Reviews: The Nightmare Before Christmas
It\'s no masterpiece, but it\'s a true classic.
When I heard about this film, I was expecting great things. I got good things. The positives? The character designs and sets are very good. Lots of pure Burton in here, with ideas both traditional and completely new. The music is fantastic, with Danny Elfman capturing the feeling of Halloween like no other. "What's This?" is the perfect kid-in-a-candy-store song. The plot is nice, too, stating that people have limits and understanding is key to effective adaptation. This could be applied to a great deal of Burton's later films, ironically. The negatives? Well, the plot isn't the tightest thing ever. Oogie Boogie is only there as a plot-hole filler, explaining what happened to Santa. Sally, who is a great character for her actions, suffers from incredibly weak dialogue, which could be omitted and nothing about the audience's perception would change. There's a huge cast of characters, but few of them have prominent roles. Finkelstein serves almost no purpose as a character, and doesn't serve as a convincing motivation for Sally's own loneliness. If anything, there may be too many songs, which might have been left out for more character development or plot work. Overall, though, I find Nightmare to be very charming. It's not perfect, but its imperfections may add to it. Don't go in expecting the best film ever, but don't lower your expectations to zero. It's a fun holiday film for the latter half of the year.
Mishandled and not well thought out
So I heard everyone saying all those great things about this movie, and I became curious enough to want to see it. And I must say, I feel disappointed. While the characters definitely have creative designs, the animation department didn't do a great job animating most of them (the obvious exceptions being Jack and Whatshername). Many of them are very obviously just puppets that someone a bit clumsily wiggles around, and many of the background characters are not even able to make any expressions. At times, it got so bad that it made me question if this movie was really made by professionals. The plot feels a bit mishandled; the beginning and the middle parts have a lot of detail and stuff put into them and feel like only a half of a really long movie, but when the residents of the Halloween Town finally finished the preparations for the big night, I noticed that the movie has only 15 minutes left, and everything that was happening afterwards was incredibly rushed. What I thought would be the big moment of the movie - Jack delivering the presents and such - was practically glanced over, and the movie was scrambling to quickly wrap everything up. Also, many elements feel like a wasted potential: - The residents of the Halloween Town never visit the Christmas Town (beyond the three kids kidnapping Santa). - The Boogie Man is never explained or given any kind of backstory beyond "he's evil and he eats people". Oh, and that he likes gambling for no given reason. - During Jack's realization, he just randomly declares that he's ready to go back to preparing Halloween, his previous exhaustion about the holiday suddenly gone. Worse still, the only thing he realizes is that he shouldn't have hijacked Christmas, instead of realizing what he (and everyone else) did wrong when preparing for the holiday. - I hoped that, after they realize what Christmas is about, they will try to fix their errors themselves and get better from learning their lesson. But nope, they just dump the fixing business on Santa's head and everyone just goes back to their old ways with the "let's never do it again" mindset. Shortly saying, this movie feels rushed and not well thought out. If you want something more complete from Tim Burton, try Corpse Bride or Frankenweenie instead. The songs were nice though. Definitely the best part of the movie.
One of this troper's favorites
Nightmare is one of both Disney and Tim Burton's finest. It's dark, but manages to keep the tone of a children's movie. The plot is a tad simple, but the fantastically portrayed emotional issues Jack and Sally go through make up for that in full. On both a technical and storytelling level, an absolutely gorgeous movie.
Great in design, but has some problems
Let's get this straight. The nightmare is not a bad movie by any standards. The designs especially stand out as incredibly detailed and beautiful, as do the characters. Many of its songs have become christmas classics, and there is nothing contestable about that. However, there are still some problems that can have a negative impact on your story experience. The main character, supposedly one of the scariest things in the world with a scream that terrifies all, is portrayed as a friendly, creative man at all times, with the only supposed scariness being expressions he holds for less than a second, which makes him feel like a bit of a waste in design. Many of the musicals, while having great music, have no real idea what to do with the character, who is just twirling around in a single location. The main villain is incredibly underwhelming in design and plans (seriously, a ghost-shaped cotton bag who, for some reason, has a gambling theme?) and does not deliver. The movie also has big problems with its tone at times, with single scenes switching tones or suddenly cutting off, which can make them feel disjointed. Even the animation, normally very good, has several notable drops in quality. However, I still recommend this movie for at least a single watch, even if it is just to see all the nicely designed characters.
I was only introduced to this movie recently, but I already love it. Here's why I love it: a) The story is creative and fun. Read the main page for a summary. b) Some of the best animation OR claymation I have ever seen. Hard to believe that it was all done with clay. c) Jack. His voice is perfect for the character, his character design and movement is perfect for the character, and his personality is great. I especially like how, after he screws up Christmas, instead of being all "woe is me," he basically says, "Okay, this didn't work, I screwed up, this isn't my place, and I need to fix it." (And he does!) d) Sally. I like how she's an active character instead of being some Shallow Love Interest. And I like how they made her slightly devious when it comes to her creator— knocking him out repeatedly, not settling for what he says she has to settle for— but she's still a nice person (zombie? ragdoll?) who has a good heart.
Too Bad This Is Getting Hype Backlash . . .
. . . because this is a genuinely good, if not great, movie. I won't waste my review words summarizing the movie, as the main page describes it better then I can. One of the common criticisms of this film is "it's slow". I think that's one of the movie's strengths, as it doesn't depend on loads of action-filled sequences, but rather on subtle emotion. Yes, Nightmare does
sometimes a lot of times have its GREAT DECLARATIONS OF EMOTION!!!, but a lot of the times the emotion are understated. We don't need Jack and Sally saying out loud that they're friends for us to know they are friends (Well, most of us). We can tell by their interactions. In the story department, the film obviously have a lot of inspiration from How The Grinch Stole Christmas, but mananges to make its own macabre tale.
Despite being the first full-length Stop Motion film, the animation is still impressive. The music is fantastic (provided by Danny Elfman, of course) and it has an unique charm to it that blends the macabre with Yule Tide spirit.
Really, the only criticism I have is that I would love to see more development of the antoganistic relationship between Jack and Oogie. Awesome as Oogie is, he really seems to be added to the plot just so there's an interesting Final Battle. A little more info on why they hate each other so much would be suffient (and for the record, I'm not impressed by the Back Story given in The Pumpkin King game).
Probably the best way to see this movie is not to base first impressions on the so-called "fans" who get the merch so to look Goth. It's quite unfair to the film to do so.