HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE (Hauru no
Region 2 (UK) Edition - Reviewed by Andy Davidson
voices of: Christian Bale, Lauren Bacall, Billy Crystal
Based on the famous novel by Diana Wynne
Jones, Howl's Moving Castle tells the story of Sophie, a shy young
shopgirl, who is uprooted from her humble existence into a world of war,
witchcraft and a peculiar castle which wanders the countryside on legs.
Sophie’s troubles begin when she is
accosted in the street by the city guard, looking for some sport. She is
rescued by a mysterious stranger, the wizard Howl, who transports her to
safety but in doing draws attention to the pair. Later, while at work,
Sophie is confronted by the Witch of the Waste. Unwilling to tell her of
Howl’s whereabouts, Sophie becomes the victim of the Witch’s magic and is
transformed into a wizened old crone. Distraught, she flees in search of
Howl in the hope that he can save her. When she eventually catches up with
the wizard and his entourage, her real journey begins.
Howl’s Moving Castle is an extremely
loose adaptation of the novel but does manage to maintain much of the
spirit of the original. Sophie’s plight and her eventual salvation become
secondary to the spectacle and typical mischievousness of Miyazaki’s
script, becoming a quite different but equally rewarding tale.
Of course, the usual Miyazaki themes are in
abundance; a young (although not visibly so) female protagonist, a
handsome stranger tied to her destiny and a backdrop of turmoil and
inexplicable violence. Sophie’s adventure is played out against the
backdrop of a major war and the way Miyazaki manages to intertwine the
various strands of the story, both the personal and the global, is
Pipped to the post for Best Animated
Picture at this year’s Academy Awards, Howl’s Moving Castle is
every bit the classic we have come to expect from Miyazaki.
Moving Castle is presented on a two-disc set, with extras divided
across the discs.
Howl’s Moving Castle is presented in its original 1.85:1 ratio,
with anamorphic enhancement. The quality of the picture is absolutely
stunning – colours are vivid and there is no sign of edge enhancement.
Howl’s Moving Castle is presented in its original Japanese 5.1
soundtrack along with optional English subtitles. A newly produced 5.1
English dub starring Christian Bale, Jean Simmons, Lauren Bacall and Billy
Crystal is also available and is a superbly produced dub which feels
completely natural with the original animation. Both tracks are offered at
English subtitles for the hard of hearing are also available.
Alternate Angle Storyboards
Accessible on the
main disc either standalone or via the Angle button, the viewer can choose
to watch the film in its entirety in storyboard form.
Diana Wynne-Jones (7m 34s)
Author of the book
on which Howl’s Moving Castle is based, Diana Wynne Jones is
interviewed here for Japanese television. The format is somewhat stilted,
with questions appearing in text form only, but Wynne-Jones’
enthusiastically discusses her original novel and her love of Miyazaki’s
films and in particular his interpretation of her story.
Pete Docter (7m 22s)
Pete Docter is the writer of Toy Story
and director of Monsters, Inc. More relevantly, he was the
director of the English dub for Howl’s Moving Castle, continuing
Pixar's association with the English versions of the Studio Ghibli films.
Here, he talks about the painstaking work he and his team undertook to
make the English dub as sensitive to the original as possible.
Hello Mr Lassiter (16m 32s)
Lasseter, head of Pixar Studios, is the man responsible for translating
Miyazaki’s films into English. Here, he is paid a surprise visit by Hayao
Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki shortly after the completion of the English
dub. Lasseter is like a child in a sweetshop, completely in awe of
Miyazaki and bursting with enthusiasm for Studio Ghibli’s work. He also
has the best office in the whole world!
Explanation of CG (19m 40s)
Ghibli are a recent convert to computer animation and famously make only
sparing use of the technology in their films. This fascinating documentary
looks at how CG was used to enhance the animation in Howl’s Moving
Castle; it’s a remarkable feature, made all the more so by the fact
that the film itself looks entirely hand-drawn.
Japanese TV trailers & Spots
The complete set of Japanese trailers for Howl’s Moving Castle are
included, complete with removable subtitles.
Theatrical trailer (1m 32s)
obligatory deep-throated US trailer for Howl’s Moving Castle.
The Studio Ghibli Collection (11m 46s)
set of trailers for the whole Studio Ghibli range.
Textless Opening & Closing Credits
included the opening and closing sequences for the film minus credits. The
opener is a nice little animation featuring dancing Totoros but the
closing sequence is of more value in that it continues the story past the
end of the film. So, if you want to know what happens to Mae and Satsuki
when the music starts, watch on.
Howl’s Moving Castle trailer
Moving Castle is released on DVD the same day as
Totoro. The US trailer for the film, complete with implausibly
gruff voice is included here.
Studio Ghibli Collection trailer
the trailer for the complete set of Ghibli releases planned by Optimum is
included. The trailers appear to have been sourced from a lower quality
medium so don’t quite look their best, but the contents are more than
worth a viewing.
Miyazaki’s latest masterpiece continues the
director’s unbroken run of spellbinding stories coupled with breathtaking
visuals. Howl’s Moving Castle is a beautiful film given a superb
release here by Optimum
The Studio Ghibli Collection
Laputa - Castle in the
reviewed: March 2006