Friday, 10 January 2014

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory vs Willy Wonka

Technically this is not a straight out remake, its another version. But as I said, thats getting technical.

I've also gone against the rule of foreign languages remade in English, I'm focusing on Roald Dahl's favoured source material, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The films, the classic 70's film starring Gene Wilder; Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory vs Tim Burton's film; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Beginning with Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, made in 1971 and directed by Mel Smith, straight away this feels like an afternoon film to watch with the family. It also indicated, from the title, that this is Willy Wonka's story but in fact it is Charlie Bucket's. In Tim Burton's, the title is the original, but feels the opposite, more about Wonka than Charlie. The story, same in both films, is about an eccentric chocolate maker who had closed his factory for years after spy tried to get in and steal world famous chocolate recipes. Then one day it is announced that Wonka, the chocolate maker is opening his doors to just 5 lucky people who find the 5 golden tickets hidden in his chocolate bars. The winners are from Europe and America. Five very different children, four awful, one good. They are taken on a tour of the factory and one by one fall foul and end up, some of them, disfigured, after not listening to Wonka. The only one to not disobey is Charlie Bucket who is rewarded by Wonka who gives him the factory. In truth he held the competition to find a heir to his life's work. He invites Charlie and his family to live in the factory and live happy ever after. The 1971 classic, as it is indeed a classic, follows this story roughly to a tee. The film is also a musical but actually only has a few songs, most of which are sung by the mysterious Oompa Loompas, the workers in the factory. Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka is just perfect. As comedic actor, he portrays the humerous moments with a sinister edge, which in my opinion is what the roles calls for. The cast of children and parents are good, but don't leave a last effect. Once they meet their demise, they are easy to forget. You tend to remember how they disappeared but that is all. Unfortunately, the film does show its age and feels dated. The typical 70's family film feel is there, which is why I think it would an excellent edition to the afternoon movie. But as an adaptation, its lacks depth past Wonka's exciting character.

Tim Burton's version of Road Dahl's beloved classic, made in 2005, was rather more in keeping with the story. For example Veruca Salt, the little brat from London does in fact end up in the nut room, unlike the 70's films where she is deemed a 'bad egg' in the chocolate egg room. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a brighter, colourful film but still manages to show the darker side the story. The Oompa Loompas sign their songs, but the characters point out that the songs sound rehearsed, as if they predicted these events would happen. It feels as if Willy Wonka planned the demise of the children, setting them up. He knows Augustus is greedy, he would be first to go, he knows that Violet could not resist new gum, Veruca is spolit and would demand something impossible and finally he knows that Mike is just a mean child who would try anything related to technology. The last point is thin but a valid point. The dark side and purpose to Willy Wonka is better played out in the Tim Burton's film but there are still several aspects of the film that don't quite fit together. Mostly the added storyline about Wonka's past. That was added nonsense.

The question of where the factory is in the world both infuriates me and puzzles me. All the inhabitants are obviously British, they even dress like Brits. They may sound off, but you can tell if characters are British by their clothes. So, all British, but they have American words coming out of their mouths, like candy and dollars. It's not candy its CHOCOLATE!! I don't understand why Tim Burton did this. Is this film set in alternative future where America invaded the UK? Or is the factory and the town actually in USA and the entire inhabitants just emigrated together to live there? The only American living in this town is the woman in the shop where Charlie finds the ticket and she offers him $500. That is literally it.

Apart from the shiny and new look to Tim Burton's film, the film does have an excellent cast. All the children play their parts perfectly, even the well matched parents. Of course Charlie Bucket is sickly sweet and Grandpa Joe is an enthusiastic old man, but there is one role I didn't take to and he really was a deal breaker. Johnny Depp just wasn't Willy Wonka. He was crazy character and no doubt played on the dark side of the story very well, but he just too weird and I could not empathise with him over anything.

Verdict: Even though Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was a classic, it deterred from its source material. It was great film but this round goes to Charlie and Chocolate Factory. Overlooking its 'is this in UK or US' debate, it felt like the book had come to life.

However, if I was to decide on the deal breaking character and make this decision, the outcome is different.

Wonka vs Wonka

Even though I've read that Gene Wilder's Wonka looked like a serial killer and you wouldn't leave your children alone with him, he still wins this Wonka off. In my opinion, Johnny Depp's Wonka was the serial killer with father issues and should in no way be allowed to see the light of day. Wilder's Wonka was how I imagined a Roald Dahl character to be. Wonka has a heart and is eccentric but he has a sinister side, like all Dahl creations.

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