Reviews: Coraline

Atmospheric, Artistic, Astounding

First of all, as piece of film alone, this movie is absolutely amazing. The art style is appealing, everything is designed with care and detail, and the animation is some of the most compelling and outright insane that I've ever seen. Moreso because IT'S ALL STOP-MOTION. And it's very good stop-motion. The animation is very fluid, and the effects bend my mind when I try to comprehend that they were achieved with real puppets and props. The medium is even utilized for atmosphere- certain things are animated in lower fluidity for eeriness. That's really unique for stop-motion, and I love how it really harnesses every capability of the medium.

I could write an entire book on the amount of detail and effort packed into this film. There were millions of places were corners could have been cut or work could have been made much easier, but these guys broke their backs to make this a true work of craftsmanship and art. I recommend looking into the production of this film, because it's just so admirable. They also pioneered 3D shooting for stop-motion with this one, so that's even more they didn't need to do. Bravo, guys. Bravo.

The tone is perfectly magical and creepy when it needs to be, maintaining a balance all the way through. When things are presented as enchanting, there's always something off, and when things are nightmarish, it's whimsical enough to keep you invested and feel like you're watching a fairy tale.

The story itself is very serviceable and keeps you watching, and I especially love how everything comes back to terrify when they delighted before, and the Cinderella-esque unraveling of the Other World is an exellent twist on the events in the book. This movie is dark at the end, and uses its PG rating for genuine horror. Perhaps some things don't work, but the characters all feel right, and there are some adjustments to the plot here that make it a more realistic story than the book- Coraline is much more put off in her first impressions of the Other Mother, and the Other World isn't overtly strange until the conflict, so we understand why she would consider staying, among other things.

There is so much subtlety in the storytelling, with lots of thought and detail put into the imagery, foreshadowing, and interactions, with almost none of it being directly addressed. They just decided to make this a very fleshed-out world with its own logic and consistency, and there's always something to go back and watch for.

I couldn't summarize my feelings about this movie with what I'm given, so I recommend you watch it and see what the Other World has in store for you.

Pros/Cons of Coraline

  • I loved Coraline. Her spunk and sarcasm is amazing. But not as much as her bravery and resourcefulness.
  • Wybie. He won me over with his adorkability.
  • The lesson of the film: Be careful what you wish for. Because what you think is a dream come true, is really a living nightmare.
  • The characters in general. I found all of them original, delightful, and just amazing.
  • The Ship Tease moments between Wybie and Coraline.
  • The Cat. Adorable, snarky, and a Badass.
  • The detailed, stop-motion animation wasn't amazing. It was genius.
  • How Coraline's folks were presented as realistic, working parents. Who sometimes couldn't make time for their daughter. It can be sad and funny at the same time.

  • Just one: No announcement of a sequel. Or a trilogy. Either would be great.

The man who created Sandman decided to explore the Uncanny Valley. Great.

Coraline is a really good book. Even though that the book's a bit slow, that's something common to all of Neil Gaiman's work. However, purposefully exploring the Uncanny Valley in order to create terror is downright brilliant. The button-eyed people are disturbing, in the good way. The point is - it's scary, it's unsettling and it's pretty good. The film's not half-assed, either. When you've got the writer of the book to say what he felt that was needed in the movie, you can't go wrong. The characters are interesting and the Uncanny Valley just makes what already was disturbing in the book into something insanely disturbing - looking into the Uncanny Valley itself. Wybie is not a bad character, either. It's the closest thing we'll ever get to a child horror movie, and even more scary to adults when you realize the implications. Using Uncanny Valley on purpose adds even more to the fear. And the body horror is also disturbing. If you want to be scared in all areas, watch/read this.

A review of the film

Coraline is a good children's movie. It is creepy, its characters are engaging, and it has a message that is straightforward but neither heavy-handed nor condescending. Coraline's only problem is that it feels rather stretched, like the writers were taking a simple, short story and padding it out to feature length. I haven't read the original novel, so I don't know if this was simply a result of the book being too short, or the book having a similar issue which transferred over to the big screen.

The story begins with Coraline, bored and dissatisfied with her parents and new neighbourhood, she finds herself drawn to another World where everything appears to be marvellous, and the button-eyed locals, accommodating. The viewer immediately realises that this too-good-to-be-true world will not last and that sooner or later, its doll-eyed denizens will drop the facade and show their evil side. But then we have to wait for it. And wait and wait and wait. Coraline keeps going to new, ever more exciting, beautiful locations - but they feel like distractions. Even though I liked the various, colourful support characters like Spink, Forcible, and Mr Bobinsky, they seemed to exist purely to delay the inevitable penny-dropping scene.

I think Coraline would have been an excellent film had it existed as a much shorter piece. Many characters and their respective Plot Coupons serve an ancillary role to the overall theme, so I'd rather the writers had just cut them out completely and get to the creepy, exciting climax. As it stands, Coraline manages to be a good film, if a little frustrating.

Amazing, Forever and Always

The book "Coraline" was made without author Neil Gaiman thinking it would reach the success it has. While not being one of his greatest works, it's definitely one of his most widely-known, and nonetheless very well-written. Near the end of production, Gaiman realized that this had to be a movie. So two months before the book was published, he sent the manuscript to one of his favorite directors, Henry Selick of "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "James and the Giant Peach."

The result was astounding.

The movie is wonderfully creepy; not as relentlessly unsettling as the book, but just wonderfully creepy. The first scene features a pair of hands crafting (or rather re-crafting; any more information would give a way a lot of spoilers) a traditional button eyed doll. It then cuts to a scene in Ashland, Oregon, where eleven-year-old Coraline Jones explores around her new flat. It's notable that unlike in the book, Coraline is older and has a more vivid (if more obnoxious) personality. She soon meets her neighbor Wybie Lovat, a motorcycle-riding nerd who was following Coraline. The two get acquainted, and Coraline instantly hates him, like everything else about her new home.

Then things change when she meets her "Other Parents", in a world beyond the supposedly bricked up door in her flat. Everything is more wonderful, the crazy old blue man upstairs now actually does have a spectacular mouse circus, the old actress ladies are now young and pretty again, and, best of all, the new Wybie doesn't talk, and everyone has button eyes. Then, halfway through the film, things change for the worse, and it is revealed Coraline is trapped by her Other Mother who has kidnapped her parents. She meets three ghost children whom she must save along with herself and her parents.

One of the greatest things in this film is the score; Bruno Coulais did a fantastic job, and there's also an extremely catchy thirty-second song by They Might Be Giants. The score is worth buying alone, it is probably one of the greatest soundtracks out there.

In conclusion, the movie is a great adaptation of the story. Be warned, though; it can be TERRIFYING, no matter what age you are. However, it is nonetheless quite enjoyable, and the huge amount of effort put into shines through. It is a revolutionary stop-motion film.

Score: 10/10