Sophie is a youg girl working in a hat shop, with nothing much
happening in her life ... until she meets Howl, a notorious magician, who
saves her from a bunch of monsters send by the Witch of the Waste.
However, soon thereafter, the Witch pays Sophie a visit - and turns her
into a 90-year-old woman.
As an old woman with nothing to fall back on, Sophie decides to leave
town and look for Howl, the Witch of the Waste's arch-enemy, and with the
help of Mr Turnip the Scarecrow, she soon finds Howl's Moving Castle,
a castle that can walk thanks to the fire demon Calcifer and that has
magic doors to many different cities.
Once in the castle, Sophie soon appoints herself for the job of
cleaning lady and soon enough makes friends with Howl (whom she's secretly
in love with), Howl's young assistant Markl, and Calcifer, and the four of
them seem to lead a happy life together ... until war breaks out, and
while Howl on the one hand fights demons all night in the form of a flying
demon (with the threat of him never being able to turn back into Howl
constantly looming over his head), he quite simply wants to refuse the
King's request to help him ... and somehow he gets Sophie to talk the King
out of it ...
At the King's palace, Sophie meets Sulliman, the King's own witch and
Howl's former teacher, and the Witch of the Waste. But while the Witch of
the Waste is soon enough reduced to a senile idiot by Sulliman, Sulliman
does not take Howl's refusal to help the King lightly and swears revenge
Eventually, Howl, Sophie, Markl, Calcifer and even the Witch of the
Waste all find themselves on the run from Sulliman in Howl's moving
castle, and no matter where they hide, Sulliman seems to have spies to
find them. Ultimately Howl is forced to fight, but this time it seems he
can't turn back from his demon self anymore and is doomed ... and then the
now idiotic Witch of the Waste steals Calcifer, which soon has the moving
castle sliding down some cliffs and falling completely apart.
In the end though, Sophie sets a few things right, teaches everyone the
meaning of love, sets Calcifer free, gives Howl back his heart (which was
until now used to keep Calcifer in place), and even turns the scarecrow
back into a prince.
And when Sulliman sees this happy ending in her crystal ball, she
decides to end the war ...
Regarding this film from a pure visual level, this film is another
triumph by Hayao Miyazaki, a film that once again refuses to adhere to
genre conventions, instead creates a world all of its own, with its own
rules and laws of nature and its own aesthetic framework, where medieval
castles, flying machines in retro design, tanks and even a moving castle
can exist next to each other, and wouldn't you know it, it works
beautifully. Unfortunately, the screenplay is a different cup of tea
altogether, a cheesy tale about the power of love ever so often overusing
tired genre clichés to a point where it gets annoying.
Sure the film is not without its moments as Miyazaki is much too good
and well-versed a director to totally botch up a film, thing is, he has
done much better. Still this is worth a look though if only for its visual
brilliance and fantastic ideas ...