Tuesday, February 10, 2009
This 2009 stop motion animated gothic horror film, is based on the Neil Gaimen novella of the same name. Neil Gaimen is a prolific comic and novel writer and it’s always nice to see his works adapted into film, all the more better is that he usually writes the screen plays. Anyway, Coraline is directed by Henry Selick (who is just one of my favorite directors working today, directing, The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach films) and is the story of a young girl named Coraline Jones who finds a door into an alternate world where more positive and fun versions of her parents exist, where her wildest imaginations come true, and where she finally feels appreciated. However, darker things lurk behind the happy façade, and in the end Coraline must find her way home before she is lost forever and becomes another lost child.
Coraline is playing in 2000 theaters, 1000 in 3D, and 1000 in 2D, and is a movie with a lot of firsts. Coraline is the first stop-motion animated feature ever to be entirely shot in 3D and is also the longest stop-motion picture ever released, at 101 minutes. It’s also the first animated film to be distributed by Focus Features. Let’s hope Focus releases many similar pictures like this. They’re following up this release with the beautiful animated dark sci-fi film 9, so yeah, I have high hopes for the future of animation to come out from Focus Features. It looks like they’re going all in with this endeavor.
Coraline is the perfect picture for adults and children. The screening I attended was full of 6-8 year olds and they were all loving it, and their parents were laughing and enjoying themselves too. It makes a perfect balance of simple imagination for the children and complex dreamlike beauty for the adults. What makes this picture even more fascinating is that I can see children loving it for how magical it makes them feel, how whimsical the story is, and then coming back 15 years later to the film, and seeing it in a whole new light and enjoying it for numerous other reasons. It transcends age limits, and that’s a really hard thing to do, in effect, making Coraline a near perfect movie. However I will say this, it can be a bit dark at times, and the ending is pretty intense, but I still feel that it is an all-ages film, and I don’t think kids will get too scared by it.
Let’s talk about the animation. I was just floored. I’ve always stated that I think clay-animated films are just some of the most technical and beautiful films to look at. Coraline, takes things up a notch, melding the beauty of stop-motion with the flair of cgi. Going from dream world to dream world, carnival to opera, it just all looks amazing. My favorite parts were where the parallel world starts to unravel, and it literally looks like string unraveling, you see the threads come undone, fading to emptiness- to white. It was, wow, it just looked amazing. This film took more than 3 years to make and you really see all the care and love that went into the making of this film.
Coraline is an American kids film with a European feel that is more interested in moving from one fantastic dreamscape to the next rather than having a traditional narrative story. If I had to liken it to anything, I would say Coraline is the closest an American made film has come to capturing the feel of a Miyazaki film. This felt like Spirited Away without the mythos, the simple magic of My Neighbor Totoro.
It also hits all the high-notes of an all ages films, with a character that uses courage, resourcefulness, and determination to achieve her goals and save all that she holds dear. It’s a moral tale on the ease of accepting things that seem too good to be true, a kind of Alice in Wonderland tale, if Alice came to a world where everything seemingly revolved around her, the ideal of every children’s fantasy, and yet the harsh reality of an unforgiving and chaotic world.
People unfamiliar with Gaimen’s work may not know this, but much of his work consists of the darker sides of the reality we know, and how easy it is for people to become lost, fall through the cracks and become forgotten. What I’ve always found fascinating about Gaimen is that he is able to take such dark themes, frightening concepts, and write books for children and young adults.
Like I said before, this is one of the most visually beautiful animated films to come out in a long time. Director Henry Selick creates another movie that I truly believe is timeless, like his Nightmare Before Christmas. I saw it in 3D, and while I don’t think it’ll detract from your enjoyment by seeing it in 2D, I do feel that the 3D aspects really add to the overall feel of the story. The 3D is incredibly immersive, never feeling intrusive, more a technique than a gimmick. So I give Coraline, a “bring your lunch from home because you do not want to miss this one.” Definitely see it, it’s amazing, and try to see it in 3D if you can. This film is a work of art, period.