Friday, February 25, 2005

Mr Miyazaki.. what happened?

Was i expecting alittle too much? After the raging success of Spirited Away, i was expecting to see Howl's Moving Castle to, well.. soar. It is an enjoyable movie nonetheless, but.. being a fan of Hayao Miyazaki's works, i was alittle disheartened to find it lacking in aspects which made all his previous works hits *tears alittle*.

Sniffs, anyway, Howl's Moving Castle was originally a story written by Diana Wynne Jones. It was adapted into an animation film by Studio Ghibli and was severly Miyazaki-nized (as noted by others who have both read and watched the movie). I have yet to read the book so my observations will be based on the movie alone.

Howl's Moving Castle tells the story of Sophie, a young adult who works as a hat maker. Her mundane and routined life was interrupted when she offended the Witch of the Waste, who cursed her with a body of a 90 year old woman in spite. Unable to continue with her life, Sophie finds herself leaving town, in order to prevent others from recognizing her. With the help of a scarecrow (aptly named Mr Turnip), she stumbles upon Howl's moving castle. Desperate for shelter, she lets herself in, not knowing what fate awaits her inside.

The handsome wizard, Howl, is voiced by Takuya Kimura.

Although i wouldn't want my judgement to be tainted by comparing works which should be seen as individuals and unique to their story, it is evident that Howl's Moving Castle has borrowed many similar character designs from Spirited Away. From the design of Howl himself to the servants of Madam Suliman (Howl's teacher), it is inevitable that one would be reminded of Haku from Spirited Away. In addition, the image of Sophie as a 90 year old resembles that of the wicked witch, Yubaba. Having seen the creation of colourful characters manifest on screens, i was a tad disappointed with the use of borrowed designs.

The amazing, intricate design of Howl's castle

However, one must applaud the designs of Howl's castle. With openings which resembles the eyes and a jagged mouth, who would've expected that the castle moves on mechanics looking like chicken legs? Watching the castle clumsily edge by towns and hills, i can only tell myself, this is what i call, refreshing.

Apart from visual designs, the background music.. fail to leave much of a impression on me when compared to Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. There seem to be a missing theme which can effectively grip your attention. For me, i'd like to call it the "Ah.. That is so it" moment when you hear it. An example would be the moments such as in Princess Mononoke when Ashitaka starts off on his journey and in Spirited Away, when Chihiro starts to panic in the foreign surroundings. You hear it and you'd go, gosh, that is so perfect.

The last thing that is lacking in Howl's Moving Castle would be a concrete main theme and plot. There are distractive sideplots in the movie which are either not carefully explained or simply.. do not seem to play any role in contributing to the plot. The flow of the story starts off slow and picks up very quickly towards the end, as if there was a rush to cram in as much last minute info as possible. The many elements that are found in the story weakens the overall idea and clouds the theme which Miyazaki wants to express to the audience.

Despite all these, for those who are uncritical of his works, or are simply, looking for an entertaining movie, this is a show to look out for. But however, for others who are avid fans of Miyazaki's works such as i am, don't get too excitied.

Mr Miyazaki, i'd be looking forward to your next work. Till then.. don't limit yourself to adaptations. I like your original stories better.

Ratings: 3.5 / 5 Stars


Blogger Eterna2 said...

3.5 only??
btw, the chicken legs is from i forgot which mythology... Yabba the witch and her magic hut with chicken legs.

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