Thursday, 8 December 2016

Review: The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Nightmare Before Christmas (3D)
Cert: PG / 73 mins / Dir. Henry Selick / Trailer

Two things I always seem to forget with The Nightmare Before Christmas, 1) that it's a Disney production and 2) that Tim Burton's name may be attached*1, but he didn't direct it. While I've watched the film many times over the years, it's not one I break out routinely each holiday season, and this was the first time I'd seen it in a cinema. And because my local was presenting a one-off showing of the 3D version rather than a weekly-run*2, it was absolutely packed, which always adds a new element to a familiar home-viewing movie.

And while I never forget how much I enjoy this movie, I'm always pleasantly surprised by the amount of textured detail in the models. Years of over-merchandising and pop-culture appropriation seem to have persuaded my memory that the film is closer to 2D cell-animation somehow, even though I know it isn't. ILM's 3D conversion is absolutely gorgeous, offsetting and complementing the deliberately framey nature of the character movement. The (original) camerawork is stunning too, with cinematographer Pete Kozachik treating the film as an expansive live-action feature.

And in addition to the numerous visual homages (I noticed a reference to Hammer's The Creeping Flesh for the first time, this evening), there are also some bizarre moments of cross-reference foreshadowing on display, too. It's the film that keeps on giving, whether it knows it or not…

Echoes of the past; Visions of the future - The Creeping Flesh, Suicide Squad, Star Wars The Clone Wars…

I'd also never noticed before how much Chris Sarandon's dialogue-track for Jack Skellington riffs on Gene Kelly's in Singin' In The Rain in terms of delivery and timing. But the thing which perhaps stood out most tonight was Danny Elfman's music. Far stronger and more fluid than his regular film-scoring work, The Nightmare Before Christmas's structure, recurring themes and motifs make it more than just 'a musical', to the point of almost being a re-engineered operetta. Musically, the film tells a far more nuanced story than the fast narrative pacing allows, because when you watch the movie from a more orchestral point of view, it just underlines how damn short the whole thing is. To the point where the ending feels both rushed and tacked on. The central characters have just about enough room to grow, but any themes the story was trying to develop are lost in the edit. I suppose it's too much to ask for an extended cut from Burton or even re-imagined version from Laika Studios at this point, so probably best to enjoy the film for everything it brings rather than those it couldn't quite manage ;)

Serious question, though: If the icon-bearing trees we see in the film's introduction/overture are the doorway into each magical realm, how does Jack come across the circular clearing during a lengthy walk instead of emerging from the door of the Halloween-tree?

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Well, The Tim Burton Films.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
If you can, yes.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
It does.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
That's entirely possible.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
I shouldn't imagine so.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
I didn't hear one.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: This film features the voices of the droid RX-24 and Fode, the Podrace announcer.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 A bit like "Lee Daniels' The Butler" or "Peter Kay's Car Share", yes. *looks into camera*

*2 The only screening of the film was at 20:15 too, meaning there were almost no little-ones present. Of course for a 1993 movie, this is borderline nostalgia-programming now anyway, but we still got pre-trailer ads for some new type of colouring pencil, Play-Doh, Haribo and… a Black Sabbath tour-promo. So at least one advertiser knew who was going to be in the room tonight.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

No comments:

Post a Comment