Coraline, by Neil Gaiman...vs. Coraline screenplay and direction by Henry Selick

Ok - first, a common misconception - Tim Burton had nothing to do with this movie...except probably he was at the premier and watched it because the team who did do this movie worked with him on The Nightmare Before Christmas.

I'm just going to post up the trailer instead of writing an overview because it'll pretty much cover that.

Now, a little book vs. movie.

The book is excellent. It's short and readable in a few hours for most adults. Children could take a few days depending on their willingness to put it down and do important other things like going to sleep. It's not illustrated, but Coraline's blue hair is described in great detail, as is her love of colorful fun clothes and her obvious boredom in their new flat. The book skips a lot of development for the secondary characters and dives straight into the main plot of the book: looking for excitement and attention from the distracted adults around her, Coraline goes looking for adventured and finds herself wooed by the Other Mother and Father. She quickly finds herself sucked in, and then trapped, and then in a game with the Other Mother to win back her life and the spirits of three lost children she meets in the Other House. It's suspenseful and creepy and a page turner. A must-read.

The movie is better. It is film-adaptation at its best. Selick took an already amazing piece of fiction and fleshed it out. It was already a stage musical, so I really can't be sure how much of the difference is attributed to Selick and how much to the stage scriptwriters -- but I do know that the movie is the darkest version of the three (book, stage, film) and that can be directly attributed to Selick.

The secondary characters have larger parts to play - presumably so that the audience is aware of just how different the Real World is from the Other World. Wybie is completely created for a viewing audience (not sure if he's in the play) - neither he nor his grandmother appear in the book. Sometimes, the addition of a random new character feels random. In this case, however, he's someone Coraline's own age that she can relate to, and he gives back story that is missing from the book. When he shows up in the Other World...well that just adds to the scariness and suspense. The voice of the cat (Keith David) is perfect. Indescribably so. Actually, all of the casting is spot-on.

Two notes about the film that are not plot/character related, but which add to the overall atmosphere:

First, the music. In addition to a catchy little song by They Might Be Giants (who originally wrote songs for the entire movie, but when the tone turned away from the Musical and became darker and (I presume) truer to the book they only used one) Selick retained the talents of a Hungarian children’s choir to sing the background music. It’s chilling and haunting and perfection.

Second: the film is also entirely stop-motion. They made use of puppets and sets and filmed the entire thing in 3D. If you have the opportunity, that is the way to see it. (I’ve seen both 3D and flat.) The use of models and puppets over straight CGI adds a dimension of “reality” that -yes- adds to the creepiness.

Pick a drizzly, cold day to read the book. And then wait for a drizzly cold night and watch the movie. I guarantee chills.


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Kelly Marie said...

I'm such a sucker for movies with soundtracks featuring foreignish choirs (The Thin Red Line; the Melanesian Brotherhood Choir...In The Bedroom; The Newark Balkan Choir). I can only imagine how haunting the Hungarian Girls Choir is. I'll have to look it up.

Viewtiful_Justin said...

Thanks for the advice! I'll be reading the book ANd seeing them ovie for the first time sometime soon, thanks to the recommendation!

Viewtiful_Justin said...

Argh...apologies about the misplaced letters. It's one of the hazards of trying to type and work at the same time.

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