Coraline is one of my favorite books. As kid I was obsessed with it – I checked it out several times from the library until I finally bought my own copy. My child brain was fascinated by the dark world the book creates and Coraline’s showdown with the other mother. All the images and events never ceased to fascinate me each time I read it. I re-read it not too long ago as an adult and I still love it.
It, of course, was made into a fairly popular animated film. A film that’s often overlooked when people are discussing the great animated movies, from what I’ve seen. Still, it has a bit of a cult following.
With that said: what do I think of it?
It’s alright. I enjoyed watching it. However, I can’t say it’s the Coraline movie that I want personally. It becomes its own piece of art, with the changes it makes and how it presents itself. That’s fine. But even though the movie becomes its separate entity it’s still an adaptation, and naturally I have to look at what it does or adds to the source material.
Some or the major issues I had:
The Lighter Tone
I remember reading some reviews praising or highlighting that the film was pretty dark for a kids movie. I can somewhat see that. I mean, on concept alone, asking a kid to sew buttons into her eyes is pretty morbid, the trapped ghost children and such. But I still felt everything was lighter and more upbeat than the book.
I liked that the novel had more melancholy and carried a feeling of dread.
Some examples: In the book when Coraline first meets the other mother. She’s disguised as Coraline’s real mother but has creepy features (besides the obvious button eyes) that give her away: her hair, her skin, her nails.
In the film when the other mother is disguised she looks normal other than her eyes. So I feel the book provides a much more unsettling introduction to the other mother.
One memorable scene in the novel is when Coraline sees the other mother eating some bugs. Now this was a creepy moment and I remember a lot of kids in my school library wanting to see this illustration:
In the movie it makes the scene kind of goofy and definitely downplays it by making the beetles seem like candy.
These are a couple examples but overall, the lighter feeling is more so a result of the animation itself. I would have preferred the colors be toned down and a more unsettling atmosphere.
The Addition of “Wybie”
The story doesn’t need a “Wybie.” I feel his presence took away from Coraline’s own personal growth, which is an important part of the tale. Wybie just feels forced and isn’t very interesting.
Maybe they needed a young male character to attract boys to the theater or something. But they could at least, have imagined a better one.
Sorry, Wybie. I just don’t like you.
It doesn’t go far enough
Some will say that the Coraline film adaptation is pretty intense for a kid’s film. Maybe in comparison to most animated films. But I was expecting something gritter – a twisted fairy tale that you look back as an adult and say: “That sure was a messed up.”
I just don’t see that with the adaptation. And it’s a bit disappointing.
I know it seems like I’m bashing this film. But, again, I don’t think it’s bad. I’m glad so many people enjoy it. I mean I love watching the Coraline theory videos on Youtube (most of which are focused on the movie).
However, I just had high hopes for an adaptation of one of my favorite books. I might be alone on this but oh well.
If I’m correct, even Gaiman himself was fine with the direction the movie took. But then again one’s free to disagree with the author.
Hopefully, another adaptation comes along and it tries something different.