Howl's Moving Castle

In “Howl’s Moving Castle”, lustrous visualizations prove to have poor momentum when paired with a sluggish story-line pace and grab-bag themes; a disappointment when paired with the director’s pre-established Academy recognition, but nonetheless a work of art.
Hayao Miyazaki’s visualizations guide the audience into a fantasy land like no other animation director/writer of this time. As in “Spirited Away” (2002), Miyazaki poetically soars with lyrical expression through his animation art that denies creative boundaries and sometimes overindulges in boundless mysticism and phantasma. A vexing plot clouded by free-floating themes does not provide a heavy enough anchor for the younger audiences this movie attempts to appeal. In fact, adults may find the sporadic plot-points and pacing to be yielding and tiresome, but will be able to sift through these moments for the more palatable imagery.
The “Castle” touches on important adolescent themes of admirable kinds and explores dark vices. Miyazaki speaks out on the tragedy of war, reflecting current political and societal battles in the Middle East without preaching or weighing focus. He aims to be emotionally attaching with limited scene scopes rather than visually explanatory through gruesome action-sequences.
The focus of the story, buried under all the glitter and bright colors, is love. In this film, it’s the thing that traps a character and binds a relationship. Love sees no ugly exteriors but can be truly ugly when it is selfish and disregarding. Through the female protagonist, Miyazaki wants to prove that naivety is also a form of unconditional love that rational adults may be reluctant to take home to kids.
Like its predecessor, this film is a translation from its language of origin, Japanese. The voices have been replaced in English by prominent actors such as Billy Crystal and Christian Bale. The dialog is more coherent than “Spirited”, but possibly a little understanding of Japanese cultural mythology will demystify the story-line’s incomprehensible moments.
Is this film Academy Award worthy? I have some faith in the judging system to say that despite all arrows pointing to “no”, it may surmount nomination standards and move into the winner’s circle once again. Indeed, anime fans will be impressed once again with Miyazaki’s brilliance and dramatic grace, bowing to his reputable artwork and turning blindly to his poor story-telling skills.
“Howl’s Moving Castle” is based on a novel by Diana Wynn Jones.


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