Saturday, February 7, 2009

Coraline review

While, I may have only written about the film once prior to this, I did promise a review. Being the first animated feature film from Laika (a studio previously only known for producing commercials) and the first stop-motion film to be shot in stereoscopic 3D, the film has a lot on its shoulders for a studio's first feature. But does it fall under pressure or rise above the norm?

First things first, Coraline is not a completely original film, in that it is an adaptation of a Neil Gaiman novel of the same name. However, I never read the novel, so I can only judge the film by itself. The film centers around Coraline Jones, and her mother and father, who have just moved to a new home, "the Pink Palace," but there's some strange things about the place. Coraline doesn't have a good relationship with her parents though, as they both put their work before their own daughter, making Coraline hope for a better life. However after exploring her new home, Coraline finds a mysterious door which leads to a world much like her own. But this world is different; it's perfect ... or so she thinks.

Obviously I can't say much more in terms of story as we have a spoiler policy. But I will say, the story definitely pulls the audience into the film, as the characters feel alive; however, running at just over an hour and a half, it does seem to drag on a bit at times. And considering the film's PG audience, I'm not sure how many children will be will to sit through this, as I heard plenty of kids asking their parents when it would be over as I watched the film.

And that right there is an aspect I want to touch up on. As with director Henry Sellick's previous stop-motion films, The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach (another book adaptation), he use very dark imagery and themes throughout the film. And while I understand it is rated PG, there are some elements that I was surprised to see in the film, such as language, partial nudity, and somewhat adult themes. Not that I'm offended, as I'm an adult and that stuff doesn't really phase me, but parents looking to take their young ones to this should take note of that.

Technically speaking though, the film is brilliant. 3D or not, the imagery of the film is pretty amazing. From the intricacy of the sets and characters, to the fluidity of complex movements, and the overall attention to detail, it's quite amazing. It's safe to say this is the first stop-motion film that will give some computer generated films a run for their money, as it should be. I have to say, there were parts of the film that actually looked like they were CG, but fooled I was not, the film just looks that good though. As for the stereoscopic 3D, that's just icing on the cake. The feature is used through out, adding a sense of atmosphere to the film, however many a time I removed my glasses just to see the difference, and I could see the film working without it. But if you're looking for the full experience, I'd have to say go see it in 3D, no question.

Being Laika's first feature film, I have to say, I'm impressed. Not so much on the story level, but from a technical aspect, the film really stands out among other animated films: 2D, 3D, or stop-motion. This is certainly a giant step forward, not just for Henry Selick's portfolio, but animation as a medium. And if you're going to see the film for anything, I hope you can appreciate that technical aspect of it, even if the rest of the film doesn't draw you in right away.

Overall Score: 8.7/10

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