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Reviews Comments: Wilder Wonka is best Wonka Charlie And The Chocolate Factory film/book review by Russ The Adventure Mouse

I could rant on and on about the style, story, characters, emotional torque, subtext, music and everything about Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory - but what always struck me personally the most was Wonka himself, so I'll limit this review to him.

Johnny Depp is a brilliant actor. He adds an indefinable flavor to every character he portrays, and they all leave an impact long after the credits roll. When he played Wonka, though... meh. Depp's portrayal of Wonka was as an eccentric, whimsical, imaginative, one-flew-over-the-cuckoo's-nest child who never grew up and still suffers from the childhood traumas his father imposed on him. AND THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT.

When Gene Wilder played Wonka, you got all that and more. He was the dreamer, the artist, the imaginative little kid who managed to weave a dreamland of his own. But on top of that, you get so much more. Beneath his paper-thin delightful rambunctiousness, he's okay with psychologically torturing children and giving no explanation afterwards. When he's singing Pure Imagination, (a song that reveres imagination and worships creativity) he is contained, almost somber, as if he were barely concealing a deep cerebral depression.

Furthermore, Depp's Wonka was the light-hearted free spirit with daddy issues, but Wilder's Wonka was fucking DARK. We see the Chocolate Factory as a double-sided, duplicitous world of wonder and mayhem: where you can unleash not only your dreams but your nightmares, too. Wonka dedicated his life to erecting the Factory as a monument to his own psyche, complete with all the illusions, gizmos, and fantasy of childhood, but also the psychotic shadow in the back of all our minds that's secretly fascinated by sadism. With Wilder, we see the ups AND downs of insanity.

With Depp, a large percentage of the film is dedicated to unearthing why he loves candy so much. But with Wilder, you don't need flashbacks to his younger days to evoke that image. Even though we never see it onscreen, you can easily picture him when he was younger as the boy who dogmatically determined to make his dreams come true no matter what the world told him otherwise.

Wilder Wonka: the boy who never grew up that discovers that making your dreams come true isn't as emotionally satisfying as he thought it would be.

Depp Wonka: an eccentric.


  • Tuckerscreator
  • 6th Mar 12
Very true. I say the Tim Burton film did a better job of bringing the book to the screen, but Wilder was by far a much greater Willy Wonka.
  • ManwiththePlan
  • 9th Mar 12
When he's singing Pure Imagination, (a song that reveres imagination and worships creativity) he is contained, almost somber, as if he were barely concealing a deep cerebral depression.

Hell yes. I love that moment where Wonka is sitting by a tree, and his singing takes on such a world-weary quality. It fits in perfectly later with his statement "So shines a good deed in a weary world". Depp's Wonka had a backstory and character arc, but Wilder's Wonka was honestly more interesting because we didn't know so much about him. It's definitely a case where less is more.
  • terlwyth
  • 9th Mar 12
Congratulations,you just explained why I still like ironically Burton's Batman/Joker characters over Nolan's. Batman and Bruce Wayne are left kinda mysterious and that makes me wanna know more,as for The Joker,Jack Nicholson easily made that Joker embody chaos just like that,before the small backstory came up.

Meanwhile Nolan wasted Batman Begins explaining why Bruce became Batman and why he is who he is rather than letting a little mystery and subtle changes take things. And The Dark Knight was Hannibal Leture crazy trying to explain why The Joker is chaotic

Now back to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,well Freddie Highmore is still a better Charlie. But I agree with Wilder,who seemed to add depth and charm.

  • Muzozavr
  • 16th Oct 12
To me, it is hard to decide between Wilder and Depp as Wonka actors, but the Depp Wonka is definitely the character that FITS the narrative better. Then again, everything fits better in the Burton movie.

The old movie was actually quite boring until Wilder appears but it could've been okay... but the fizzy lifting drink scene not only ruined the story structure, but made everyone act out of character. The ending tries to save it, but becomes even more horrible when he says that an adult "would not administer the factory AS I WANTED"... or something like that, I watched a Russian dub so I don't know the exact words for the scene, but either way... Wonka as a true freak of nature knows what "freedom of personality" is. HE WOULD NEVER FUCKING DARE TO TRY AND TAKE THAT AWAY. Those two scenes (drink and ending) pissed me off so much that Burton's movie had the advantage before I've even seen it.

As for the two Wonkas, Wilder acts his role out like a stage magician, which is probably the best thing you could ever do with the shoddy script rewrites that weren't even done by Dahl. Thing is, Wilder's Wonka is a freak of the 19th century. But an inventor like him never goes backwards in time. Never. A proper inventor character is all about knowing the "latest and greatest" to make it "later and greater". Depp's Wonka looks and feels like a freak of our century (or even a later one) which was the right thing to do. That's one of the (many) reasons why I like the Depp portrayal over the Wilder one.
  • TheRealYuma
  • 30th Jun 16
Interestingly enough, Wilder also looks more like Wonka\'s physical appearance from the book.

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