Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Book to Movie(s): Charlie, Chocolate Factories, Great Glass Elevators, Willy Wonka, & White Rabbits

I have been reading Dahl's Charlie & the Chocolate Factory and its sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, to my daughter at nap time. As she is not quite two yet, this is more for me than it is for her. I remember reading both of them when I was younger, well, at least I remember reading The Chocolate Factory and I remember rushing to the library and picking up the sequel. (I was so dismayed that the first book left us shooting upward in the Great Glass Elevator.) As I read The Great Glass Elevator to my daughter, I realize I don't remember any of it. Unlike it's predecessor, which is children's fantasy, this is more children's sci-fi... As I had yet to discover Madeleine L'Engle, who made science fiction accessible to me, I have a feeling I didn't finish The Great Glass Elevator. Even Dahl's trademark silliness is a little over the top in this one. If you're looking for an honest-to-goodness sequel about chocolate, don't bother with The Great Glass Elevator. If you want to read about Charlie and his family (grandparents included, bed and all) floating around in the Great Glass Elevator in outer space being attacked by Vermicious Knids then proceed at full steam!

The Movies:
Although Dahl wrote the original draft of the screenplay that became Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory it was heavily revised. He was so upset with the movie (especially the frightening images used in the boat sequence) that he refused to let any further works go to Hollywood. Posthumously, his works are becoming movies through permission of his estate.

Personally, I think both movies have merit, though both added their own plot devices to give it more onscreen depth: Willy Wonka has the Slugworth storyline; Charlie added the parental issues for Willy Wonka (how very Tim Burton). Both stick closely to the book in some ways, although Charlie sticks the closest by far, right down to the Oompa Loompa's songs being Dahl's (truncated) lyrics (SIDE NOTE: Dahl had serious issues with television, but he wrote his book in the sixties, consider what was on...) and the story of Prince Pondicherry. As I read the dialogue, I think Gene Wilder's character in Willy Wonka is truer to what Dahl wrote (although, obviously, that has a lot to do with the writing and directing). There are also a lot of obscure references, like the photo used for the Paraguayan man who makes the fake ticket is actually that of Hitler's secretary, and the adults (with the exception of Wonka) are always wrong (like when Mrs. Teavee incorrectly announces the code to the musical lock is Rachmaninoff instead of Mozart). Still, I agree with Dahl that the images in the paddle boat scene are disturbing and unnecessary. I also find some of the songs (particularly "Cheer Up Charlie") to be complete drags on the pacing.

Both movies take creative license. Sometimes I feel like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, especially for a good old fashioned Oompa Loompa, but slightly more often, I think, I prefer Tim Burton's Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, perhaps that's because my sense of humor tends to lend itself more to the twisted... What do you think (of the movies, not my twistedness)?

On another note I'm really looking forward to Burton's interpretation of Alice in Wonderland. I say 'interpretation', because apparently it's the story of Alice returning to Wonderland when she's nineteen. (Check out the trailer here.)


Julie November 4, 2009 at 9:36 AM  

I much much much prefer Willy Wonka. :) I think Charlie is way too dark. I did enjoy Freddie Highmore as Charlie though. Frankly, I'm not a big Tim Burton fan..I think he's demented.

My 4 year old daughter was entranced by Willy Wonka last year when it was on tv. I wonder if she'll watch it again this year.

A Bookshelf Monstrosity November 4, 2009 at 10:00 AM  

I definitely prefer the Willie Wonka version. Gene Wilder's performance was out of this world. I usually love Depp's performances but his rendition of Wonka was just down right creepy. Not in a good creepy way, but in a slightly pedophiliac way. Is pedophiliac a word?
Although, like you say, the first movie might not follow Dahl's novel quite as faithfully, I feel that overall it more successfully captures the spirit of Dahl's writing.

"We are the musicmakers, and we are the dreamers of dreams."

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