Friday, September 17, 2010

Willy vs. Charlie

As is only befitting for the novel on which they were based, both Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) are highly imaginative and visual movies. The first is very much a product of its time while the later of its stylistic director. That is not where the differences end.

Willy Wonka does a great job of presenting the book’s two main themes: rotten parenting and the wonders of imagination. In this later department, the film does a wonderfully sweet job. The magic and beauty of the factory, the wonders that poor Charlie and his granddad are introduced too… it is a joy to experience them along the way. Imagination and creativity are presented as treasures to value, develop and work hard to develop. It is a shame that this quality is not as valued and never has been as much as it should. The other kids in the film take imagination for granted. People today seem to think that it is a waste of time.

Tim Burton’s vision is—as always—a lot darker in tone. That being said, it is still beautiful. Ironically, Burton’s version stays a lot closer to the book itself. The most annoying aspect of the 1971 version is that the story is changed in ways that make Charlie less of a heroic character. In Burton’s version his is truer to the character in the book. Willy Wonka is not. Deep’s portrayal may be interesting and well crafted, but he makes the character anything but appealing. The back-story that the film adds does nothing to help.

So, even though it is less faithful to the book, the fans of that book probably favor the older version to the newer. Anybody would do well to read the book before seeing either.

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