Monday, September 20, 2010

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ---- on film

I promised in the last post that I'd talk about the two movie versions made from this book.  So, I watched both of them over the last two days, and took some notes.   If you aren't already familiar with the films, please be warned that there are some spoilers.   And, if you haven't seen them, some of my comments just won't make sense.

I figured the best way to talk about them would be to do so comparatively (hopefully, this will all make sense).   The first movie, made in 1971, is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Gene Wilder as Wonka) - hereinafter referred to as WWCF; and the second movie, made in 2005, is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Johnny Depp as Wonka) - hereinafter referred to as CCF.

The Storyline:

WWCF:   The screenplay for this film was written by Roald Dahl, and seemed to stay relatively close to the book.    Charlie and his family appear quite poor (although his Dad seems to no-show).  Scenes are pretty close to the book, although there is no mention in the book of the fizzy lifting drinks that Charlie and Grandpa Joe
imbibe in the movie.  No background of Mr. Wonka.   Geese and golden eggs.
CCF:  The screenplay for this film was written by John August and while it actually seemed to follow more closely to the book, there were some exceptions, as well.  Charlie and his family are obviously poor (and Dad's even present and accounted for, like in the book).   The factory is somewhat darker and more mysterious in this film, but we see a flashback of when the factory was humming with human workers.  No fizzy lifting drinks.  Detailed background of Mr. Wonka.  Squirrels.

Opening Sequence:

WWCF:  Luscious, mouth-watering scenes of cacao beans, and molten chocolate.  Row after row of shiny chocolate chips.  Happy.
CCF:  Scenes of chocolate manufacturing, with a focus on slick graphics.  Dark music and a feel that reminded me of a later Harry Potter film.  However, I absolutely adore Tim Burton, so I expected this and enjoyed it.

Casting (according to how the characters are written in the book):
WWCF:  Wonderful casting.   Augustus Gloop is appropriately fat, Veruca looks like she might have a hidden wart or two, Violet is a snip, and Mike's an obnoxious loudmouth.  I always thought Veruca was perfect, especially when she's singing her song about wanting it all.   Charlie looks appropriate for the book, and he's sweet, and pretty believable.   Adults are well-cast, as well.  I always loved the scene where Grandpa Joe gets out of bed and dances. 
CCF:  Again, wonderful casting.  Augustus isn't just fat; he's grotesque (watching this kid eat is enough to make me lose my appetite).  Veruca actually looks a bit like the original Veruca, and Violet has been bumped up to a gum-chewing aggressive competitor (and her mother's even scarier).  Mike TeeVee is addicted to violent video games and in addition to being aggressive, is a know-it-all.   Charlie seemed more perfect in this movie -- he looks hungry.  Parents are great (although I have been a huge Helena Bonham Carter fan for years).

Mr. Wonka:

WWCF:   Gene Wilder was my first film exposure to Mr. Wonka and although he seemed nice, I always felt like he had a bit of an edge to him.  Almost like he's got a bad temper simmering beneath the surface.   This meant that while I was completely intrigued by him, I was always a little scared of him, too.  Somewhat snazzy dresser (chocolate-colored top hat and purple velvet coat).  No background about his childhood.
CCF:  Johnny Depp makes a wonderful Wonka, although he's a bit strange.   When the movie came out, some people remarked that it seemed Depp had modeled Wonka a bit on Michael Jackson (pale, high-pitched voice, a bit strange).   Either way, he's interesting.  I never felt the menace factor as much as I did with Wilder, but for a real treat, watch the scene where Veruca is trying to grab a squirrel -- Depp is amazing, just with his facial reactions to her.  Also a snazzy dresser, although a bit slicker and more modern (still has a top hat, though).  I found the long bit about his relationship with his dad to be unnecessary (just a personal reaction).

Oompa Loompas:
WWCF:  Orange faces, green hair, and snazzy outfits with stripes.  I always loved the big pom-poms on their shoes (and their striped socks).   Oddly fitting white overalls.  
CCF:  Small (tiny, actually -- 13 inches), and one man, Deep Roy, doing it all.   Zippy candy-colored outfits and funky hair.  Coordinated singing and dancing, and an especially creative scene for the song about Mike Teevee. 

