Howl’s Moving Castle
A lesser film by master animation director Hayao Miyazaki is a lot like a lesser album by the Beatles. Sure, it obviously doesn’t measure up to the out-and-out classics - to "My Neighbor Totoro", to "Nausicaa," to "Kiki’s Delivery Service" - yet it still stands tall on its own merits. So it is with Howl’s Moving Castle, which is being released onto Blu-ray this week by Studio Ghibli’s American distributor, Disney. Indeed, it is one of Miyazaki’s slightest feature films. But, still, I don’t believe I’ve seen a stronger animated film on the big screen since the film’s initial commercial release in 2004.
Disney’s Blu-release of this Oscar-nominated effort - about a selfish, vain prince (voiced in the English dub by Christian Bale,) a young girl cursed to suffer within the body of an old crone, and the titular makeshift contraption that walks them from adventure-to-adventure - has some of the usual features that slap onto their Ghibli releases. We get a short featurettes about the dub ("Behind the Microphone,") trailers and TV spots, an appreciation of the film from noted Pixar directors (they adore Ghibli - represented here are Pete Doctor and John Lasseter,) and the original Japanese storyboards for the entirety of the film.
But it’s the presentation that astounds, not the features surrounding it. Miyazaki films have always been noted for their lush, vibrant colors; for the way he brings the poetry of nature’s color palette to hallucinogenic heights. And for the first time, a home video release can match the experience of seeing one of his films on the big screen - the subtle flutter of the green grass, the light flicker that emanates from Howl’s pet flame, the flowing beauty of Howl’s luscious hair. It’s easy to forget that this is "minor Miyazaki" - the precision of the presentation here, no doubt overseen by the Ghibli animators themselves, befits nothing less than a masterpiece.
"Howl’s Moving Castle"
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack