Don't bother with this movie unless you watch it in a 3D theater. Though I'm sure you might enjoy it the normal way, the 3D in this film is done so well that I was continually blown away. As a recently converted 3D film fan, I can now appreciate the power of the added depth and perception of a 3D film. Forget all the gimmicks from TV shows that ran back in the 90's where one would have to pick up 3D glasses from the local convenient store to participate. These shows were all about shoving large sandwiches, tools, and 2x4s toward the camera for cheap thrills (Thanks Home Improvement).
The way space is implemented into the 3D visuals of Coraline is nothing short but exemplary. While watching, I wanted to call out to the boy down in front who's head was blocking the screen until I realized that the boy was a character in the film. He wasn't blocking my view of the movie; he was the view of the movie. The 3D perception creates a more immersive experience by entering a space that was previously reserved for the audience and objects that actually exist. Not only do the images dance and move about in the space around the theater room, but they lurch into your personal space, and stretch far deep "into the screen" as well. All of the wonderful film techniques of using different lenses to invoke feelings like aloofness/distacne are now more literal than ever. In one scene Coraline can be scene at a window. With the camera outside and pulled back, the 3D effect pushs Coraline far away from the audience view. In other words, Coraline wasn't set apart from the audience's perspective because she looked that way on a flat screen. She was set apart because she appeared to be at a distance beyond your outstretched hand and then some.
The stop motion of the film is beyond fantastic. Total, Coraline runs about 1 hour and 50 minutes. Toward the end, the film begins to drag story wise. This surprised me. Usually, the expensive and painstaking craft of stop motion results in shorter film productions. The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride are only 76 minutes. And James and the Giant Peach is 79 minutes. It really felt like the animators of Coraline didn't mind doing all the extra work. Fortunately, all of it is the most fantastic stop motion I have ever seen. A true joy to behold.
My only and biggest problem with Coraline is the story/adaptation to the screenplay. Frankly, it's sloppy and careless. Perhaps carefree is a more apt description. In any case, whether creating a film or a video game, the product is best when all of the elements work together to form a cohesive whole. Coraline contains many story elements (characters, scenes, objects, lines, and actions) that do very little or nothing at all for the main story. Throughout the film I kept saying things like "what was that for?" "that was random" and "well, that didn't come together at all." Because everything felt so poorly put together, a lot of the creepy, creative, and mysterious elements of the film come across as just being plot holes or odd distractions. With all of these issues, I still highly recommend watching Coraline in 3D. In a storytelling medium, one must understand the craft and mechanics of a story. It's a shame that so much top quality art, visual, and animation work was put into a lackluster narrative experience.
The final thing I want to say about Coraline is that the story seemed to be an adaptation to a video game that doesn't exist. What I mean by this is that many of the elements and mechanics of Coraline parallel the challenges, characters, visuals, and actions of video games.
- Light World vs. Dark World: Zelda: A Link To The Past. The Other Mother and all of the doppelganger characters in the magical other world in Coraline make up the "dark world."
- The Talking Dead: Phantom Hourglass/Majors Mask. Though it is took late to save the little kids that were eaten by the witch, Coraline quests to recover their real eyes and set them free.
- 3 Items to Collect before the real challenge begins: In the film, the real eyes of the kids are represented by 3 small round objects that Coraline must collect. Zelda games often challenge players to collect 3 items to progress, yet doing so is never the ultimate challenge. OOT = 3 gems. ALTTP = 3 pendants.
- The Moon Timer: Majora's Mask. As Coraline attempts to recover the 3 eyes in time, the moon in the sky indicates how much time is left before the "dark" world comes to an end.
- The Lens of Truth: Zelda: Ocarina of Time/Majora' Mask. Coraline receives a triangular jade gem that allows her to see any real/true object in the witch's world. She uses it to locate the 3 eyes.
- The crumbling sky image: Twilight Princess. The way the dark, crack flecks of the sky appear when the witch's world was falling apart looks very similar to the Twilight Princess sky portals.
- The NPCs: From Miss Spink, Miss Forcible, to Mr. Bobinsky, many of the side characters in this film play minor roles to the central story line of Coraline. While this is nothing out of the ordinary, in this case these character's lines and action seem to intentionally guide Coraline through the conflicts and challenges of the film. Like the hints that many Zelda characters gives to point the player in the right direction, some of the help from these Coraline characters seemed out of the blue and almost forced. A good example is the green gem that Spink and Forcible give to Coraline.
- Finding the Key: The small door that opens the path into the other world is hidden and locked away at the beginning of the film. Toward the middle, Coraline must find the key somewhere in the house in order to journey back into the other world. The lock and key is a classic video game structure especially for the Zelda series.