Set against the backdrop of a destructive war, this is the story of young hatmaker Sophie, who is cursed by an evil witch to look like an old woman. Being unable to speak of her curse because the magic forbids it, she finds work in the home of a mysterious wizard in the hope that he will someday be able to lift the spell.
I think that this movie is generally well loved and many may find three and a half stars to be an injustice. Howl’s Moving Castle is one of those pieces of media, however, where a single star rating isn’t representative of a more complex opinion.
The visuals of this movie are an easy five out of five, as are most of Studio Ghibli’s works. Especially the backgrounds of the cities and landscapes paint such a beautiful picture of the world that you want to live in it despite the ongoing war. The actual moving castle is also beautifully designed, to the extent that it almost becomes a character itself. The movie is full of breathtaking shots and iconic imagery and worth watching for that alone.
The trouble is in the latter half of the story. I have to admit that, to my shame, I did not read the book first. But as a result, I could not make sense of the final maybe half an hour of the movie. There are no blantant plot holes or anything along those lines. The story just becomes… a hazy blur from scene to scene. There is a long string of emotional beats, ups and downs, highs and lows… but I walked away wondering how all of that magic worked and I still don’t quite understand how the story resolved in the end. Perhaps it is telling that the 4th Google search suggestion for ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ is ‘Howl’s Moving Castle explained’.
So Howl’s Moving Castle is a bit of a mixed bag for me. As an animated feature, it looks absolutely amazing. Gorgeous. As a story, it falls flat. If I could rate them separately, the movie’d probably get 5 stars for it’s looks, 2 for its plot. On average, that’s about 3.5 – a solid recommendation, but not necessarily from the top shelf. Really, whether or not you should watch this movie is entirely up to what you are looking for. Just want to sit back, relax, and enjoy the view? Great, go ahead! Want to get wrapped up in a cool story of magic and war? Eh, maybe there are better candidates out there.
I was super late to the game on Howl’s Moving Castle. Like, well past the theme music being the soundtrack to EVERY cottage core video on the internet ever. You know how some things are super popular but you just can’t be bothered to check them out? Yeah. Guilty as charged.
I love this movie. I’ll be honest, it’s mostly aesthetics for me. Some movies just make you feel something.
Studio Ghibli’s Howl’s Moving Castle is based on the book by Diana Wynne Jones. When I was a kid, I read a lot of her novels. My dad would go to the library and just bring me a stack of books, and I’d read them all in time for him to go back and bring me a new stack. I don’t remember much about the actual stories, but I definitely remember the feeling of being transported to a different world – something I also feel very strongly while watching this movie.
While I agree with Peter on the story being confusing, I do think that not every story has to make sense. These days, a lot of stories get bogged down with unnecessary explanations of, for instance, how the magic system and the world work. There’s a whole bunch of people who love poking holes in stories just because they leave a couple of things to the imagination.
So sure, the story gets a little confusing at times, still I’m incredibly glad that the cottage core kids cyber bullied me into finally watching this film.