Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmarathon Day 13: A Christmas Carol (2009)

Robert Zemeckis is one of the most popular and successful filmmakers of all time. He's an Oscar winner, a pioneer in the world of moviemaking, and has created some of the most beloved and iconic films of all time. At the turn of the century, however, he seemingly made a decision that I still haven't quite come to terms with: He stopped filming traditional movies and exclusively started making fully animated 3D productions.

His decision wasn't all that surprising, I suppose, since he has always been a forward thinking filmmaker who pushed technology and special effects, always creating something new that nobody had ever seen before. He gave us Roger Rabbit perfectly existing in the real world, Marty McFly seamlessly acting against himself in Back to the Future 2, and had Forrest Gump appearing with John F Kennedy, John Lennon, and a legless Gary Senise. So it makes sense that traditional filmmaking didn't offer him the same freedom to move his camera and create amazing visuals the way full computer generated imagery does, but it still makes me sad because even though his latest ventures have been visually stunning, they all seem to lack the charm and magic of a film like Back to the Future or Forrest Gump.

But as far as adaptations of A Christmas Carol goes (and lord knows I've been watching them all), this is one of the best I've ever seen. It's not my favorite, of course, and I have reached the point where the story no longer really touches me on any kind of emotional level, if only because all of the adaptations are so similar (as well they should be, of course, since they are faithful to the source material). But I could see how this version could become the definitive one for the current generation. It really was quite good.

Visually, of course, it's amazing. We haven't quite crawled out of the uncanny valley yet, so most of the human characters still look a bit weird and stiff and waxen, but the animation is superb and the locations and sets are outstanding. This film more than any other version of A Christmas Carol really showcases a fully believable and living view of Victorian England. The scenes where Scrooge and the spirits are flying over London are gorgeous and thrilling, even if they never seem as beautiful or majestic as the similar scenes from the hand drawn Peter Pan film.

This version of the story is also the most scary I've seen since the Disney version featuring Scrooge McDuck. That movie used to scare the crap out of me, and I can imagine that this film would scare the crap out of even today's most jaded children. The entire sequence of the Christmas Yet to Come is super creepy and unsettling, as well it should be, of course. It has to be scary enough to convince us that Scrooge will change his ways and turn good. I would definitely give away all of my money after the vision of Scrooge's afterlife as shown in this movie.

The voice work in this Zemeckis productions are also always great, since he assembles amazing casts. Jim Carrey's performance is a real tour de force. He performs as Scrooge (in all of his different ages) as well as all of the spirits that appear through the film. The rest of the cast is played by Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, and Bob Hoskins, all of whom are great. But Carrey really stole the show here, giving each character completely different voices and mannerisms. Even if you hate Jim Carrey, he is pretty much invisible in every role he plays here.

So... I liked it. If you already know and love other versions of A Christmas Carol, this one isn't so amazing that I recommend you run out and see it. But if you have kids who don't know the story, this is as good a version as any to share with them, even if it does get a bit scary toward the end.

1 comment:

Justin Garrett Blum said...

This was an interesting film. My wife and I went to see this in the theater, since (I know this will seem difficult to believe) she'd never seen any of the adaptations of A Christmas Carol before. But mostly, she just thought it looked like a neat 3-D film. Unfortunately, I made the stupid mistake of taking her to a non-3-D theater, so we were both disappointed.

That said, it was all right. But I'm a bigger fan of the films that take liberties with the story, like the Scrooge McDuck one you mention, or even Scrooged.