Sunday, February 22, 2009
Movie Review: Coraline
Last night I saw the wonderful new movie Coraline, in 3D. It literally took my breath away. To be honest, this is the first movie I have seen in 3D since like Jaws 3D, and to be fair that wasn't that impressive. Coraline blew me away.
First off, let's talk about the story. Coraline is the story of a young girl named Coraline Jones, who moves to a rural apartment in the middle of nowhere with her parents, workaholics who tend to ignore her. She meets a young boy named Wybie, short for Wyborn, who she thinks is weird. Wybie finds a doll that looks just like Coraline in his Grandmothers attic, and gives it to Coraline. The only difference is that the doll has buttons for eyes.
As Coraline explores the new house she discovers a strange half-door that has been wallpapered over. After promising her Mother that she would leave her alone if she opens the door, Coraline discovers that behind the door it has been bricked over, leaving her disappointed. As she explores the rest of the complex, she meets her strange neighbors. Downstairs are Miss Forcible and Miss Spinks, former stage actresses who have grown senile in their old age. Upstairs is Mr. Bobinsky, a former circus act who is now training a jumping mouse circus, who is also a little strange.
That night though when Coraline goes to bed, she wakes up upon hearing a noise, discovering a small jumping mouse in her room. As she follows him downstairs, she watches the mouse run into the little door, and when she opens it, a long tunnel is behind it. Following the tunnel, she emerges into a room just like the one she left, albeit slightly changed. As she explores her house, she stumbles across her Mother in the kitchen cooking up a wonderful meal. When she sees her Mother's face though, her eyes have been replaced by buttons.
This is her Other Mother, along with her Other Father and Other Wybie. Her Other Mother explains that this world is just for Coraline and exists to make her happy, with lavish meals and friends. As Coraline grows less suspicious, she enjoys the meal and is laid down to bed in a wonderfully decorated room. When she awakens, she has to wonder if it was a dream.
The next day after a quarrel with her Mother, Coraline plots to go back, laying bait for the jumping mouse. When he returns, she follows him into the Other world. There her Other Mother has created a beautiful garden in her image, and each new visit treats her to more lavish presents, including a performance from Mr. Bobinsky's jumping mice, and of Miss' Spinks and Forcible's play.
During one trip she meets Wybie's strange cat, who in this world can talk and warns her that not all is as appears. She later learns that her Other Mother wants her to stay forever, and that everything she wants could be hers, if she lets her sew buttons onto her eyes. When Coraline refuses, she is locked away, with the trapped souls of other children the Other Mother has captured over the years. With the help of the cat, she escapes and vows to never go back. Until she finds out that the Other Mother has captured her parents.
Forced to make one last trip, she arms herself with a pruning shear and a special trinket that the real Miss' Spinks and Forcible gave her, and she ventures forth into the world one more time, to free her parents, and the trapped souls of the lost children.
The story is based on writer Neil Gaimen's work and I am glad he finally broke free in movies with one of his works. Most well known for writing DC Comics flagship Vertigo book, Sandman, in recent years he has been attached to adaptations of his own work, Like the BBC miniseries Neverwhere and the theatrical release of Stardust, as well as adapting Beowolf last year. Finally a movie captures his quirky blend of goth and humor. The writing is crisp and tight, with enough danger and whimsy to offset each other.
The animation is spectacular. Especially the fact the film is stop Motion animation, and not digital. The 3D effects are in some cases mind blowing, where it feels like the movie is coming right out of the screen at you. It really made me marvel at how far 3D has come over the years. Especially as in the first few minutes of the film the 3D effects were off, I was greatly concerned. The picture was blurry and poor, but when they dropped the filter in place, the movie seemed to come alive! I actually want to see more films in 3D, it was incredible! It is also great to see that stop motion animation is not dead, the effects and animation is these puppets were just as good as anything offered in now traditional animation, or even digitally.
If you have a child, or are a fan of animated fair, this is the best animated film since Wall-E last year. Directed by Henry Selick, the director of A Nightmare Before Christmas, he creates a great bridge between the gothic sense in that film with a more universal appeal. Selick, along with Gaimen, have created a truly memorable film in the process. Also starring the voice talents Dakota Fanning as Coraline, Teri Hatcher as the Mother (and Other Mother), Ian McShane as Mr. Bobinsky, and Keith David as the Cat, Coraline is the first must see movie of 2009!
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