Instead of seeing my 49ers disappoint me again, I decided to see the newest way to tell an old story...and to finally get rid of 15 dollars in Imax Cash.
In some ways, Robert Zemeckis structured his version of A Christmas Carol as a 3-D ride not unlike those you'd see at Universal Studios. I got that feeling when I saw the camera whoosh around Virtual London in 1843, and Scrooge whooshing around his past...and an unpleasant look at his future. The only different is your seat didn't move, but you felt like it was.
The real question...is motion-capture the best way to retell a classic Christmas story? Maybe not, but you have to take steps to make it unforgettable, and measure up to previous ways to tell the story, whether it's Alistair Sim in the gold standard 1951 version, or Mr. Magoo in the '60's or George C. Scott's version on TV, or the one-man version that Patrick Stewart pulls off.
On that mission, Zemeckis pull this off in spades. If you want to see the definition of no Christmas spirit at all, it's how they desgined Mr. Scrooge. Right from the start, we see he has no heart or compassion. It does right now to the character detail: angry face, sharp nose, stooped posture. It's just incredible. I thought the design of Bob Cratchit was too Lord of the Rings-ish, but I did like how they drew Fred and Belle, Scrooge's lost love. They were also faithful to the original source, even bringing passages to life. Again, I thought it got out of hand in a couple of spots, namely the Christmas part at Fezziwig's (his wife's dancing, specifically), and how Scrooge gets chased all over London in his "future".
As for the spirits, Zemeckis reminds us about one fact about this classic...it's a ghost story. Therefore, we must have scares. The way they bring in Marley will really get you off your seat. Still, it's necessary in the major renovation of Scrooge's soul. They depict the Ghost of Christmas Past as an Irish flame, and Christmas Present as a jolly Scotsman.
There were parts of the movie that did remind me of other versions. The movie starts with the book itself, and its words, just like the 1951 version. There was also a nod to the 1970 musical, namely when Scrooge sees what could happen if he doesn't repent.
Given that, how does the star, Jim Carrey, do?
Well, it's too bad there's no Academy Award for voiceover work. The Golden Globes had its own version for Robin Williams for Aladdin, but it was probably to get him over there. After this, though, the Oscars should consider creating a new category, especially when animated films are getting more attention.
Carrey owns this movie. He is just incredible as Scrooge, Marley and the Spirits. He gives each one a unique character all there own. I was also impressed with the scene where Scrooge and Belle break up. You can see how Scrooge's voice and attitude change from the happy clerk at Fezziwig's to the hard-hearted man we know in the story. He's going to be as well-known as Sim, Magoo or Stewart every holiday season.
I saw this movie at the Esquire Imax for 15 bucks, which really isn't that bad if you compare it to a regular showing at a Cinemark or AMC movieplex. I would think it would cost at least nine bucks for the first showing, including 3-D fee, or 13 dollars for an evening showing. That's for a regular screen. If you want to see it close-up, Imax is your best bet.
I would not be surprised if this version of A Christmas Carol snags some Oscar nominations in a couple of months, or even battle Up and Coraline for Best Animated Movie. In fact, with a slew of movies this year, we may finally have five nominees in 2010.
Before the feature, they had a 3-D trailer for Avatar. It's basically the same as we've seen on TV or the internet. Somehow, I was under-whelmed by the special-effects of the trailer. It could also be due to the story: a soldier in a wheelchair uses an avatar to infiltrate the Navi so they can be "dealt with" in order to get a rare mineral. Some people have compared this to the plot in Ferngully: The Last Rainforest. They may be right, but I suspect people curious to know what the ultimate 3-D experience would be like will come see Avatar. The plot isn't going to excite them, even when the avatar-ed soldier decides not to go along with the plan after all. According to the trailer I saw, that guy will get some help.
Still, I am more inclines to see some plain 2-D movies like Precious, The Road, Up In The Air, and An Education. I'll also be looking forward to seeing the rest of Dollhouse, which seems to be the Road to Epitaph One these days.