I was fourteen years old when I first came across Hayao Miyazaki‘s film “Howl’s Moving Castle” featuring the
faint inducing, swoon worthy, I will marry his voice talents of Christian Bale. Since I’ve previously enjoyed the films churned out by Studio Ghibli, I decided to watch this one as well.
And Oh God. It was twuu luv.
The movie is based on a book by Diana Wynne Jones. It follows a young woman, Sophie Hatter from “the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility exist.” The book’s synopsis informs us “…As her younger sisters set out to seek their fortunes, Sophie stayed in her father’s hat shop. Which proved most unadventurous, until the Witch of the Waste came in to buy a bonnet, but was not pleased. Which is why she turned Sophie into an old lady. Which was spiteful witchery.
Now Sophie must seek her own fortune. Which means striking a bargain with the lecherous Wizard Howl. Which means entering his ever-moving castle, taming a blue fire-demon, and meeting the Witch of the Waste head-on. ”
The book completely drew me in – so much that I was eating my lunch in front of the laptop screen (and that hasn’t happened to any lucky book with me in over a century, I think) I loved the detail put into the characters. Sophie, as an old woman, was bossy and cantankerous – and altogether badass. She kind of reminded me a little of my mother because of her obsession with cleanliness. Howl sums old Sophie up in this dialogue:
“Yes, you are nosy,” said Howl. “You’re a dreadfully nosy, horribly bossy, appallingly clean old
woman. Control yourself. You’re victimizing us all.”
LOL. If I try saying this to my mother…Yeah. No.
What I did find jarring was that Sophie seemed to accept her “old boned, frail” self without much flinching. I mean, if someone turns me into a ninety year old, I’ll find that, oh, I don’t know, distressing, maybe? – even have an apoplectic fit or nervous breakdown.
The fiery fire demon, Calcifier was such an entertaining character – he had some of the best lines in the book. He continuously badgers Sophie to find a way to break the curse (He and Howl are connected – and he is also the reason for Howl’s power and manages the moving castle) However, we are shown intermittently how Calcifier considers each member of the Moving Castle as his family. I liked how each of the characters displayed their flaws so openly – made it much easier for me to identify with them.
And now Howl – I’m so glad that the movie tried to stay true to his book character because he’s such a whiny, drama queen with an effeminate air about him, and that’s exactly why I love him. There is no mysterious hero lurking in the background, no asshole trying to flip ludicrous pick up lines, no Gary Sues trying to fit into the picture. Nothing. Howl is sunshine (I’m legit serious, y’all) He had flaws, but he was also sweet and Sophie and his bantering was, at time, hilarious.
“Really, these wizards! You’d think no one had ever had a cold before! Well, what is it?” she asked, hobbling through the bedroom door onto the filthy carpet.
“I’m dying of boredom,” Howl said pathetically. “Or maybe just dying.” – Howl’s Moving Castle
I like how there were some subtle romantic inclination between them which grew as the plot advanced. Another dimension of Howl’s life is presented in the form of nieces and nephews and a sister – which was absent in the movie. So boo.
The writing is simple and flows in a fluid manner. It would be impossible for me not to compare it with the movie though, the film version cuts and improvises several scenes from the book. What I didn’t like was how Sophie viewed herself as plain and ordinary in the movie while in the book, she doesn’t seem to be suffering from any complex. I get it, it’s Disney we’re talking about but seriously, this running theme of “I’m soooo uglaz” needs to be toned down a little.
Also in the book, I felt that the ending was little rushed, that the romance didn’t quite pan out the way I had pictured it – yeah, I’m still enamored with the cute romantic scenes in the film. And Christian Bale’s voice.
GIVE HIS VOICE TO MEHH.
The movie takes several elements from the book to carve out a different story than Jones, and both of them have their own charm. Read and/or watch this right now.
- Howl’s Moving Castle (bookwitch.wordpress.com)