It’s tough to make it to the theater. The prices keep rising, it’s harder and harder to get tickets before they sell out, and the crowds and lines make us all wonder whether it’s worth it or not. Not to mention the absolute truism that we will all end up sitting in front of a cell-phone-giggling teenager or crying baby.
It seems to be a much better idea, sometimes, to just wait for video. If you have a half-decent audio/video system, the couch is much more comfortable, and if you have a family of four the cost of a DVD rental is very attractive.
I’m with you. I do love the theaters, but I can go at midnight on a thursday if I want and avoid the crowds. I can try and scam free tickets for an upcoming release. For all you out there with families and real-lives, I get it.
But if you love movies, it’s time to make an exception for Coraline. In an entertainment world where every studio tries to sell each big-budget blockbuster as a must-see-in-theaters experience, the quiet Coraline actually lives up to the hype. It’s not important to see it on the big screen because it’s so action packed, so loud, and so large. No, you have to see it in 3D at your local cinema because of its quiet artistry, its attention to detail, and its breathtaking ability to draw you seamlessly into a world that is as real as this one. A world that really exists, built, frame by frame, by a group of unbelievably talented artists pushing the technological limits of a medium that everyone told them was dead.
I’m a generally cynical moviegoer. I love movies. I let myself get engrossed in them, but at the end of the day I see them as entertainment. I can never ignore the politics, the plot formulas, the huge paychecks, and the dumb spectacle. I love it all, to be sure, but it usually feels like entertainment and little more. Even Oscar worthy films usually fail to reach the realm of high art.
That is what Coraline is, though. You walk in expecting to see an animated family film, but you get what can only be described as an uncompromising work of art–with a classic storytelling sense and a timeless feel.
I was surprised, to be honest. I liked The Nightmare Before Christmas and was disappointed by The Corpse Bride. They felt a bit obvious and juvenile. Tim Burton’s signature style was exaggerated, and both of those films felt very pleased with themselves for being dark and creepy.
With Coraline, the creepiness comes from the themes and events, and the tone comes from the amazing production and character design. While Nightmare felt like it started with style and developed characters and story around that, Coraline begins with a world and the people in it. Everything then develops organically.
The story follows a young girl who is drawn into a world where everything is just a little better. It soon becomes apparent, though, that this dream world is a shallow facade which hides sinister intentions and a classic screen monster.
We fall in love with Coraline. She is a strong, free-spirited character whose unhappiness is never overtly expressed. Coraline rarely complains, never cries, and seems up to whatever challenge is put before her…even venturing back into her nightmare world to rescue her parents and the souls of those children less fortunate than herself.
The story, though, is only a third of this movie’s greatness. The rest comes from the most lush, vivid, and perfectly realized world I can remember seeing in a film. Period. Stop-motion animation lent more to this film than I ever thought possible. The dust on windshields, the shadows in corners, the depth of field…all of it feels slightly more real, less perfect, than in a fully CG world. When the fantastical elements take over, it’s hard to breathe. There is a massive garden with dancing flowers of every variety, a mouse circus filled with intricate formations, and a vaudeville extravaganza complete with a massive audience of dogs, each one hand-animated individually.
This film was carefully sculpted over the course of four years and shot with special stereoscopic cameras to create a 3D event that we have truly never seen.
Think about that. FOUR YEARS. Four years posing characters and designing worlds and bringing it all to life with a technical precision that would rival the next space shuttle mission. This movie was filmed with love by people who care deeply about their craft. They aren’t interested in just entertaining you. They want to give you something you’ve never seen before…a finished product filled with lush visuals and sweeping scope and layered with meaning and emotion, all in the guise of a simple children’s film.
If you haven’t seen this one, please do. And you have to hurry…with Jonas Brothers stealing all the prime digital 3D theater real-estate, it might already be too late. If you miss this, though, or if you decide to wait for video, I guarantee you won’t be watching the same film. When Hollywood manages to allow a group of true artists the freedom to make this kind of film, we owe it to all involved to see it as it was meant to be seen.