Tuesday, 13 January 2015

The Boxtrolls (2014)

Yet another children's book adaptation that I have never heard of even though its British apparently. The book in question is called Here Be Monsters! and is actually part of a series, so should we expect a series of films also? This has been attempted a few times in the past since the mighty Harry Potter but many have failed. I must also admit to getting tired of these quickfire fast food franchises that are whipped up and thrown out willy nilly to try and rake in as much moolah as possible. Sure its a business but judging by various past failures how about some care and attention huh.

Luckily this isn't another cash grab strewn with CGI but a delightfully dark hand crafted stop motion animated movie. Set in the fictional old English town of Cheesebridge in the year 1805. The town appears to be a large vertical hill protruding from a flat green landscape, the buildings are cobbled tightly together almost one on top of the other to create a towering spire of rickety  pre-Victorian structures (not overly sure what period the movie is actually aiming for, if any). Yet the visuals are reasonably realistic historically, 19th century England with a strong French vibe about them. I guess that wouldn't be surprising considering the Napoleonic era was still in full swing. So despite the fictional murky, gloomy, dark, twisted appearance it does seem as though the period has been recreated which is nice although its a fantasy version.

Without trying to sound to cliche myself the movies visuals are very Tim Burton-esque in a way. That traditional olde worlde, gnarly, dark semi-gothic, dank fairytale look with grotesque over the top characters (especially the villains). This all goes hand in hand with the period set buildings, narrow winding streets, underground boxtroll lair and of course all finished in a limited dark rusty muddy colour palette.

Most of the decent everyday folk in this town and the main goodie characters are normal looking as you would expect, its the small group of bad guys that are the most deformed and twisted...bordering on scary for the kids to be honest. All the characters are pretty much like caricatures of real people, almost political satirisations if you will. Yet the bad guys are by far the most interesting and fun, listening to Ben Kingsley churn out his cockney accent for the quite hideous Mr. Snatcher is the showstopper for sure. A quite horrible fellow who has an allergic reaction to cheese (I think the town makes cheese?) that makes him appear even more horrendous! By his side are a trio of your stereotypical cockney villains...slow, dumb, ugly and easily dominated.

As for the trolls well they're a cute little bunch really, little dark green goblin-like characters of all shapes and sizes that make various growling noises as their language. They also wear cardboard boxes around their torso. The cardboard boxes are (from what I've read about with the book) a newish invention for the time and another product from the town which is heavily industrialised. There are many changes from the book it seems, including other creatures underground, a completely different plot line and lots of name changes such as the town of Cheesebridge, in the book its called Ratbridge. This did make me think as there are so many alterations from the original book I wondered how fans would take it, the movie has done relatively well so I guess no one is too bothered. I can understand this because despite the film not being very accurate to its source material its still a gorgeous work of art that must be commended.

There is a tonne of vivid imagination and detail all throughout the film, in every scene from the steampunk-like contraptions, to the period costumes, to the buildings and to the highly expressive animated faces and boxtroll tomfoolery. I wouldn't even say its particularly a film for kids either, its quite dark and a little disturbing in places. The capturing of the boxtrolls by the evil Mr. Snatcher who wants to kill them all with his crushing machine! there's a touch of murder, intrigue, cross-dressing and even some off-key Frenchy music...just what the kids wanna see. On the plus side there is also plenty of little amusing quirky gross moments for the kids courtesy of the boxtrolls and their nose-picking antics.

Clearly this is a visual film much like any other stop motion animated feature, it relies on that. To its credit the movie does come out with plus points for me purely for this reason, but the plot can be a tad slow and mundane I can't lie. If it wasn't for the superbly dastardly Mr. Snatcher voiced by Ben Kingsley I think this would have been very drab despite the excellent visuals. If you don't know the book then I'm sure you can enjoy if you like this sort of thing. If you do know the book then maybe you won't agree with me so much...I dunno, there are many changes. Plenty of originality but maybe not quite as much wonder for the kids, check out the lovely animated end credit sequence too.


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