Sunday, 28 October 2012

Super Sunday: The Nightmare Before Christmas

Jack and Sally get together. For some reason.
Super Sunday
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Written between 26 and 27 October 2012

Four years. That's how long The Nightmare Before Christmas took to make. All of the characters and sets had to be sculpted out of clay, each character having many, many different mouldings for different movements, expressions and scenarios. They then of course all had to be painted and designed according to a long series of preliminary sketches and storyboards. Then, each frame of film had to be set-up and photographed seperately, with one second of film for every 24 frames. Add in the editing, voice-acting work, and issues elsewhere, and you've got a film that is not only a labour of love, but a work worthy of being considered many people's magnus opuses. I say this now so that even if I do happen to say anything bad about the film in the positive paragraphs, I haven't ignored the effort that went into it.
     Jack Skellington, the spindly-armed king of Halloweentown, has one hell of a midlife crisis and decides that this Halloween thing is getting a bit old. While wandering through the forest, he stumbles into a portal to another Holiday-land, sending him to the cheery realm of Christmastown. The idea of Christmas entices Jack to do it for himself, against the advice of his belittled friend Sally, and after getting the whole town involved he delivers a warped and strange Christmas to a world that doesn't want it. The experience teaches Jack to love Halloween again, and thus he returns and saves Santa Claus from the evil Oogie Boogie in order to save Christmas.
     Like I said on Tuesday, one of the problems with a film with such a deliberately "spooky" aesthetic is that they lose something by being so unreal. Jack is fundamentally in search of something different, a change from his regular routine. But unlike most midlife-crises, it's a very destructive way of doing things that nearly gets quite a few people killed or seriously injured. We're supposed to sympathise with Jack because he's awesome and he's tired of life and who hasn't been tired of life at some point? But I guess what I'm saying is, that, like another Jack from a TV series that I recently decided I should pick up again next year, I don't get why there's such a big buzz around him.
Oogie Boogie.
     At the same time, though, the incredibly over-simplistic plotting also leads to ridiculously black-and-white characterisations. I mean, Jack, Sally and perhaps Oogie Boogie are the only characters in this damn thing who have a character with more than one beat. It's frustrating to the point of anger that so much effort went into this film and yet they never once thought to do something more with this momentous project than tell a silly little Christmas/Halloween story. It could have been about something, but at the end it settled on, "be happy with what you've got, no matter what your situation - any attempt to change will fail spectacularly". Very family friendly. Oh, and Sally and Jack get together at the end despite having ridiculously little chemistry in the film prior. For that extra hack value.
     I don't want to hate on Nightmare or Corpse Bride, but they could have been so much better, and the issue is not in the aesthetic but in the damn script. If either of these films could have cobbled together better scripts, then maybe they'd be more worthwhile, but as they stand they're filled with unfortunately two-dimensional characters despite their deliberately three-dimensional construction. I'm sorry, but that's the way it is. And, if you don't like that, ignore this post and wait for the Misfits one that's coming around 11:30.

Thanks.

P.S. That ends this run of Super Sundays. I might do a December one for Christmassy films, but ciao until then.
P.S.S Fans of this film, if you're reading this, I'm sorry, don't kill me.

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