Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Coraline: The Movie

If you haven't heard by now, Coraline is the new stop action film written and directed by Henry Selick1. It is the first stop action movie filmed in Real3D and it will be showing in 3D in many theaters for the next couple of weeks; 2D versions of Coraline should be showing for the normal movie running time.

I meant to go see this movie over the weekend. If you know me, you know that either I see movies during the opening weekend or I'm in line for one of the first showings on opening day. I don't often want to see many movies, so when I do, I plan these things in advance. You can then imagine how anxious I was to finally see the movie today.

I had no choice but to see Coraline in 3D2, which I was apprehensive about because my eyes try to adjust and flatten 3D images. This can cause all sorts of migraines and, in some cases, extreme nausea. Not to mention the fact that my eyes start trying to flatten actual three dimensions when I leave the theater, which would not have been very helpful if I had to operate a moving vehicle. A friend was driving, don't worry.

But I am glad that I did get to see it in 3D because it is a beautifully designed movie and the 3D elements are very artfully and tastefully done. The 3D wasn't gimmicky or jumping out at you; it was a way to layer the sets in a way to emphasize depth and to layer the characters in a way to emphasize design, particularly in the case of the Other Mother. It was extremely fascinating to watch.

I especially liked that, if I did need to take the glasses off for a moment or two, it didn't hurt to look at the movie. With the old red/blue 3D3, it hurt just as much to watch the film without the glasses as it did to watch it with them. This new 3D technique just makes the film look slightly out of focus when you take the glasses off4.

As far as the movie itself goes, Selick did a fantastic job. To be honest, I was expecting something cheesy and exaggerated like The Nightmare Before Christmas (which I didn't like) when I first heard about this movie. I recently read the book Coraline (review to come), which renewed my hope in the film, but Selick and his crew have completely surpassed my expectations. This was about as far away from The Nightmare Before Christmas as a movie of this style could get.

The storyline was shockingly close to the book's. The introductions of the different characters took longer in the movie and a new character Wybie was written in, but the introductions were done well and, even though Wybie made me want to tilt my head every time he was on screen, he seemed to fit into a small gap in the story that a reader of the book could only be subconsciously aware of. He's not intrusive to the plot- he just helps emphasize Coraline's dissatisfaction with her place in life in the beginning, and later, her newfound appreciation for it.

And, because Selick is the master of modern stop motion animation, I have to talk about that.

The stop motion animation was like nothing I'd seen before. If I'm not mistaken, Coraline is the longest stop motion animated film ever made and it is made brilliantly. The movements of the characters are so smooth that it is hard to believe that they were moved by hand. I was immediately impressed in the opening title sequence with the montage of stop motion sewing. Getting fabric to move well in real time is difficult; getting fabric to move well slowly over the course of weeks is nothing short of genius.

Watch this movie. The story is lovely, the visuals are breathtaking, and it's a really satisfying film to watch. You feel like you've accomplished something great by the end of the movie simply by witnessing Coraline's adventure.

1 Based on the children's book Coraline by Neil Gaiman
2 no theaters are showing it in 2D in our immediate area
3 I haven't seen a 3D movie in about seven years. Can you tell?
4 Which is how I've seen some movies in the one or two screen second-hand movie theaters at home.

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