Sunday, December 13, 2009

Yes, Virginia, There Is A Carol...

A Christmas Carol, in any form since the Dickens text, is essentially nothing more than a remake. Yet unlike the epidemic, the appeal of this story withstands time, inviting new adaptations and never dulling the glow of the original. No, not all versions are great, but each one has its moments. For it’s hard to miss when you’re aiming with material right on the bull’s eye from the start.

And here we are, 166 years since Dickens first brought it to life, able to partake in a most dazzling and faithful (but fresh!) silver screen extravaganza full of life.

Bravo to Robert Zemeckis and Jim Carrey for presenting another holiday gem.

In the previous post I mentioned a hope that this version would become the definitive. It’s close. I can honestly say this is my favorite cinematic presentation of A Christmas Carol. I might even go as far as to say my favorite adaptation, period. I would say that, definitively, but, like Scrooge, I learned a thing or two.

It should have been obvious to me (but then kindness, compassion and celebration should have been obvious to Ebenezer, too) that there cannot be a definitive. For as much as I loved this movie, I didn’t have a completely satisfied glow, either. Why not? Well, I found myself missing tidbits of other productions. Whether an actor’s looks or delivery of a line, an insert indigenous to a production, the magic of the stage (like the “snowing window” of Chicago's The Goodman Theatre) and well, you get the idea. The tale itself outshines any presentation.

That said, Bravo, again.
How wonderful to live in this "day and age" when such fantastic worlds can be brought to life. And quite literally, since performance capture is all the rage. Zemeckis dropped us right into an ideal Dickensian landscape. Looking both realistic and stylized, we couldn’t ask for a better atmosphere. And in 3-D, we may as well have been carrying a walking stick.

Using such sophisticated animation allowed for some wonderful new imagery. Such as the Ghost of Christmas Future. Ever seen a solidifying shadow in motion? I have, thanks to the team at ImageMovers Digital.

It’s quite balanced between sugary and brooding, delivering its share of thrills with a touch of slapstick to lighten the mood. Quite honestly, overall, it does have a darker tone and can be pretty scary.

I also enjoyed the choices made for a lot of bits. Such as varying the methods of the Ghosts use to bring Scrooge to a new scene. Past looked quite a bit like flying around London with Peter Pan. Present waves his cornucopia torch and the floor is transparent, whisking the room as a frame over rooftops with directional torch thrusts… and as I recall (memory could be fading) a fading in and out of the Future. Another example of a nice touch is watching the Ghost of Christmas Present aging convincingly throughout their time together. Not just his appearance achieved by animation but in his movements a la Jim Carrey’s acting.

And a moment on that… Carrey. Imagine the psychological ramifications of playing Scrooge at every age in the production. And on top of that, all three Ghosts of Christmas. Wow. The only other major instances of that would be Dickens himself getting into the heads of the characters and Patrick Stewart, who did the one man show. It just seems powerful to me – to act out the entire life of one man who needs redemption. And also his “tormentors,” whom Zemeckis saw as aspects of Scrooge. Carrey pulled it off beautifully.

Some liberties are taken. But nothing that undermines or detracts from the experience. Even in one of the more peculiar choices, I can see the rationale immediately. And any and all of them can be chalked up to the nuances "indigenous" to various versions, which I spoke of earlier.

If I had to say something I did not like, it would have to be a matter of personal taste. I think of Fred, Scrooge’s nephew, as blonde and younger, for some reason. That’s just me. And the depiction of Bob Cratchit had to grow on me. Bart noticed a line missing. Present never said, “but most of all beware this boy” among the litany of forewarning bestowed in the scene. Just pointing it out, for the scene in the film certainly held its own as match for the uneasiness the text causes. (It’s one of the scary bits!) And not that other bits aren't absent, but then, they're certainly excusable given the wonders added this time around.

Did we need another artistic interpretation of Dickens' masterpiece?
You bet we did, given that we've never been able to see it, as they say, "quite like this."

I’m as pleased as Fred’s punch. Something else to look forward to each Xmas!

Thank you ImageMovers Digital, Disney, Jim Carrey, Robert Zemeckis and all your crew.

You’ve given us a wonderful gift from the past, in our present, for the future.

Is It Xmas Yet?

1 comment:

Anon said...

Yay! I'm glad you liked it! XD

I felt more or less the same way as you, although there were one or two elements I didn't care for at all (no spoilers here)--but for the most part I thought it was VERY well done! (And I'm familiar with the book! ;))