The twisted imagination of Gaiman and his superb storytelling and characterisation, and the magic of Selick as an animator as seen by his beautiful The Nightmare Before Christmas and the way he brought to life his figures.
So why did I avoid Coraline? Well I assume it's because I thought it was too close to a children's film, despite the words to the contrary when it arrived. I can now say I was wrong, and if that's holding you back then I tell you now to drop the idea and watch it.
While exploring the new house, and meeting the new neighbours - downstairs the English actresses with their Scotty dogs and upstairs the Russian gymnast who is training intelligent mice - she discovers a small door, locked and papered over. Her mother gives her the key and unlocks the door, fed up with her constant interruptions to her work, but behind the door is just a wall. However come the night time a magical gateway opens between her bedroom and her other bedroom, in her other house, with her other parents, parents who are seeing to her every whim and providing for her every want.
Except there's something not quite right with them, they have buttons for eyes and are a little too good to be true, so it's not long before Coraline is trapped there and discovers the awful truths about her other parents, what they plan to do with her and the terrifying fact that her other mother has imprisoned her real parents.
Now you've read the plot you'll realise that the story isn't all sweetness and light as the original marketing and blurb might have suggested, and while the film does cater for a younger audience, it does have darkness and reality mixed through it in equal measure, with some surprisingly dark moments. What hits you the most out of the film though is just how amazing the animation is as Henry Selick outdoes himself and brings to life the characters in front of your eyes.
Not only does he manage to imbue a strong personality in each of the characters, but he brings the whole animated world to life so well that you don't even think of the animation. There's not a feeling of watching animation or CG, instead you are totally captivated by the story and the characters, and you really don't think about whether this is animated, CG, or real life after the beginning. In fact you'll probably be more amazed by the fact that you'll begin to feel the characters are real.
I was amazed that I ended up investing so much in the animated characters, something I remember from watching The Nightmare Before Christmas, but here the feeling was even greater.
The characters really do come to life before you, and it's something I can't get through to you enough, Coraline really does feel very real, a strong and multi-dimensional character. The other characters may be slightly more flatter, but they all have something quirky and interesting about them that makes you want to see more of them like Mr. Sergei Alexander Bobinsky, voiced by Ian McShane, the Cat, voiced by Keith David, and the other father, voiced by John Hodgman. Each of these characters has something more to them that you are drawn to and create a little mystery and depth too.
The actors chosen for the character voices are really well matched and there are some deliciously rich sounding voices too, the excellent Keith David and the superb Ian McShane, and the talents of Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders as the actresses are superbly chosen. Teri Hatcher is great as the mother/other mother, and Coraline herself is voiced by Dakota Fanning.
All in all it's a great cast and well chosen. What I do find with animations is that of I'm not invested enough in the characters and story then I find myself trying to pick out who they are during the film. As a testament to just how good this film is, I only did this in the opening scene because I expected Dakota Fanning and couldn't quite catch her voice, and during the actresses first screen outing as I wanted to check to hear who was French and who was Saunders. Other than that the film held me so well I couldn't be distracted.
In fact, on that point of being distracted, I had planned to just watch a little bit in my bed to see what it was like. Come 1:40am I had finished watching and had never once taken my eyes off the screen.
Story wise Coraline might be compared to something that Pixar makes, an animation that appeals to kids and adults alike. Don't believe anyone that says that, it's very different. This is truly a dark children's story that contains some very real lessons in life.
I feel that this is highly reminiscent of the real fairy tales when they were first told. They weren't there just to tell a nice happy story, there is darkness, the bad parts of real life, something to entertain, teach and scare the younger viewer, and kids do love to be scared just a little. I feel his is a really well balanced film for the younger audience and not hugely over protective and oblivious to the reality of life. Yet at the same time it never loses the innocence and enjoyment of being a child, something that comes back throughout the film.
So don't be thinking there are hidden levels to appeal to all here, nor is it too dark and harsh for children. I find that it is nicely balanced and when taking into account all the ups and downs an the payouts in the story, it delivers something that is a much more rounded tale for all ages than a Pixar film.
There are some excellent story ideas in there too, the ideas of the Scottie dogs and the actresses, the buttons for eyes, and the visually exciting world and what happens when the other mother's control starts to slip. It's rich both visually and in it's story.
Apple iTouch widescreen
This is the first film I've watched on the iTouch downloaded via iTunes that I've not been perfectly happy with the picture. It's not because anything was wrong with it, it's actually because I wanted to see more. I wanted to see the picture much bigger and explore the detail in the animation on a bigger screen.
On the small screen it's just fine, and as you're pulled onto the story you don't really think about it, but as my eye caught all the detail in the picture I wanted to see just how good it looked.
Thankfully that's something I can still do as I can watch it through iTunes on the PC, and I will. On the iTouch though it's very good quality.
Stereo, Apple iTouch with Sony embedded earphones
There's not a great deal to the audio that would make you sit up and notice the audio itself, and since it is mainly dialogue and music you'll find you're more involved in the story and characters than direction of sound. Here the stereo is just fine and the audio is very good.
Coraline surprised me. I knew there was going to be a more adult thread to it and some weird and wonderful twists from Neil Gaiman, but I hadn't quite expected the film I saw, and it was a superb one at that.
Coraline is darker and more reality based than you might first think. The. animation is amazing and brings the characters to life more than CG could. Combined with the excellent story and wonderfully voiced characters, Coraline is a wonderful film to watch and will engage child and adult alike with a thoroughly entrancing story.