Blu-ray Review - Howl's Moving Castle


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  • Howls Moving Castle
  • Howls Moving Castle

Studio Ghibli's 2004 effort hits high def
Howls Moving Castle (2012)
Hayao Miyazaki
Christian Bale, Billy Crystal
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A young woman is cursed by a witch and twisted into the form of an old woman, forcing her to go on a journey to find a wizard powerful enough to break the spell. Who happens to live in an ambulatory castle…

Howl’s Moving Castle is based on the 1986 book by Diana Wynne Jones but adapted into quite a different form by Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli. It was director Hayao Miyazaki’s second film since his supposedretirement in 1997, following on from Spirited Away which picked up the Oscar for Best Animated Film in 2002.

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Even for those used to Ghibli’s unique take on material, Howl’s Moving Castle is an odd film, mixing steampunk influences with magic and demons and devolving into all out warfare as the final act arrives. And through it all, we’re focussed on young/old Sophie, who complains about her aching joints while befriending animated scarecrows, jabbering fireplaces and doing some spring cleaning in a castle with legs.

She’s hardly the most electrifying of lead characters and it doesn’t help matters that the story itself is basic but somehow also unclear, particularly when it comes to the character of Howl, voiced by Christian Bale in the dub. But if you ever find the narrative confusing, you can just bathe in the glorious 2D animation, with the castle itself a wonderful cobbled together mass of rooms and obtrusions. There’s CG here too, naturally, but it remains subtle and the intricacy of the world, together with some interesting and varied locations and stunning character animation, makes this a fine looking blu-ray.

Howl’s Moving Castle lacks the accessibility of Western animations and may frustrate some viewers but the superb visuals and impeccably crafted alternative world should enthral, even while the story gets itself tangled in the final act.

Extras: This new blu-ray release lets you watch the film with picture in picture storyboards (a must for animation fans), check out interviews with author Diana Wynne Jones and Pixar’s Pete Doctor plus see Miyazaki himself visiting the Pixar offices. You’ll also find some featurettes delving into the CG, sound design and recording the English voice artists, plus some trailers.

7 Stars
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