Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Coraline in 3-D

CORALINE is well worth seeing if only for the modern 3-D technology that makes it sparkle. There are other reasons though.

3-D throughout the years is the film industry's number one gimmick. They pull it out every decade or so, claiming things popping out of the screen will "Amaze you!" As a kid, I saw a western 3-D movie. It was called "Comin' At Ya" (get it?) and featured a really lousy film with effects such as bullets and arrows shooting out toward the audience. This could explain many things, perhaps, but it doesn't explain why 3-D remains a money-maker. This was a really bad film.

Whatever the new 3-D technology is, the joy for me is that it isn't limited to making things pop out of the screen. The new technology (accessed with a nice pair of black sunglasses, not a flimsy cardboard blue and red novelty) has depth. The screen went inwards, as well as out. It was a joy to look "into" the movie.

What came to my mind was the old Fleischer Studio's Popeye cartoon effects. Back in the day, Fleischer used actual sets on a turntable and animated Popeye and the other characters in front of the revolving backgrounds. There was depth to such classic longform cartoon features as POPEYE THE SAILOR MEETS SINBAD THE SAILOR. They were some of the most interesting cartoons and some of the most luscious.

The world of CORALINE is luscious squared. Depth, whether in production design, art or 3-D effects, simply gives us more world to get lost in. The neat thing is, with the whole movie in depth, the things that pop out of the screen are less in quantity but far more magnificent in quality. And Coraline's world, created by the prolific genius Neil Gaiman, is a whole lot of fun. This Other world, the more chaotic side of Caroline's internal childhood, is a very interesting and creepy place. The depth of the 3-D effects perfectly mirrors the depth psychology of the world behind the door that gives Coraline everything she thinks she wants, but knows is probably not the best thing for her. The buttons sewn on over people's eyes might be a big hint!

OK. So I loved the movie. But...

Gaiman originally wrote the book "Coraline" as a young adult story. I believe it was originally written to feature a girl as the hero. I have not read the book, but I'm pretty sure this is correct. Coraline was a character that would save the day because, yes, girls too can be heroes. Gaiman is like that. He writes female characters as well as he writes males, one of the interesting abilities of so many male writers of the fantastic. But as I said, I never read the book. However, I did read the recent graphic novel (i.e. giant comic book with quality binding) by Gaiman and drawn by the magnificent P. Craig Russell. There are some interesting points, considering the differences between movie and comic.

I have written of comics here before. The intimate connection between reader/viewer and the work makes it my favorite narrative art form. I get to go one-on-one with the material, let it go directly into my brain. I can linger or move fast. Whichever is right for the story as I am perceiving it. So, yep, I also like the "Coraline" graphic novel a whole lot. But there was a change between the comic (which I am guessing is closer to the book) and the movie which made me like the movie just a little bit less than I should have.

In the book, as intended by Gaiman, Coraline is the hero. It is her story to win or lose; it is the young girl who will either save the day or lose her family. All her. And we admire her for it. MOVIE SPOILER AHEAD:

In the movie, a new character was created - a young boy. He's a nice enough boy, but Coraline pretty much outwits him most of the time. And then - he adds key help at the end with the final defeat of the Other that comes to get Coraline. The boy sort of saves the day. I was saddened. Coraline showed ingenuity in the comic, that flowed directly from her female identity. She doesn't need a boy's help. That was the point of Gaiman's little story about a young girl named Coraline. The boy doesn't ruin the movie, but it dampens the point a bit. If you never read the story, I guess you would never know and would not be bothered. No wonder they don't promote comics at the movies!

Here are some links: P. Craig Russell is one of comics most refined and beautiful artists. I highly recommend his adaptation of Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung. It looks like it is available in two graphic novel volumes.

Neil Gaiman Fantasy writer extraordinaire. I think the Father in the Coraline movie may have been based on Neil himself.

Here is the Coraline movie website. And here's Wikipedia's article on the immortal Fleischer Studios. If you want to find out about "Comin' At Ya", well, you'll have to surf the web yourself. I'm hoping nothing comes up...

No comments: