REVIEW: Howl’s Moving Castle

This movie is good for ONE REASON ONLY:

Christian Bale Bird Man!

Bird Man - played by Christian Bale

Oh yes, Christian Bale becoming bird man. It’s the only explanation!

I lied, there’s two reasons:

BA scarescrow

The most bad ass scarecrow to have ever existed...

But, seriously – continuing the Miyazaki trend, I recently watched Howl’s Moving Castle. Did you know that Miyazaki throws in sub-themes as casually as strolling into a party where jeans and a t-shirt at a business casual event? Neither did I, and because Arrietty was my first of Miyazaki’s films, I was under the impression his other works would be a little more sensible.

Now, I can take chaos. The movie’s premise of a girl who feels old, ugly, and incompetent and being cursed to reflect her mood is an enchanting premise, and I was really enjoying the movie for a while as we explored Howl’s gigantic moving ‘castle’ and its ability to warp doorways was awesome.

Then came war.

Now, a funny little note here is every single time (and I mean every. Single. Time.) the characters talked about war or we saw war happening, my friend would turn to me and say, “Hey, Kappy, did you know this movie’s about war?”

As annoying as that may seem, it was funny to me because it felt like the concept of war was literally shoved into the movie as a skeleton to the plot being driven by Sophie (I think that’s the spelling) and Howl. Was war really what the movie was about? It shouldn’t have been, but in the end it was.

I applaud Miyazaki for trying to weave a story of two who belittle themselves and are cowardly and, in the end, confront their problems head-on with war being the wrong solution to problems, but was that supposed to be a metaphor for how we as people need to confront our problems head-on with discussion instead of duking it out? Maybe, but if so, it was executed poorly.

We would go from a scene with Sophie to towns and villages being destroyed and Howl just flying around destroying battleships. Um, OK, great. Why? Why was the war even there? How did it start? Why was Howl summoned by both sides?

Let’s move onto something a little more positive: the voice acting and characters. Here’s where this movie really shines. Disregarding any lines about war, the characters develop wonderfully. Being able to actually see Sophie come to terms with her feeling old and weak was incredibly powerful. The supporting cast really helps move things along, and that living scarecrow is easily the greatest character in film history. There, I said it. I loved that scarecrow. It was funny, but really helped Sophie grow, and I thought that was awesome.

Talking of characters, let’s talk about the voice acting. Since I watched it on Netflix, I listened to the english dub, and I was once again impressed by it. Especially Howl, who was voiced by none other than Christian-fucking-Bale. That’s right, Christian Bale voiced Howl in this movie, and damn does he sound good when not talking like Batman!

And how can I forget the gorgeous visuals? The animation and art were, simply put, stunning. Panning across the sky or an open lake was 10-12 seconds of delicious eye candy, and a few of the scenes (specifically when they ‘moved’) were animated really nicely.

All in all, this movie was good. There were some things I think it could have done much better concerning execution and the development of their sub-themes, but other than that, everything was great. I’m excited to watch more of Miyazaki’s work!

Rating: 7 out of 10

Also the concept of Christian Bale turning into a bird man is hilarious.

And credit to the photoshopped photo of Christian Bale goes to my friend Jacob (Xyless)!

Just sayin’.


REVIEW: The Secret World of Arrietty

It’s rare that I come across a movie that I find absolutely fantastic, but I found one last Thursday when my friends and I went to go see The Secret World of Arrietty, a Disney-translated and dubbed Kari-guarashi no Arietti. 

Based off the award-winning book, The Borrowers, The Secret World of Arrietty starts us off going from the city of Tokyo to the countryside, where a boy named Shawn (Sho) is staying to rest before a heart operation the following week. As he arrives, he notices Arrietty (Arietti), a 14-yeard-old Borrower. In highly stylized fashion, we watch Arrietty nimbly dodge the pet cat, Nina, and escape through a grate into an area underneath the house Shawn is staying. Indeed, the art style and animation are truly marvelous eye-candy, and I found myself enjoying the animation throughout the film. Seeing the world through Arrietty’s eyes makes something as simple as a house an entire world to explore, and explore we do as Pod (Poddo), Arrietty’s father, takes her through a few of the rooms of the house to ‘borrow’ a cube of sugar and tissue paper.

I usually take Japanese animated films and shows subbed. Rarely do I find a dub worth mentioning, and this one is definitely worth mentioning. You can tell Disney took time to make sure they had a good voice acting cast, and did they deliver. What really stood out to me during the opening credits was Will Arnett, whom I know from Arrested Development. All of the cast was great, and I felt each voice fit each character nicely, and they really play off of each other.

The movie moves along a little slow; it takes a long time for Arrietty and Shawn to speak, let alone Arrietty letting Shawn see her. Yet, despite this slow pace, I found myself enjoying it. Many movies today are action-packed and full of quick, high-intensity situations, so it was nice to watch a simple movie that had characters that really grew. You can feel Arrietty’s conflicting emotions as she walks down the nail staircase from Shawn’s room after he saves her, and even tries to convince her father that not all beans (a Borrower mispronunciation of ‘being’) are bad.

The music plays off of this quiet, slow style well. The music, all written and composed by French artist Cecil Corbel, really fits each scene well, and I love a movie with excellent music. I especially love Arrietty’s Song. None of the music is fast or intrusive. It just gently ebbs and flows with each scene, even the more spurring pieces able to stay soft whilst letting you know that the characters are pushing themselves.

The ending is a little abrupt, but understandable. I was wishing it had been a little different, but it didn’t really jar me. It was a good ending to a wonderful film.

All in all, The Secret World of Arrietty is, at its core, a children’s film of friendship, but told in such a way that anyone of any age (or those who love animation) can enjoy. I highly recommend you see this.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Oh, and Hayao Miyazaki co-wrote the screenplay.

Just sayin’.