Scary factor: 

I remember seeing this movie as a child and being completely terrified at parts.   The scariest scene for me would be where they are all in the boat, and all of a sudden, there are awful images being projected (centipedes!!!), and Wonka starts singing in a creepy, louder and louder voice.   Yikes!!!    I was also freaked out by the first scene where they're all in a hallway that gets smaller and smaller.  For whatever reason, this gave me nightmares for a long time.   And why yes, I am claustrophobic. 
CCF:  The opening part where people are welcomed to the factory, with the plastic dolls, is creepy.  Some of the scenes in the factory are a little dark, and a little creepy.  I suppose the word in this movie is creepy, not scary.


WWCF:   Songs in this film were done by a team of people, and did not take lyrics from Dahl's book.   I never really cared for The Candy Man song (sung by the candy shop owner in the first part of the movie), but I always did like Gene Wilder singing when he's in the chocolate room.  There's something just so wistful about that song.  Singing done by more than one character.
CCF:   Music by Danny Elfman.  What can I say?  The man is a genius.  I've been saying that for years.   The songs in this film took lyrics from the original book, but completely modernized the music.  They tend to be catchy (otherwise known as: the one about Augustus Gloop tends to stick in my head).  Songs are just for the Oompa Loompas.

Cool factors:

WWCF:   The Chocolate Room.   I loved how it was so magical looking.   Again, seeing this movie as a little kid, it was like a huge dream.  Special effects in this movie were somewhat simple, but completely got the point across.  There's nothing quite like the image of Violet as that big blueberry, is there?  In those days, effects let your imagination do a little more. 
CCF:  Special effects up the wazoo.  Just having the multiple upon multiple Deep Roy Oompa Loompas is amazing.  Factory is magical and amazing.  Violet's morphing into the blueberry is almost a little too slick for me, but the end effect is quite good.   What happens with Veruca in the nut room is funny, but also a little disturbing (one squirrel is cute; having forty leap on you isn't so cute).

Overall, although the older film always comes first in my mind when I think about this story, I actually like both films for different reasons.   I always feel nostalgic when I watch the 1971 film, and I always laugh a HUGE laugh at certain scenes in the 2005 film.  Let's just say, the scene with Veruca and the squirrels had me almost screaming with laughter.  In the theater.    It's always interesting to compare a film to a book, and in this case, we have not only two films to compare to a book, but two films to compare to each other.   Either way, it's great entertainment.


Amber said...

Great comparison. I really felt Burton was a perfect fit for this story and loved the 2005 version. I laughed so hard when Depp is given a card and immediately throws it over his shoulder and smiles at the man. So funny! Thanks for doing this. It was really fascinating to see both films broken down.

Teacher/Learner said...

Nice breakdown of the two movie versions. Any preference? It's hard to choose as they are both independently good movies, but on an overall level I prefer the original. There is just something magical about Gene Wilder's take on Willy Wonka and the campy musical numbers are so fun and quirky :D

Anonymous said...

I love the original, Gene Wilder, version. I've always liked stories that are a little scary, that are a little unsettling, and Yup, that movie is pretty unsettling. Magic yes, but scary too = perfect. and I know I can always sing a specific oompa loompa song to my husband when we're witnessing a particularly bratty child.

As stellar as the music, special effects, and casting of the 2nd one was, I can't help but feel that their goal was to one up the original at every opportunity.

Ranee said...

Awesome post! I just watched the 2005 version. I thought Depp was a little weird. I thought the scene with the dolls catching on fire was a little odd. They are both good in their own way and it's hard to pick a favorite. I like one part in one and another in the other. Great comparison!! I really enjoyed reading this.
I also loooooved the squirrel part. I could just hear you laughing at that. Ha!

Jen said...

Ranee--- you know I let out the BIG LAUGH!!!

Ellie said...

Oh, how I love the original movie! I wasn't bothered by the new one, but I adored Gene Wilder as Wonka. Even now I'm not entirely certain that I wouldn't just marry him and have done with it - I loved that menacing edge tempered with the wistfulness. He seemed kind of... lonely. And the music is great! Pure Imagination's my favourite, and Cheer Up Charlie is so sweet and sad. Er, I know what I'll be watching this week, then... :-)

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