The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'charlie and the chocolate factory'
Ophelia Dahl recounts having Roald Dahl as a father, and discusses the first draft of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory:
The plot was completely different; there were 10 children, not five, all of them with names like Herpes Trout, and each child was more disgusting than the last, characterised by some terrible human flaw that would lead to their downfall. The first draft involved a burglary at Wonka's house, which Charlie foiled and was thus granted a lifetime's supply of chocolate. The other drafts get closer and closer to the published version. Why, I wondered, had he never told us about Herpes Trout, or Elvira Entwistle? They were cast-offs, thrown away, not even worth mentioning during supper, but for me it was like discovering lost siblings.
I went to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Friday night. It had some good elements, though ultimately left something to be desired.
The look was very stylised; it seemed to be set in a Northern English city which somehow had seceded from Britain and joined the US at some time in the past, and thus had Wallace & Gromit-style row houses along with US Postal Service mailboxes and New York-style fire hydrants, and the mostly British population drove on the right and used US dollars. At one side of the city was the eponymous chocolate factory. The rooms inside the factory were one of the best parts of it, and were very stylised, often harking back to 1960s high-modernism. They were full of machines, though these, more often than not, looked a bit obviously computer-generated. Also good were the Oompa-Loompa song-and-dance routines, which combined Roald Dahl's lyrics, Danny Elfman's command of kitsch and a Bollywood-influenced sense of colourful excess.
Unfortunately, the rest of the film was a bit disappointing. Beneath Burton's magpie-like cultural appropriations, it seemed like the same movie Hollywood makes every time, with the same, mechanistically predictable, character development archetypes. In particular, there was the whole angle of Willy Wonka redeeming his relationship with his father, which seemed to be tacked on because those are the rules. Though I get the feeling that Burton sensed and acknowledged this; the hasty and deliberately wooden way he executed the moment of redemption seemed perhaps somewhat sarcastic. All in all, this was not, IMHO, a great auteurial coup or memorable work, but just another Hollywood formula flick, albeit with some skilled artisans involved in the process.
The trailers before the film were obviously calculated to appeal to the audience, and included the next Harry Potter film (which got cheers from the audience), Tim Burton's upcoming piece of animated goth-candy The Corpse Bride (which, I notice, already has collectible figurines in the shops), and the upcoming feature-length Wallace & Gromit film (which appears to reference Hammer horror films extensively).
The various reviews of Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory look encouraging; it looks like he has neither Americanised it (as, common sense has it, is essential for a story to be universal and sell well) nor turned it into a Gloom Cookie-esque steaming pile of gothsy clichés (the aesthetic, thankfully, seems to owe more to Carnaby Street circa 1967 than Camden High Street circa 2005). It also features Noah "young Adolf Hitler/Nick Cave lookalike" Taylor as Charlie's dad, and they used real squirrels in the filming. Hmmm...
Another thing I didn't know until today: that the Childcatcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was created by Roald Dahl, who worked on the script for that film.