Chalk up another one for Miyazaki. This is the first movie since Pirates of the Caribbean that was able to pull me in so completely that I forgot I was in a movie theater and barely noticed the noisy small children and cellphones you get in theaters these days. Hauru No Ugoku Shiro is a light-hearted war drama with a touch of love story in there. If you're not a love story kind of viewer (and I'm not), but have enjoyed previous Miyazaki movies, you can handle this one easily. This time, the movie concentrates more on the characters than the hows and whys of the war going on. This works fine, because the hows and whys of the war aren't as important as the characters emotions, feelings and decisions. More details about the war would only funnel in extraneous information and would get in the way of the characters themselves.
This movie has Miyazaki's tendencies we know and love all through it:
- An abundance of things/people that fly, magically or mechanically
- Interestingly designed airships. Bugger physics and feasibility; some of those ships are so COOL they should be able to fly on that principle alone!
- Strong female characters that don't fall apart when a crisis hits or when careful planning blows up in their face and can kick as much arse as a guy
- Children who don't fall apart in the face of great danger or something really big and scary and can kick as much arse as a grown person
- Well timed/well placed visual gags that still work and are funny in sub
- Masterful blend of complexity and simplicity in animation, scenery, backdrops and, especially, crowds. No cheesy 8 frame loops here.
- And finally, hair that puffs up like a mane. I love that.
Hauru No Ugoku Shiro is a long, deep breath of fresh air in the quagmire of animation crap that's been released recently and opens everywhere June 17th. This movie is subtitled, so if you're the kind to piss and moan about sub vs dub, hush yer mouth, get over it for a couple of hours and go see this movie anyway. You'll be a better person for it. The rating below has nothing to do with the movie itself. I recommend at least one beer taken about 30 minutes before you enter the theater so your brain will still have a few switches off during the mostly Disney-related previews but will be back up to speed by the time the movie begins.
Cheers from OBX, NC.