October 29, 2013

Review: Coraline (Book vs. Movie)

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Age Group: Childrens/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Horror
Release Date:August 29, 2006
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Book Description:

Coraline's often wondered what's behind the locked door in the drawing room. It reveals only a brick wall when she finally opens it, but when she tries again later, a passageway mysteriously appears. Coraline is surprised to find a flat decorated exactly like her own, but strangely different. 

And when she finds her "other" parents in this alternate world, they are much more interesting despite their creepy black button eyes. When they make it clear, however, that they want to make her theirs forever, Coraline begins a nightmarish game to rescue her real parents and three children imprisoned in a mirror. With only a bored-through stone and an aloof cat to help, Coraline confronts this harrowing task of escaping these monstrous creatures.

Rating: PG
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: February 6, 2009
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I'm not going to lie; I actually saw the movie "Coraline" before I read the book. Normally this isn't my way of doing things, but that's just how it happened. I hadn't even heard of the story before the movie was released, so I went out to the theater without doing the usual pre-reading I like to do before seeing a movie that's based on a book.

And as long as we're telling the truth, I'll let you know that the movie gave me nightmares. The people had buttons for eyes, people! That's creepy! CREEPY! Maybe it was especially bad for me because I have this weird phobia about anything happening to eyes, so the idea of sewing buttons onto them didn't sit well with my subconscious. Or my conscious, for that matter.

Neil Gaiman, who wrote the book, said himself that his story is seen one of two ways. It was written as a children's story, but in true Gaiman fashion, it involved themes of horror some might protest in a work made for children. However, Gaiman has said that although adults read "Coraline" as a creepy horror tale, children just see it as an adventure story.

For those of you who don't know, "Coraline" is an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ story with a more sinister twist. Her ‘rabbit hole’ is a small door in her new house's drawing room that leads to a world that's much like her own, except for slight variations. It's like a dream world – how when you dream of the things you're around every day, they're the same, but different.

Coraline's ‘other’ world is a place where the adults actually pay attention to her, feed her the food she actually likes (instead of one of her real dad's ‘recipes’), and want to play with and love her. Oh yeah, and they all have scary button eyes and want to put buttons over her eyes too. Um, I'd be out of there no matter how much food they gave me (and I'm a big advocate of people giving me free food, so that says a lot).

There are differences between the book and movie, but for the most part, the story stays the same. From a story telling point of view, I'm going to lean more toward preferring the book. Movie Coraline seems older to me than the young girl in the book, who was described as being small for her age, and the movie version also seemed to have a bit of an attitude toward everyone else in her world.

While the adults in the books were more indifferent toward Coraline's existence, when she was bored and wanted to play, the movie mother seemed downright hostile to her daughter, who gives the attitude right back. This made Coraline's journey to the ‘other’ world with her ‘Other Mother’ even more appealing to her because the Other Mother was not only attentive to Coraline's needs, but she was actually pleasant to her.

Another reason why I prefer the story in the book? The movie seemed to take away the best part of Coraline's character. Throughout the book she learns quickly that this other world isn't all that she hoped it would be, and uses her brain to figure out how to get out of there and end the horror for good. Movie Coraline, on the other hand, seemed to get the solution to getting out of the other world handed to her, and it made it seem to easy for me.

However, if you're wondering which one is creepier, I'd have to say the movie takes that title. Actually seeing all of this happen and the Other Mother's transformation from looking like Coraline's real mother to this weird scary spider lady thing that catches the girl in its web, creates more chills than just reading about the creature who's also referred to as the "Beldam.” The visual effects of the movie are actually quite stunning (even if the button eyes are terrifying. Seriously, I wasn't here for button eyes, guys), and it remains the only movie that I actually enjoyed watching in 3D.

So if you're looking for something to occupy your time this Halloween, check out "Coraline.” The book is a fun, easy read at only 162 pages, and the movie is a good time if you're already over all of the slasher movies that flood the airwaves this time of year. Just remember though – if you crawl through a suspicious door to a world where some lady asks you to sew buttons over your eyes, you just need to run away. Run fast, run far.

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Author Bio:

Neil Gaiman writes books for readers of all ages, including the following collections and picture books for young readers: ‘M is for Magic’ (2007); ‘Interworld’ (2007), co-authored with Michael Reaves; ‘The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish’ (1997); ‘The Wolves in the Walls’ (2003); the Greenaway-shortlisted ‘Crazy Hair’ (2009), illustrated by Dave McKean; ‘The Dangerous Alphabet’ (2008), illustrated by Gris Grimly; ‘Blueberry Girl’ (2009); and ‘Instructions’ (2010), illustrated by Charles Vess.

Gaiman’s books are genre works that refuse to remain true to their genres. Gothic horror was out of fashion in the early 1990s when Gaiman started work on ‘Coraline’ (2002).  Originally considered too frightening for children, ‘Coraline’ went on to win the British Science Fiction Award, the Hugo, the Nebula, the Bram Stoker, and the American Elizabeth Burr/Worzalla award. ‘Odd and the Frost Giants’, originally written for 2009’s World Book Day, has gone on to receive worldwide critical acclaim.

‘The Wolves in the Walls’ was made into an opera by the Scottish National Theatre in 2006, and ‘Coraline’ was adapted as a musical by Stephin Merritt in 2009.

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