Wednesday, May 06, 2009


It's not actually officially released in the UK until next week, but the Vue up in Cambridge was showing previews - in 3D, even - so that was our bank holiday fun.

"It" being, of course, the stop-motion animated movie adaptation of Neil Gaiman's children's book of a few years back. A rich and colorful little number it is too, a brilliant cinematic-experience fantasy, all gangling limbs and well-judged subtleties of expression. Still, it's a stylised animation - an abstraction and a flamboyant sketch of Gaiman's story, which started more from realism. As a result, some of the characters and plot details become caricatures of their written versions, and some subtleties become reified (notably in the form of Wybie, the completely new character who serves as the cinematic manifestation of some of Coraline's thoughts and problems - a sounding-board and occasional device to assist the changed plot). At times, this broad-brush approach loses some of the book's subtleties; for example, where in the book Coraline's father's cooking merely sounds a bit under-trained and worthy, and Coraline seems to suffer from a child's annoying pickiness about her food, the film father produces goopy animated messes that would put anyone off. And where in the book Coraline's mother seems mostly busy and distracted, her movie version is downright irritable and snappish.

But please, don't think of me as one of those fannish monomaniacs who insists that every movie diversion from a printed source is some kind of sacrilege. (A foolish consistency truly is the hobgoblin of little minds.) On its own terms, as a 3D cartoon, it's a fine thing, well worth the price of admission - a modern-day treatment of the fairytale motifs of "stolen by the fair folk" and "be careful what you wish for". The use of 3D is superb, by the way, complete with semi-transparent surfaces and such; this is clearly already a pretty mature technology. It also interacts well with the model-based animation, which is embellished with more CGI-based techniques in a couple of appropriate places - first in the scene with the ghosts, and secondly where the Other Mother's house begins to disintegrate (very appropriately) like a virtual reality landscape. This makes one or two other moments, where things are animated in physical form, look a little crude; when dirty water comes out of the shower, it descends in the form of plasticine strands. In a Wallace and Gromit claymation epic, this would be charmingly consistent; here, it just looks unexpectedly crude

But like I said, to heck with the hobgoblins of little minds. Good movie.

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