Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Review - Coraline

Coraline is one of those names I've heard for what feels like ages, but I never knew what the book was about.

I mean, literally no idea.

Ever since I read (and immensely enjoyed) Anansi Boys, I've been on a quest to get my hands on as many Neil Gaiman books as possible. It was about time, too!

Perhaps the best way to describe Coraline is creepy. I wouldn't go so far as to classify it as horror, more like a creepy fantasy. The heroine, Coraline, moves into a new house and she's immensely bored. Her parents don't have much time for her, so she spends the last days of summer vacation investigating the home and getting to know her neighbors--and they're a colorful lot.

But when Coraline discovers a small door into a walled-off apartment in the house, the story takes a dark turn. She crawls through the passageway and discovers another home almost like hers. I say almost, because this home is inhabited by the other mother--a charming woman identical to her mother with the exception of her long-fingered hands and her unsettling eyes. They are two big black buttons.

At first, the other mother (as well as the button-eyed other father) seem perfect. They're cheery and thoughtful and pamper Coraline with all the love and attention she feels she's been missing from her real parents. However, the story takes a sharp turn into creepiness when the other mother tells Coraline that she only has to do one little thing to be happy forever...

"It won't hurt."
When Coraline's real parents go missing, she's forced to confront her fears and embark on a quest to save them before the other mother takes control over her.

I really liked the concept and the creepiness behind the story, especially the part about the button eyes. The overall moral was also a nice, homely one. However, the action felt rushed, like the author wasn't giving us enough time for the plot points to set in. Maybe it's because it's a children's book and sometimes less is more, but I was yearning for just a little bit more.

Even so, being a kid's book, I think it's actually quite scary as is. Maybe a little too scary for some!

After reading the book, I decided to watch the film and was pleasantly surprised by the adaptation. The film incorporates several changes to the plot, the main one being the introduction of a new character, the little boy Wybie.

The reasoning behind including a new character in the film adaptation is so that Coraline doesn't spend the majority of the movie talking to herself. You see, there are many scenes in the book where she is alone with only her thoughts as company (there are also many scenes where she speaks with the cat, who is another important character). Internal dialogue works well on the written page, but on the big screen it could become an issue. An unobtrusive friendly character such as Wybie did the trick, in my opinion--and the appearance of the other Wybie is one of the strongest points for me in the film.

Another great novelty in the film is that we learn a tad more backstory about the other mother. Her motives and techniques are clearer from the beginning of the film. I found the book somewhat lacking on this point.

The ending to the movie was a bit of a letdown, though. To me it felt like it had fallen prey to Hollywoodish clich├ęs and there was really no need to change the witty heroic and original ending which appears in the book. I was highly satisfied with the original ending, as it reminded me of old fairy tales where slyness and trickery save the hero. The film adaptation, on the other hand, ends with a gaudy KA-BOOM along with a dose of deus ex machina.

Overall, I give Coraline three and a half Pirates.

1 comment:

  1. What a terrific summary and insightful review (really a pair of reviews), Nadine.

    I especially appreciate your differentiation between the two versions--and the use of Pirate as a ratings tool.


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