Coraline is a Children’s Film???

Whenever I even mention the movie Coraline to my sister she immediately shuts me down. She watched this when she was probably about 8 years old; she still claims to have nightmares about it (she’s 16). If this isn’t a perfect summary of how this movie impacts children in elementary school, your child is probably fearless. I watched this for the first time when I was only 10 and I remember even being a little creeped out by it.

Only certain people have the creativity and unique mind to come up with movies like this. Henry Selick seems to be one of these people. He has the creativity of a child but the mind of a really fucked up adult. The first movie I saw of his was Nightmare Before Christmas and that was just as bizarre as Coraline. I think the whole concept of claymation is very crafty and a nice break from plain cartoons or real actors. If Coraline was a movie you enjoyed because of the claymation, Nightmare Before Christmas is something you may also like. It was directed by Henry Selick so it has the same formatting as Coraline, it was made with claymation, and it has the similar creepy elements as Coraline but a different plot. Something to mention about Henry Selick’s contribution to A Nightmare Before Christmas is that since Tim Burton is such a big name in movies, Selick is often overshadowed and forgotten for his directing. Chicken Run is another claymation movie that is less eerie, more morbid, still funny (in a dark humor kind of way), and well put together. For a child, Chicken Run is simply just a goofy and entertaining movie and when you’re older, this movie is just as funny but with more dirty jokes.

Coraline is about a young girl who’s just moved to a new area far away from her friends and her parents are consumed with work. She explores the apartment complex and meets some of her new neighbors. Right off the bat, the audience can feel that there is something off about this place. It’s very remote and Coraline’s neighbors are quirky, to say the least. An eerie start to the film. It’s a bit of foreshadowing for the audience to show the messed up things that are about to go down.

As the movie continues, Coraline finds a small locked door which seems to lead to nothing, that is until everyone else is sleeping. Coraline goes through this now open door into a parallel universe where everything is the same but better (not really though). The catch is that everyone has buttons for eyes. This is where it gets weird. Coraline makes friends, she loves this new place, and she thinks everything is great until she realizes that her “other mother” is psychotic. Coraline’s parents are trapped in this other world and she must out smart her “other mother” in a game in order to free her family and escape an eternity in the other world. She goes on a scavenger hunt to solve the mysteries of the other ghost children who were caught in the “other mother’s” web of lies. Of course, she and her family successfully escape, locking the horrible creatures in the “other” world for hopefully forever. BUT just when you think you’re close to the happy ending, a metal hand (from the “other mother”) manages to get lose and essentially tries to kill Coraline and her friend Wybie. The happy ending arrives when she and her friend crush the monstrous hand, throw it in the well alone with the key to the door, and we hope, as the audience, that the creepy hand and “other” world never returns.

This film is so well crafted that it’s hard to find things that I didn’t like about it. As I briefly mentioned, my one critique is that this is supposed to be a children’s film. Its rated PG, I’m 18, and this movie still freaks me out. I’m not sure that this film should be rated PG-13 but it’s definitely reaching its limit.

Other than the age issue, I think this movie was incredible. The fact that this movie was made from thousands of images woven together to form a moving picture should earn it some recognition. This movie is a work of art not only because it’s literal art by making little clay characters but also because of the genius behind this film that constructed such a complex idea into a 2-hour movie.

To me, art is something thought provoking, makes me feel emotions, and has a lot of thought put into it. When I have been in art museums and seen a big red dot on a white canvas, I don’t think about it as a masterpiece. For me, I need to really be wowed with the sheer talent and effort someone put into their work. This goes for other pieces that might not be considered “traditional” art. Movies for instance, they may not be hung in the art museum but I think they could still be considered a work of art. All of the crew puts a lot of time and effort into a scene and therefore, the movie as a whole. They create sets for their backgrounds, the special effects are hand crafted, and for cartoon films especially, a team of artists must go frame by frame to create little people and animals moving around in a realistic way. On top of all this work that the crew is doing, you also have to consider that someone constructed this storyline completely on their own. They had to think about what they characters would look like, what they were doing and why. The why in a film is something that I appreciate. I like having their reasons for doing what they’re doing and I like to see what they learn from those said actions. To me, a well-crafted film is just as much a piece of art as the water lilies Monet painted.

One of the main reasons that I’d consider Coraline as a work of art is because of Henry Selick’s imagination. The whole concept of a new and better world has already been created thousands of times in films, books, short stories, etcetera but the dark twist that Selick brings to this repetitive theme in his film is what makes him a creative genius. The digital imaging for this film was great for when it was made (2009). When Coraline is going through the tunnel into the “other” world, the editing is flawless and makes the viewers feel themselves going through with Coraline. Another thing to note is the sound effects are well done. At the end of the film when Coraline is climbing up the spider web, the web makes a bouncing sound and causes the mother to run after her, I found that I truly felt Coraline’s fear of the sound getting her caught and it made the scene more suspenseful. The way that this film draws so much emotion from the viewer is just another example of how well this movie was put together. This movie truly embodies all the important details needed to make a good animation film and portrays the story very well.

Overall, I’d rate this movie with high markings due to the many technical factors, claymation, and creative yet not over done story line.