found often this recurrent idea about him, seeing his films as powerful visuals with messed up plots, and as far as I can tell I have never conceived them in that way. Even -and specially- at his least linear and most complex narrative, "Spirited away", every event tries to follow an internal logic, therefore the plot is here and is unavoidable. It also should happen with "Howl"; the fact that it's filled with fantastic and strange elements isn't a valid excuse to make the storytelling lackluster and inconsistent, and of course doesn't change the fact it is needed. More so when it's so clearly intended to be.

In conclusion, and while I can say this work is extremely powerful and memorable at the artistic aspects, I still see it as an unsuccessful attempt that becomes evident at the many plot holes and lack of competent character writing. As entertaining as it could be, it is my biggest disappointment with the otherwise excellent work of this director and the only one that has never fulfilled my expectations.