Sunday, December 13, 2009

Disney's A Christmas Carol - Go See This

I'm such a fan of the Dickens story. I used to read the book every year when I had that kind of energy, and I've seen and loved every film adaptation, from Muppets to Scrooged to my personal favorite, the George C. Scott version. So, as I've read critics ask, what is the point of making another big screen version of this classic story if it's been done so many times?

I don't even know where to begin answering that but I would start with the fact that Zemeckis' animation, especially his use of 3-D (this is the first film I've seen that seemed to be built with the 3-D medium in mind, rather than having tacked it on as a marketing afterthought), approaches a new level of tactile experience. You really feel like you're there. Or like you're more there than there, it's more real than real. Which is something considering how fantastical the subject matter is: ghosts, alternate realities, flying through space and time. And because the animation medium allows him to really indulge the out-there nature of the text, he's also been free to stick closer to the actual Dickens story and language. The added depth and faithfulness to the text felt like a re-read of the book and less like a Cliff's notes or re-imagining.

Something else stood out about it. I had this thought early on: there's a logical hole in the morality of this story, a hole that also exists in most God narratives – if the Universe conspired to save Scrooge's soul, why didn't it do the same for Marley? I got an answer shortly after. Zemeckis made a brilliant choice to have not just Scrooge but also the three spirits played by the same actor (Jim Carey). (It's not obvious in an Eddie Murphy-playing-ten-roles kind of way, just subtle similarities in facial structure and mannerisms that gave it away in time.) But the effect is to make the spirits seem like manifestations of Scrooge's subconscious – after all, the whole thing takes place in the timespan of a night's sleep – and not an act of God. In other words, Scrooge redeemed himself. An ember of the god in him reignited. Which is so much more engaging.

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