Thursday 7 July 2016

Coraline: Book vs Movie

Books are better, right? That's what I always hear, but I've often thought it was a snobbery - ie, "I'm more intelligent, therefore I can enjoy the depth of a book... bla bla bla." But sometimes a movie comes along that expands and develops a story. With Coraline being quite a short book, I wondered if this would be the case.

I read the book earlier this week, when realised I'd never read Neil Gaiman (other than a Sandman comic in the 90s) and keep hearing good things. And then I watched the movie last night.

First of all, I love stop motion animation. The movie of Coraline looks fantastic. The models and animations are fantastic, with stunning sets and some brilliant visual jokes (esp Miss Spink and Miss Forcible's musical number). However, there are other differences which really nail the difference between the format of a novel versus a movie. In particular, Wybourne.

Wybourne Lovat is a character that doesn't appear in the novel. That's because he isn't needed. A lot of Coraline's questions and thoughts are internal, and without a voice over, it's difficult to get these out in a movie - so Wybourne comes in. He has some great moments, and the stitched-on smile is grotequesly wonderful. But with Wybourne included - especially the ending - it undermines the heart of the book. Coraline is a book about a girl facing her greatest fear. This comes out in the book in a brilliant vignette where her father saves her from a swarm of wasps by telling Coraline to run while he stands still to attract the wasps and take their stings. This, he explains was not bravery - it was a situation where he had no option. But later, when he had to return to the same spot to retrieve his glasses, when he knew the wasps were waiting and understood the danger he was walking into - that was bravery. This scene is important because Coraline realises the danger of going back into the other house in order to rescue her parents. So the stakes are so much higher in the book.

And then there's the ending. The book is about a brave little girl who saves her parents and uses wit and cunning to stop the baddy. She is the hero, it's her journey, so she solves the puzzles. But in the movie, when she doesn't know what to do next, Wybourne bursts onto the screen to take over. Coraline makes the final move (much like the book) but because the movie has chosen action over strategy, this move comes across as an impulsive reaction. So it's good for the audience, who want to see the hero make a last minute escape, but rubbish for the character who merely survived, while in the book, she outwitted, overcome and beat that baddie by her own volition.

And that's why the book is better. That's wot I reckon.

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