This probably makes a heck of a lot less sense than usual, I'm whacked out on some spiffy cold medicine and my head still feels like it needs several drainage holes drilled into it because my nose sure isn't doing the trick... just had to stop and ramble.
Saw Howl's Moving Castle last night -- not in theaters; I can't go to a movie theater, because the combination of dark room, flashing lights, and the scent of popcorn gives me raging migraines, which is one of several reasons I'm so glad for the net.
It struck me immediately how Japanese and how specifically Ghibli the movie was -- got the flying routine in within the first five minutes, even, when the scene that was based on doesn't even occur until the last 20 pages of a reasonably thick book.
Then I got the book and read it out of curiosity, and that confirmed it for me. Diana Wynne Jones' book is an extremely Western, old-style British-tinged work of fiction, with lots of hustle and bustle and characters and settings going in and out.
The movie is a Zen watercolor recreation of that, a few simple brushstrokes chosen out of all the busywork in the book.
It's almost like someone had read the book five years earlier and told it secondhand to Miyazaki, who then wrote his own movie script with an impression of the details: a wizard and a fire demon and a moving castle and a hatmaking girl who was cursed to be old by a cranky witch who didn't like her hats.
That's pretty much all that stayed from the book to the movie. You get a feeling of a lot of holes unfilled in the movie, a lot of things hinted at, and I dragged my sniveling cold-hacking butt to the library to get the book and read it. (I read very VERY fast.)
There was a LOT in the book that never made it to the movie -- details about Sophie's family, details about Howl's family (I almost wrote Hywel/Howell, which is something else that doesn't come up in the movie, possibly, because Japanese doesn't even have a word for Wales as a country in its own right, let alone any way of making the pronunciation distinctions between Welsh Hywel, English-Welsh Howell, and magician's nom-de-plume Howl...)
er, rambling. Anyway, I was also astonished-but-not by how much of the movie was PURELY Ghibli with no origins in the book -- several of the coolest special effects, including the raven transformation scene, and the hunts by the black blobby things? All those were pure Ghibli. Same with the background war. A significant character got both a name and a gender change and got smashed into another character while the other half of who the character had been dropped out of existence entirely.
It really does play like someone wrote an outline five years after having read the book and went Ghibli on it from there. It's a quintessentially Ghibli movie, with just the core character concepts recognizable from the book.
If this had been an American movie remake of an American book I'd already loved and was hoping to see a faithful adaptation of, I'd have been pissed as hell. ^^;;
But, really, I think the movie as made is better than the book version would have been. Or at least, the book as written couldn't have been translated directly to a movie -- if it had, the movie form would have suffered from the literalness.
There were SO many details and side plots and intertangled bits in the book and it all moved so quickly and breathlessly that it would have made a reasonable Disney-seventies-comedy-style constant-dash skitter-skim-dance-zoom-bang-crunch all-action-all-the-time animation, but that would have been a less beautiful work of art.
Ghibli is better than anyone else on earth at remembering what made the golden age of Disney work, and then improving on it. There's a reason Snow White is a legend and The Aristocats or The Black Cauldron aren't. Ghibli's tapped into what made Snow White, and they've modernized the techniques used to produce it.
Plus I like the gentler pacing, and a movie needs a single through-line much more desperately than a book does -- that's one of the things that's made the Harry Potter books-to-movies suffer, in my opinion -- and all in all the whole thing's been so gorgeously transformed by the Ghibli vision of the world that I don't actually mind that it bears no more than nodding resemblance to the original book.
Plus a whole lot of gorgeous detailing in the movie was never in the book. I know I said a lot of book-details got left out in the transformation. A lot of movie-details got invented wholesale too, most notably about Howl's transformations and the backdrop of the story (the original plot convolutions essentially got chucked out the window, with two or three bits (a war, a king, a prince, and a witch) getting pulled back in and woven in differently -- in the original book, Sophie was scared witless of the scarecrow and tried to beat him off whenever he came around; in the original book, the whole staircase scene leading to 'Suliman' never happened -- well, there was one staircase scene, but there was no hobble-race-the-Witch-up-it-while-lugging-a-dog....)
(shrug) They're not at all the same story. In any other case I think I would've been irritated by that. But in this case, my hat's off to the movie...
off to take more drugs and fall over for a while...