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Wonka versus Wonka

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Maggie's grandparents took her to the circus today, so Shelly and I decided to take in a movie. Since I heard that "Cinderella Man" was basically "Seabiscuit" with Russell Crowe playing the part of the horse, we decided to do the new Willy Wonka movie.

Since the original and this one were so similar, I decided to do a head-to-head comparison. Note that spoilers are below, but if you saw the original or read the book, there's nothing you don't know already.

First, the kids.

Charlie - A tie. The original Charlie was more expressive but sometimes seemed out of place. Also he was going through puberty at the time, which made for some odd scenes where his voice was changing (listen to the "I've got a golden ticket" song versus the flying-to-the-ceiling scene for the most obvious example). The new kid was servicable, but fairly bland. Neither Charlie set me on fire.

Veruca Salt - The original by a wide margin. The original was so shrill and annoying that you wished you could strangle her. The "I want the world" musical number was icing on the cake. The new one was a brat, but she wasn't nearly as much fun as the original.

Violet - The new one by a bit. The original blueberry scene had a nice creepiness to it that made it better than the new computer-generated one, but the character itself is more fun in the new movie than the old one. In fact, she's a much better brat than Veruca. Also, the new Violet reminds me a bit of Maggie, both in appearance and action.

Augustus - The new one. Both are the most minor of the kids (as they're wiped out almost immediately). The new one's fatter and more gluttinous and is, therefore, better.

Mike Teevee - A tie. Honestly, neither character is very interesting. The new one plays violent video games while the old one watched violent cowboy movies. Neither made me care all that much.

Charlie's Mom (and Dad) - A tie. Charlie's got a dad in this one, but the parents are basically props in both. Mom's got a song in the original, but it's the weakest song in the movie.

Grandpa - Again, a tie. Jack Albertson in the original is charming and sings, but the new grandpa's got his charms too. Both actors were very well-chosen.

Charlie's other grandparents - The new ones. The other three grandparents in the original were wallpaper. Charlie's other grandpa in this one was a lot of fun. I wanted to see the other grahdpa tour the factory too, as I wanted to see his cynical take on the lunacy around him.

Willy Wonka - The original. Gene Wilder's character was obviously intelligent and calculating and tossed out literary references by the dozen with a twinkle in his eye. Johnny Depp's Wonka seemed to be modeled after Michael Jackson, but they couldn't get Jackson to do the part, so they went with Depp and asked him to pretend to be Jackson. The "I'm uncomfortable around people" joke was repeated to death.

The sets - The new ones except for the boat scene. While the "edible room" was perfect and the chocolate waterful was great, the original boat scene with the screen flashing "did I just see what I thought I saw" images while Wonka nervously sings had the creepy effect that was intended. The new boat scene was just noisy and uninvolving.

The glass elevator - the new one. It was actually part of the movie here. The old one just showed it for the last three minutes.

The Oompa Loompas - the new ones. It was obviously the same actor cut-n-pasted a hundred times, and it got to be rather funny. They were better than the half-dozen guys from the original.

The musical numbers - the originals. While the the musical numbers in the new movie were often very funny, the lyrics were often incomprehensible. I don't think people will be humming any of the songs from the new movie 30 years from now.

The plot - the original. While the plots were 90% the same, the remaining 10% belonged to the original. The differences in both involved showing how Charlie was the most kind-hearted of all boys. In the original, they had the competing candy-maker make spies of the kids, just to have him end up being a plant for Wonka. In the new one, there's a whole subplot about Wonka's dad feeding Wonka's hatred of parents followed by Charlie showing him that parents were useful.

I'm reminded of an interview with Alfred Hitchcock in which he explains the concept of the McGuffin. The McGuffin is the gizmo that motivates the actions of the movie. Hitchcock's point was that while the McGuffin is important to set up the motivations, it is not important in itself and should be ignored after it's done its job. His example was the movie "Notorious", which had a cache of uranium hidden in crates of wine bottles. When the producer thought the idea of smuggling uranium was dumb, Hitchcock quickly changed 'em to industrial diamonds, saying that it didn't matter what they were because once they established the plot they'd never be referred to again.

The writer of the original understood this. Once the Slugworth bit was established, he was out of the picture (literally and figuratively). The new writer made repeated flashbacks to Wonka's boring childhood.

Moviemaking tip. If you're doing a scene in a giant magical chocolate factory, don't make repeated flashbacks to a dentist's office. Nobody will care and they'll beg the movie to return to the main plot.

Yeah I think too hard about story, but it does help when designing a game. Knowing *when* to introduce and not introduce narrative in a story is often as important as *what* is said. Alfred Hitchcock knew that, and he could crank out stories that are as compelling today as they were 50 years ago. There's no wasted material or "boy, he's a bit too in love with his footage here" that I get from watching, say, a Tarantino film.

So for me, it's not just a matter of "which one did I like better" but "what made one better than the other". There's not an obvious winner in this case, but the fact that they both had parts that were superior to the other made the comparison more interesting.
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IMO Tarintino is a bit up himself and he is not Gods gift to directing like he thinks he is. Personally I cannot stand the Kill Bill series in any way.

Alfred Hitchcock is the true genius of movie directing. Didn't he come up with infamous 'Zoom in on someone while background zooms away' shot?

Anyway, yea, I do tend to agree. I havn't seen Charlie and Choco Factory (the new one) yet but can't wait to see The Depp in all his beauty. But this idea of flash backs is a bit poor and I can see how it does slow down if not detract from the main story telling. You made a few good points. Is it kinda 'Matrix Reloaded' style copy and pasting of the oompa Loompas? [smile]

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Watch the scene in "Jackie Brown" where Robert DeNiro and Bridgette Fonda get stoned and talk about absolutely nothing for what seems like 20 minutes.

After that, watch the scene in "Pulp Fiction" where Bruce Willis' girlfriend goes on and on (and on and on and on) about blueberry pancakes.

I'm not saying Tarantino's a bad director. To the contrary, I like his movies. He just makes the mistake of falling in love with certain sequences even if they're detrimental to the narrative as a whole. Ditto for Tim Burton.

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Anyway, yea, I do tend to agree. I havn't seen Charlie and Choco Factory (the new one) yet but can't wait to see The Depp in all his beauty. But this idea of flash backs is a bit poor and I can see how it does slow down if not detract from the main story telling. You made a few good points. Is it kinda 'Matrix Reloaded' style copy and pasting of the oompa Loompas?
Yeah, there's one actor playing all the oompa-loompas, even the females. They have a lot of fun with the fact that they're all exactly the same.

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