My Thoughts on Coraline
It is a gorgeous film. A miracle of the most beautiful puppet animation and CG compositing you'll ever see. Amazingly controlled character motion of masterfully crafted puppets, luscious materials, wondrous sets, atmospheric lighting, you name it, it has it, 60 million dollars worth of it, all up on the screen.
And yet it left me cold. Coraline is just a girl on the screen. I never identify or feel anything for her. Things happen to her. They never indirectly, through her, happen to me.
She has a hard time talking to her parents in the beginning, and her relation to the neighbor boy only progresses from strained to normal - but not beyond. The miraculous worlds of her downstairs and upstairs neighbors are mere tableaux: Coraline has no feeling towards them one way or another. Her remark that "Mr. B is not a drunk" is a step in the right direction, but it is too little, too late. The relation between the spidery Minority Report-spy scissor-hands menace and her real counterpart sister, the boy's grandmother seems to be lost on the cutting-room floor somewhere.
Yet I could not help but gripping my armrest during the climax, only to wonder why I did that: my strained unease was not because I wanted the girl to persevere. In a way the editing and the music just swept me along, while feeling more and more manipulated, leaving me exhausted at the credits.
If only she showed her love for her parents in the beginning. Her caring for her surroundings and them not caring back. Her being truly interested in her neighbors. Her feeling something - anything! Just sticking a scene in with her crying in bed with pillows propped up as her parents is simply not enough, it's even out of character. It seems to be there to imply her feeling weak, alone and powerless - but this could have been established much more powerful earlier, while playing off the other characters.
What's wrong with showing feelings and emotions in movies nowadays? I somehow have the notion that those reviewing a film like this more than favorably cannot have had a very secure childhood themselves.
But then - I'm not a psychiatrist. I just know that a whole bunch of folks should have used more time studying their "Illusion of Life."
When the film comes out on DVD, I will probably buy it - for the extras that show how it was made. As I said, the visuals are stunning. I just wish it hadn't left me disappointed...
Maybe if they had given a bigger tip to the Ranft Brothers movers...