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Elroy, Mike TV and Jonny Depp go into a bar…

Something weird happened when I went to see CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY this week, but I’m not talking about the film! No kids. I’m talking about something that I’ve never seen happen before, not in all my years of sitting in dark rooms! There was a clickety, clickety and then a SNAP.. and then.. they turned the lights on. Right as the ticket winners were lining up at the gates of Wonka’s Chocolate Factory the film snapped and all hell broke lose in the projection room!

So, was this an omen? Does elroy review half a movie? Only one way to find out kids! You know what to do!

classic |?klasik| |?kløs?k| |?klas?k|
judged over a period of time to be of the highest quality and outstanding of its kind : a classic novel | a classic car.

• a work of art of recognized and established value : his books have become classics.
• a thing that is memorable and a very good example of its kind : he’s hoping that tomorrow’s game will be a classic.

The term ‘classic’ is thrown around a lot now. Especially when talking about movies (and music), but there aren’t really that many movies that honestly deserve to be branded classics. However, the original movie (WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY) based on the work by Roald Dahl (titled CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY) is undisputedly a classic in every sense of the word. It has stood the test of time, it has been judged and, with few exceptions, most would agree that the 1971 film is absolutely of the highest quality and outstanding of it’s kind.

So, why remake it? Or ‘re-imagine’ is the term that people seem to like using these days. Possibly because it gives those behind whatever it is that’s being remade the ability to completely tool about with the ideas, characters, plot and everything else associated with the original. And that isn’t always such a great thing for the end result (Yes, I’m looking at you PLANET OF THE APES!). So, Why re-imagine CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY? The answer, I suspect, is: Because they can.

I don’t mean to suggest that CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY was made purely because the license to do so was available. Far from it. What I mean is that, when you see the movie… When you actually look at the screen and see what director, Tim Burton, has presented the audience with, then you’ll understand what I mean by ‘Because they can”.

Roald Dahl wrote some incredible stories (and screenplays), many that we are familiar with and probably even more that we don’t even realise his name is associated with: YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, THE BIG FRIENDLY GIANT and JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH to name just a few. Many of his stories are off beat, more than a little fanciful and often had a much darker than expected underbelly when examined closely. While, for the time that it was made, the 1971 movie did an amazing job of presenting the audience with a story that encapsulated all of these elements, it was some what technically limited in how far into the ‘other worldly’ environments (that Dahl had presented in his novel) that they could take audiences. Now, such limitations do not apply. Now, film makers are only limited by their imaginations. And ‘imagination’ is a commodity that Tim Burton is in no short supply of.

Something else that Burton has an ample supply of is talented people with which to work. Since Burton’s debut as a director in 1971 (coincidentally, the same year that the original CHOCOLATE FACTORY movie was released) he has created a stable, consisting of actors and other creative talent, from which to draw upon. CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY sees Burton reunite again with Jonny Depp (Willy Wonka) with whom he has worked with on such great movies as EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, ED WOOD and SLEEPY HOLLOW. On the surface, Depp’s interpretation of Willy Wonka seems quite distant from the (brilliant) performance of Gene Wilder in the original version, however below the surface both performances present a lonely, reclusive crank with a complete emotional detachment to the real world. Depp’s characterisation is every bit as complex, endearing and yet, at the same time, repulsive as Wilder’s interpretation.

A standout feature of this film is the soundtrack created for it by Burton’s seemingly favourite composer, Danny Elfman. Elfman lends his trademark orchestral themes to CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY with his usual standard. However, this film has called for something unusual from Elfman and he has succeeded brilliantly at the challenge! Elfman has taken the lyrics written by Dahl and created elaborate production numbers to punctuate the story. As in the book the only characters to participate in these song and dance sequences are the Oompa Loompa’s (each individual Oompa Loompa is performed by a CGI scaled Deep Roy: BIG FISH, PLANET OF THE APES) and Elfman has used his own vocal talents to give voice to the dozens of Oompa Loompa’s who join in singing.

Burton also employs Helena Bonham Carter (to whom he is currently engaged) and Christopher Lee from his stable of talent. With their inclusion and Burton’s other trademarks all over it (The camera tracking opening sequence, the use of snow, the use of a misunderstood central character) he has truly made this movie his own. It’s full of the wonder and estrangement that make the book and previous adaptation so fantastic and Burton’s own sense of fantasy blends perfectly with these elements. I’d even go so far as to say that this is the definitive Tim Burton movie – If you don’t enjoy CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY then you should probably never bother seeing another of his films again because, to me, Burton has created a film destined to be considered a classic.

[Originally written for EON and published at Gamespace on Fri, 02 Sep 2005]

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