Adventures in (Post) Gradland

Thoughts on life after the PhD

Film Review: Coraline

I’ve been on something of a 3-D marathon lately.  My Bloody Valentine (delightfully silly, first time I’ve seen the blood and brains splatter INTO the audience), It Came From Outer Space (poor quality, headache-inducing, and not quite bad enough to be entertaining), and now Coraline.  Which, quite frankly, blew my mind. 

It’s good to know that after years of movie-watching and several years of graduate study that frequently included the dissection of film, I can still be awed by what the movie world has to offer. Coraline makes use of the 3-D medium in a way that avoids gimmicks and draws the audience into a visual world where the boundaries of the movie screen seem to vanish.  It’s not so much about things popping out of the screen, it’s about the audience falling INTO the screen–into tunnels, deep wells, and the world of the movie itself. 

The story makes use of author Neil Gaiman’s talent for taking everyday situations and infusing them with a feeling of not-quite-rightness.  Eleven-year-old Coraline Jones, bored with her new home and her too-busy parents, finds a little door in the wall that leads to another version of her home, one that has much better food and more lavish and entertaining decor.  In that world she also finds another set of parents, who seem much warmer and more devoted than her real parents.  And all, of course, is not what it seems. 

Beyond the awe-inspiring visuals, the story holds up well–better than that of director Henry Selick’s other stop-motion classic, The Nightmare Before Christmas. Neil Gaiman came to the world of young adult fiction from the world of Sandman and Neverwhere, with their frequent forays into graphic violence and sex, and his children’s stories have a knack for turning cuteness and charm into creepiness.  Coraline’s battle with the other world that she becomes trapped in takes the film into some (delightfully) disturbing territory.  Gaiman’s stories remind adults that childhood wasn’t all wide-eyed innocence–sometimes it was just damned scary. 

Coraline brought a goofy smile to my face, frequently made me catch my breath in wonder, and took me back to a place of awe in the face of moviemaking that I hadn’t experienced since adolescence.  We need more films like this, and more people who are willing to invest the huge amount of time and dedication it takes to make them.  Applaud their efforts and see this film on the big screen.


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This entry was posted on February 14, 2009 by in Film and tagged , .
Anne McKnight

writing•translation•scholarship on Japan (and a few other things)

A Modern Girl / モダンガール

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