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mardi, mars 08, 2005

 Howl's Moving Castle Review

It's another tragic case of "What-Have-They-Done-To-The-Book" adaptations for screen.

The story involves Sophie, the eldest daughter of three, who became a hatter (or hat-maker) to support the family when her father died. Lettie, her middle sister, is sent to work as an apprentice under a baker, and Martha, the youngest, was sent to study magic. In the course of the book, both Martha and Lettie switch places, and confusion ensues (as is the norm for most Diana Wynne-Jones's books.)

The twist in the book (which we discover early on, so this isn't really ruining a surprise for anyone) is that Sophie herself is a very powerful witch, who casts spells by merely talking to objects and people. There's also a prince Justin, and the country Wales, the scarecrow does NOT hang arund, Seven-League Boots, and a Miss Angorian (yes, like the hideous sweater), and there's no time-travel involved. Love is not declared - in the book.

The book is complicated - but everything knits itself up neatly in the end, there's not much slack (if any at all), and all loose ends are handled very well. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the film adaptation. The story threads are flying everywhere in the movie - only Lettie appears in the film, albeit in a very arbitrary manner, Sophie's inherent magical ability is hinted at (when she manages to make the weird machine fly by kicking it) but never overtly mentioned, the Wicked Witch of the Waste is not vanquished by Suliman (who - in the book - offers Lettie a magic apprenticeship or something), and Howl's continuous attempts at curing Sophie are only alluded to when you see Sophie switching between being 80 years old and being 18. In fact, my friend was wondering if the animators had made a mistake with Howl and Sophie, since they kept changing their "look" and age so often in the movie. Mizayaki's Howl also was a little too bland for my taste - he could have spiced Howl up a lot more with costumes and hairstyles, but I guess Takuya Kimura was enough behind-the-scenes action for everyone.

Everything feels half-done, almost like the scriptwriters wanted to retain as much original information as possible, but knew that they wouldn't be able to make a two-hour feature with that much material, so they shortened it. Badly.

Apart from the (sigh) usual failure of print-to-screen, I disliked Mizayaki's interpretation of the moving castle. I suppose there has to be a reason behind his choice of depiction - a grotesque monster, almost organic in its conception - it has a crude "face" and a tongue, and four chicken legs (reminiscent of Orson Scott Card's description of Baba-Yaga's "flying machine" - which turned out to be a modern day Boeing, but that's another great story waiting to be ruined). I'm positing that it probably has something to do with an attempt to contrast OR reconcile Howl/magic with the machinations of the ongoing war between Ingary and who-knows-where-else.

On a different note, when Howl opened the door to the field of flowers that he "gave" to Sophie, I couldn't help but think that he had a precognition of Will Smith's Hitch's dating advice advertisements: you know, the ones that go Date Doctor Advice #4 - Always give a girl flowers - and then upped the ante by giving Sophie a whole FIELD of live flowers.

Overall, an okay movie. If I were to give it a rating, it'd be 3 out of 5 fields of flowers.

[Howl's Moving Castle Review]
Sngs Alumni @ 8.3.05 { 0 comments }


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