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Howl’s Moving Castle

I saw two very good movies last week. However, both of these very good movies also highlighted some things that bother me about Hollywood. I’ll get to Batman later. For now, let’s talk about Howl’s Moving Castle(There are some minor spoilers in the text to follow.)

Howl’s Moving Castle is the latest film by Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. The first film of his I saw was Princess Mononoke, which my brother drug me to when it was in the theaters. I honestly thought it to be one of the greatest fantasy pieces I’d ever seen, with brilliant characters and amazing storytelling.

Now, several years later, I’ve seen other Miyazaki films–all of which I liked (though none as much as Mononoke.) I was very excited for the release of this picture, as I represented an important precedent. As far as I know, this is the first time that a western fantasy novelist’s book has been directly adapted by a major Japanese animator. The movie was based on a book by Diana Wynn Jones, a British fantasist of some renown. (And a quite good one at that.)

I’ll admit that I was just a tad disappointed in this movie. Not that it was a bad picture–actually, it was quite good. However, it didn’t really tell the story in the book. Now, I realize the importance of adaptation. The first two Harry Potter movies drug on and on because there wasn’t enough adaptation. A filmmaker has to be able to change the story enough to make it fit the medium. (The Lord of the Rings adaptations, I thought, were brilliant.)

Yet, Miyazaki changed the fundamental story of HOWL’S. He added a great deal of anti-war politicking which I just didn’t think fit with the book he was drawing from. I’ve liked his messages in previous movies–and yet, since the agenda didn’t fit this story, I felt myself losing respect for him. It seemed to me that he had trouble staying true to the source material–and if that was the case, why buy the rights to that source material in the first place?

It really bothers me when filmmakers buy the rights to a property, then make a movie that has an only occasional relationship to its source. I guess it’s a personal bias of mine, but it kept me from enjoying HOWL’S as much as I could have. It’s still an excellent movie, and one that I recommend. Just don’t expect it to have the same story as the book.

In other news, there’s a new annotation up. This is one of my favorites, as I describe one of the very first scenes that occurred to me when writing the book.

|   Castellano