Silver Screen Resolution, Take Two: Coraline

For my 2018 Resolution Project, I decided to take a page out of Lane’s book and do my own Silver Screen Resolution (hence the Take Two part of the title). There are a lot of movies out there I haven’t seen but feel like I should have, or movies that I’ve simply wanted to see and have yet to get around to it. With a deadline of some kind, now I’ll have to finally make a point to find them, get them, and watch them. My rules for the resolution are slightly different in that:

  1. They must be spec-fic (this has not changed).
  2. The movie will not be one that is in theaters or that would be part of a Sound Off!
  3. They don’t have to be popular — or even something folks have heard about.

But I’ve decided to take my resolution to the next level as well, since I had more than 12 movies on my list that I wanted to see. And since we’re in “Take Two” mode, I might as well up the ante: I will instead be seeing two spec fic movies per month rather than just one. For the month of February, I’m going thematic with the whole “love” thing — although the love here is less like actual love and more I-want-to-eat-your-soul. Welcome to the world of Coraline.

Coraline wasn’t originally on my list, but I did still need a few more to finish of my list of 24 movies, and while scrolling through Netflix I spotted it. I own the book (written by Neil Gaiman in case you didn’t know) and love it. I’d always meant to see the movie ever since I heard good things about it from folks and figured this was as good a time as any.

Moderate Spoilers Below.


Because I love the book so much, it was hard for me not to sit there and compare the two. Coraline is the sort of book that Tim Burton would make into a movie. Appropriate, considering director Henry Selick was in charge of The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s weird and occasionally quite creepy, featuring odd characters and a freaky sort of entity that could be cousins with Pennywise the Clown.

Coraline and her parents have just moved, renting the main floor of an old house. Other tenants live above and below them and do strange things like handle performing mice or have tea and cakes with their numerous terriers. Caroline is bored, and her parents are too busy with work to pay much attention to her.

That’s when she finds the door. It’s a small door that opens to a tunnel, a tunnel that leads to someplace magical. Someplace where the house is colorful…and where her Other Mother lives. Coraline is rightfully weirded out, but her Other Mother, who might look normal save the buttons she has for eyes, is quite lovely. In fact, the whole place is lovely — until her Other Mother wants Coraline to sew buttons onto her own eyes and stay…forever.

The movie did a fairly good job translating the book to the screen. The contrast between Coraline’s real home and the place through the door is a stark one, with her real home being drab and gray and the other place vibrant with color. When things go south in the surreal world, they also did a fine job of making everything sufficiently creepy. I was actually surprised at how freakish they made the Other Mother, as well as a few other things. Though nothing will ever match the grub version of the Other Father from the book. They didn’t go with that, and I’m kind of okay with it.

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Coraline is also one of those movies where you’re not sure if they did things through CGI, practical effects, or a combination of both. Here I was hoping for at least a combination of both and much to my delight, it’s even better than that. Puppets, 3D models, dry ice for fog, traditional animation, hand-sewn sweaters, intricately made miniature sets, and many other elements are all woven together with the power of computer artists. It’s so rare to see such an amazing amount of effort and detail put into creating a movie – not to say that CGI animators don’t work hard, but you just don’t see this type of thing in movies anymore. These items were hand-made. Characters had thousands of separate expressions that had to be traded in and out for a single scene. And frankly, I’m bored when films are filled with nothing but CGI stuff. Kudos to everyone who works on this movie; I really appreciate all the hard work put into it.

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I was really pleased with all the voice acting as well. Teri Hatcher, if she doesn’t already do voice acting for other projects, should really look into it. She was great as both a totally delightful person and a conniving awful thing. I didn’t realize how many other big names were in this movie until I heard them and it clicked in my head, such as Ian McShane and Jennifer Saunders. Dakota Fanning made for a perfect Coraline, and Coraline’s companion, a black cat, was voiced by none other than one of my favorites, Keith David. While watching, I thought I’d remembered from the trailer that he was in it, so when the cat (and therefore Keith) didn’t show up when I expected, I started to panic and wonder if I’d made it all up in my head. But then he did, and all was well.

For all the good things this movie brings, I’m almost able to forgive them for adding in the character of Wybie.

Almost.

Wybie doesn’t exist in the original book. He’s a character they added in so Coraline would have someone else to talk to rather than talk to herself (because apparently that’s too weird/awkward/whatever for film but not for books). I don’t think Wybie would have been much of a problem is that’s all they used him for, but they don’t. Instead, in his first meeting with Coraline he scares the bejeezus out of her. Later on, he’s creeping around behind her (despite his claims otherwise, it’s obvious that’s not true). It doesn’t take long for Coraline to start calling him Stalker instead of by his name. She doesn’t enjoy his company, and he even creates a loophole in the story with something he says. Wybie also becomes Coraline’s savior not once but twice, which might not have irked me to the extent that it does had he not been the one to save the entire day at the end. In the book, Coraline doesn’t need his help at all. All her plans are her own, especially the one at the end in which she takes care of one final problem. I’d even be okay if they allowed Coraline to come up with her plan and simply involved Wybie. But no, that’s taken from her by a boy who randomly shows up (and who didn’t believe her when she told him what was going on) and saves the day.

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I’d be totally fine with Wybie’s inclusion if he wasn’t creeping after Coraline or saving her from things she didn’t need to be saved from in the book. After all, his inclusion was supposed to be for her to have someone to talk to — not be her rescuer. Or they could have gone with a girl character instead. Or hell, if you just need someone for her to talk to, give Keith the cat more screen time. Cripes, I talk to my dog all the time, and I’m pretty sure most people around animals do the same.

I do also think it was weird that the ghost kids Coraline meets say that the Other Mother took their eyes — rather than their hearts — and request that Coraline find them. In my head I thought, “Wait — so does that mean she has to find six things now?” when in fact she still only had to find three orbs. That doesn’t make sense, but sure why not I guess.

For the most part though, it’s a solid movie to be enjoyed, although if you have small children that are easily frightened this might not be the film for them. It’s more along the lines of The Nightmare Before Christmas or Corpse Bride. Weird, sometimes mildly horrific, but still a good time.

Movie screenshots courtesy Nicole Taft; movie set shots courtesy IMDB.com.

2 Comments

  • Lane Robins February 8, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    Yeah, Wybie was pretty much unforgivable.

    Reply
    • Nicole Taft February 9, 2018 at 1:37 am

      *high-five* So true.

      Reply

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