This Minute at Runco
Posted December 27, 2009 by Pippa Edelen
To jumpstart getting in the holiday spirit, my hubby and I dropped $31 at our local multiplex to check out the IMAX 3D Disney remake of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, starting Jim Carrey. Having played Mrs. Cratchit in Hallinan Elementary’s riveting showcase of A Christmas Carol in 5th grade, I was familiar with the story and had both read Dickens’ original and seen a range of versions, being particularly inclined to the version featuring Scrooge McDuck. Given the various iterations I felt fairly well prepared for what to expect in terms of the undead and blatant lesson of “do unto others;” however, I substantially underestimated how frightening this tale can be. As someone who startles easily, and hates to be startled, my neighbors in the theater were tickled the first time I screamed, rather loud, when something popped out of the screen accompanied by 30,000 watts of sound. They were understandably less charmed the third time I did this. And the fourth. And the fifth. The story holds nothing back in terms of death, ghosts, the afterlife and should come with a precursor this interpretation can be flat-out freaky. I cannot tell you how many kids I saw hiding or crying as they left the theater, so take note that this is definitely a movie only appropriate for audiences with double-digit ages. For the younger Christmas movie enthusiasts, I highly recommend the aforementioned tale featuring animated relatives of Donald Duck.
My previous exposure to big-screen 3D started with Jaws 3 in the 1983 and, most recently, the hastily-added 14 minutes to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. As someone who is prone to vertigo and miserably suffered through Beowolf with only my sour Skittles as comfort, I was delighted with the realism and execution of A Christmas Carol and give an enthusiastic thumbs-up to the incredible advancement in the 3D technology and application. Particularly impressive are the scenes where Scrooge and various ghosts are flying over London and the details and texture in the otherwise ordinary, everyday things, like the wrought-iron fence and the characters’ skin. The animation still lacks a small detail of realism, particularly in the characters’ eyes, which fail to sparkle and light in a way that simulates lifelike. But the people are so well animated that you can, upon being introduced to new characters, guess the actor voicing them instantly, particularly Colin Firth as Scrooge’s nephew who plays a well-wishing opposite to his cold uncle. You’ll find yourself trying to guess each actor as we meet new guests and ghosts.
My favorite scene in A Christmas Carol, which does a particularly good convincing job using 3D to suspend disbelief, shows Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present watching a Christmas party through the floor of Scrooge’s vast London manse. I was impressed by the visually-stunning semi-opaque wood that is blends to be both the floor of the mansion and the ceiling of the party. Watch for the grains of wood disappearing into nothing and for the pressure caused by Scrooge’s hands on the ceiling. Its small details and effects like this that make this picture particularly enchanting and rather whimsical, spookfest-aside. At the end of this scene, Scrooge looks up at the ghost and, if shown the image as a still frame, in 3D, next to a photograph of the character, I would have been hard pressed to guess the animation from the actor. The talent is simply terribly impressive and represents a true advancement because instead of merely forcing a illness-inducing gimmick into an otherwise enjoyable movie, A Christmas Carol and the storytelling is instead enhanced by 3D.
The story is timeless, but the application of the latest 3D animation technology, as well as the affect from really talented actors, including my personal favorite, Gary Oldman, make for a stunning holiday movie that may be the first movie I’ve seen that’s worth the $15.50 for admission.
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