I didn't even know about Wes Anderson's new feature till about a month ago when I stumbled across an article about it while 'Googling' something that was quite unrelated I'm sure. So, once again, I'm late to the party. But really, who wants to be on time or worse, early?
Normally, I wouldn't even bother mentioning it seeing as how, by now, everyone must be sick of hearing about it already. But after watching the trailer, gazing longingly at production photos and reading a barge of negative comments on various sites I felt I had to deposit my two cents.
First, it looks, for lack of a better word, fantastic. The visuals are fresh and lush texture-wise. As someone in the middle of assembling puppets out of household objects, I loved the use of cotton especially. I run hot and cold with Wes Anderson's films (as does most of the public) so I really won't comment on his interpretation of the story till I see it. As a child, though, and still even now I have a love and respect for Dahl as a writer of surprisingly 'mature' children's books.
I guess that's why it surprised me to find so many negative comments towards the film's trailer. Yes, yes, yes... the voice-acting is decidedly stiff. But have you ever seen a Wes Anderson film? Life Aquatic is filled with dead-pan deliveries and what might be considered stiff performances, particularly when comparied to the latest Speilberg schtick (all that screaming must get pretty tiring).
I guess that's what really irks me - the idea that there are people out there that think this would have been better in the hands of Dreamworks or Pixar, with a keyboard and mouse in place of an exacto or tie-down.
And I'll be honest, I didn't like Coraline. There. I said it. Trust me, I wanted to like Coraline. I even chose to see it over My Bloody Valentine in 3D. If given another chance, guess which one I would have gone to see now?
I know that Henry Selick was attached to Fantastic Mr. Fox before Mark Gustafson took over for him. I also think Selick operates one of the best stop-motion houses and delivers some of the finest puppet animation this side of the Atlantic (and I would be extremely honored and star-struck to work for him). But we should all know thanks to the likes of Jan Svankmejer, Fred Mogubgub, Oskar Fischinger and even those pesky Hubleys that not all animation needs to be the smooth realism we get from 'Beauty & the Beast' (a film I really don't like).
I guess that's why comments like this-
"I was really hoping this would be another stop-motion triumph. Unfortunately, it looks more like Robot Chicken than Coraline."
- kinda upset me. It's sad to think that a film can be deamed as 'good' or 'bad' based solely on whether or not it was shot on ones. Sure, my jaw dropped MANY times at the slick movements Selick's team was able to glean from those puppets. I love smooth, fluent animation as much as the next graduate holding a BFA in Animation.
But sometimes that slickness can sacrifice character and, more importantly, charm. And to me, Fantastic Mr. Fox looks to be brimming with both. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'm right. In the end, it's all about taking a risk. Some of the greatest films stir up controversy while some of the weakest are adored by millions.