I’m not going to lie, I didn’t know who Jean Simmons was before I signed up for The Wonderful World of Cinema and Phyllis Loves Classic Movies’ 90 Years of Jean Simmons blogathon. So, I had to take a trip to Jean’s IMDB Filmography page. What I discovered was a voice acting credit for the film, Howl’s Moving Castle. Since I’ve never seen this movie and since no other blogathon participant was planning to talk about this movie, I decided to contribute to this blogathon by reviewing this film! Before watching Howl’s Moving Castle, I had seen three other Studio Ghibli films. These movies are Kiki’s Delivery Service, Ponyo, and Tales from Earthsea. I have enjoyed all three of these movies, so I had a feeling that Howl’s Moving Castle would be somewhat enjoyable. How does this movie compare with the other three? Fly through this review if you want to find out!
Things I liked about the film:
- The characters: Like any movie, Howl’s Moving Castle has a cast of characters that are very unique from one another. Not only do these characters have their own distinct physical features, they also have their own personalities. A good example is Howl himself. He has characteristics that help him stand out from the other characters (his hair can change colors more than once) and has a personality that adds to the uniqueness of his character (he is a powerful magician who has his fears and insecurities, but doesn’t let these feelings show easily). These two major concepts make Howl an interesting character. They also help shape the rest of the characters in this film.
- The animation: Studio Ghibli films are known for their artistic animation. Howl’s Moving Castle is no different, filling up the screen with exquisite creations. In fact, the animation in this movie was so good, it honestly looked like priceless art. Everything that was featured on-screen was very detailed, even down to the very look of Howl’s castle. I also liked how the use of color was applied to this film’s animation. The bright colors that were found in some scenes complimented one another and, for the most part, made these scenes feel cheery and light-hearted. Whenever darker colors were used in other scenes, it never looked dull or devoid of color. Instead, these colors accompanied the darker moments unfolding on-screen.
- The humor: When I watched Howl’s Moving Castle, I knew there would be some light-hearted moments sprinkled throughout the film. However, I wasn’t expecting this movie to have as much humor as it did. There were several moments in this movie that I found to be genuinely funny. One of these scenes was when Howl was freaking out over his hair changing from blonde to orange. These scenes, as well as the other humorous moments in this movie, were not only well-written, but also well-executed.
What I didn’t like about the film:
- Lack of exposition: While Howl’s Moving Castle had a basic story that was fairly easy to understand, I found this movie to have very little exposition. Characters were not really given fleshed out backstories and certain events within this story aren’t given a significant amount of explanations. Within this film’s narrative, there’s a war that happens which affects the characters’ environment. However, it is never explained why this war is taking place or how the war started. I was very frustrated by this flaw of Howl’s Moving Castle.
- An underwhelming villain: This film actually has two villains and I found both of them to be very underwhelming. Not only were they not given strong backstories, but they weren’t given any villainous qualities that made them very memorable. Because of this, the only real sense of danger that was found within this story came from the war itself. When it came to the villains themselves, I did not find them to be threatening or scary. To me, both of these villains were wasted potential.
- The run-time: Howl’s Moving Castle is approximately two hours long. This caused the story to feel more drawn out and a little bit too long. Because of this, I felt that the first half of the movie was stronger than the second half. In my opinion, I don’t think this particular story needed this long of a run-time. Having the movie be an hour and twenty or thirty minutes long would have worked better for Howl’s Moving Castle.
My overall impression:
At best, Howl’s Moving Castle was decent. It was a fine movie-viewing experience and I enjoyed the film for what it was. However, out of the now four Studio Ghibli films I’ve seen, Howl’s Moving Castle was weaker than the previous three films. This movie does have its merits, but it also has its flaws. It felt like this story was trying to accomplish too much at once, causing some of the film’s meanings and messages to get lost in the shuffle. But, like I’ve already mentioned, most of these issues within the movie’s narrative come from the length of the run-time. I would suggest that people, especially those who haven’t seen this movie, give Howl’s Moving Castle a chance. However, if you have seen other Studio Ghibli films before watching Howl’s Moving Castle and if you really enjoyed those movies, you might want to lower your expectations.
Overall score: 7.1 out of 10
Have you seen any of Jean Simmons’ films? Do you like watching movies from Studio Ghibli? Let me know in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!