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Title: Coraline
Directed by:
Henry Selick
Written by:
Henry Selick, Neil Gaiman
Year: 2009

Watching film adaptations of beloved books is of course dangerous, because most people, including me, are a least a little bit afraid that the director will desecrate the original concept and replace the imagined world with something defined, specific and boring. Even though I haven’t yet watched the adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy his imagination projected onto the silver screen before, in the form of Mirrormask. Even though Henry Selick didn’t do as good a job as Dave McKean, Coraline was still above my expectations.

The story is quite simple: A young girl, Coraline, moves with her parents to an odd old house in the middle of nowhere, with few but strange neighbours: a weird boy and his even weirder cat, the crazy acrobat Mr. Bobinsky, and the senile ladies Miss Spink and Miss. Forcible dreaming their way to past glories on the stage. Coraline soon finds a hidden passage which leads to a mirror version of reality called the Other World, where her Other Mother and her Other Father are awfully nice to her and do whatever they can to make her stay. However, all that glitters isn’t gold.

There are quite a few changes from the book, but most of them I accept without a moments hesitation (although I must say it’s a pity the mice were almost completely left out, their song is probably one of my favourite parts in the novel). In fact, the film starts out exceptionally well and it felt like a possible jackpot was on the way. The introduction of the setting, the characters and the first impressions are simply stunning. However, the story and the film deteriorates towards the end, especially when the plot boils down to the computer game syndrome of finding the yellow, red and blue key card to open the doors leading up to the final boss. Not very Gaimanesque and not very interesting at all, frankly.

What about the directing and the technique, then? Coraline is animated in a way I really like. The director makes use of this fact a lot and manage to convey the same feeling I had when I read the book, at least for the first part. In Coraline, I discover a lot of very small but effective tricks and techniques which add to the overall atmosphere, which could be said to be the source of both the book’s and the film’s greatness.

Still, all things added up, the book is better, mostly because of the plot in the latter half of the film. If it would have ended on the same note as it started, this film would have been wonderful, perhaps even more wonderful than the book. As it is now, it’s still very good, but leaves the feeling that it could have been done better. Four snails to Coraline.

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  1. Xhakhal’s avatar

    Something with my browser is wrong so I can’t see how many snails you gave this film :( but that doesn’t really matter… (though I did try to figure it out using the image URL, which proved difficult… 4, 4,5 and 5 are 8, 9 and 10 respectively, but this one is x.jpg – although you seem to be reviewing a 4-4,5 film, not a five you just happened to link to in roman numerals instead? Although I might just be stupid now, it’s soa late one begins to feel retarded just for being awake…)

    I haven’t watched it, and I doubt that I will anytime soon (maybe some late night when I’ve nothing at all left to do), but I’m sad to hear that the mice were left out. I listened to Coraline on audio book as you might remember (you gave it to me, I think), and their songs were truly the best part of the book as far as I’m concerned. I liked the Russian too, but the only time I was really enjoying Coraline was when the mice were singing.


  2. Jocke’s avatar

    I am going to the theatre on saturday to watch Coraline.

    I have the same problem as Xhakhal, I can not see how many snails you gave the movie, maybe you just forgot to put them there?


  3. Martin Ackerfors’s avatar

    It’s because he forgot to fill it in. The img source is x, not a number. :) I forsee a 4 or maybe 4 and a half. *seer mode off*


  4. Xhakhal’s avatar

    Martin, as I said (with the img source), only I said it more tiredly and incoherently, sorry.


  5. Snigel’s avatar

    Well, guys, if you would have cared to read the review, it says “four snails to Coraline” in the last sentence. :) Otherwise Martin is right, I just forgot to change the x to the relevant grade. And Xhakhal, they aren’t left out, it’s just the coolest bits that aren’t there (speaking of the mice).


  6. Xhakhal’s avatar

    Meh XD I read the last bit carefully to make sure you hadn’t written it in there as you sometimes do, but missed it anyway. So much for my perception :)