I’m a massive Neil Gaiman fan but I should start here by saying that I haven’t read the book of Coraline yet. I’d read and reread the Sandman comics as a kid (I bought them as they were published) and have since collected the trade paperbacks as well to read them again. I just love the Sandman stories by Gaiman. I hadn’t read any of his novels until people started drawing comparisons between my first book, RealmShift, and Gaiman’s American Gods. So I read that novel and I could see why people were making comparisons. Since then I’ve tried to read as much Gaiman stuff as I can, but Coraline is one I haven’t got around to yet. So I’ve seen this movie with no preconception of the story. In many ways that’s good as it means I can enjoy the film without grumbling about all the missing bits. Then, when I do read the book, it will hopefully be a richer experience than the film.
However, this film was just fantastic anyway. In the first place, being done in stop motion animation, it has such a beautiful look and feel. The film was made by Henry Selick, the man behind the awesomeness that was A Nightmare Before Christmas (Tim Burton wrote that story, Selick directed the film). In this case, Selick adapted Gaiman’s book and the film has his signature style all over it. The whole thing from start to finish is an absolute work of art, from the opening scene where the camera pans up over the grounds of the pink palace.
Coraline’s story, how she feels neglected by her too busy parents and lost in a new house with nothing to do and no friends to play with, is told with patience and restraint. It’s not a new storyline but it is a classic and one that will continue to be retold. The characters here develop slowly and the story has time to play out. So much better than the rushed, frenetic pace of so many movies these days. When Coraline discovers the secret door and the button eyed utopia beyond she has a child’s perception and takes a while to realise the dangers. All of this is given time to play and every aspect is highly entertaining. Certainly among my favourite parts are any featuring the inimitable Spink & Forcible or the beet-munching Mr Bobinsky. And the buttons for eyes thing is truly creepy.
Coraline with her other mother and father
As the story unfolds and the inevitable danger and quest for redemption ensues the film does become a bit rushed. It’s a real shame that the finale, with Coraline’s quest for the ghost eyes and so on, couldn’t have been played out at the leisurely, indulgent pace of the rest of the film. My only complaint with this flick really is that the end was a bit rushed. Otherwise it’s just a treat; a sumptuous, engaging movie experience. I can’t wait to see it again to take in more of the exquisitely detailed sets and characters. Well worth your time and money at the theatre, this is really something different. I’m also looking forward to reading the book now, when time allows.