Christmas comes early!
A Christmas Carol, the movie, by Robert Zemeckis is not the first time a movie based on the original story by Charles Dickens from 19th Century, but definitely a giant step forward in creative visualization. Using 3D motion capture technology, that the Director had also used in Polar Express. But, don't be disheartened, if you did not like the earlier one. This is definitely much better in terms of photo-realism.
I had not seen the earlier movie versions, so can't compare how true they were to the original story. But, this one had more or less been loyal to Mr. Dickens story. One problem with the movie is...parts of the movie were quite dark and terrifying, if I may say to watch on big screen. So, while the story is meant for children, it could be a difficult movie for children to watch in theaters. However, in festive times, with some help from accompanying parents or guardian or for those, who missed it in their childhood, this may not be a bad movie to brush up their Dickens.
The scenes of Victoria London with the sweeping vistas of every nook and corner, from insides to dark alleys to marketplace...from the opening shot are wonderfully captured. Everything looks real and its sort of mesmerizing. Though some scenes are built in a way, it seems...Disney is keen to sell a park ride in its theme park.
All the faces are expressive, and in the 3D version, the streets and buildings look so real, you feel, you could touch them. Jim Carrey plays Ebenezer, with droopy wrinkled flesh and cold fearful eyes, with scolding sharpness and deep melancholy. His journey unfolds with kinda classicism thats enhanced only by Zemeckis' visual flamboyance. The ghost of Marley, for instance, a figure of true terror. After this grisly bit of paranormal activity, we can see that Scrooge's redemption has already begun.
A Christmas Carol, is almost like a case of psychotherapy, where the ghosts pose as shrinks who reveal to Scrooge the dynamic forces that shaped him. Carrey and Gary Oldman are used in multiple roles, but this does not in anyway compromise or sacrifice any emotion. The spirits are built in a kind of spooky majesty where the Ghost of Christmas Past is actually a disembodied head of flame. When Scrooge's home turns into a roving hovercraft with an invisible floor that allows him to stare at his life, the sci-fi-ish conceit doesn't distance us. It mirrors the dislocation of a man who is now dreaming with his eyes wide open.
The shadows and architectural details are painterly, the use of 3-D is intelligent rather than aggressive. Only the extras have a mannequin stiffness, even as Scrooge himself is rendered down to the last wattle and mole. The shot’s not dramatically necessary - on one level, Zemeckis and his gnomes at ImageMovers Digital are just showing off - and yet it is, since it hints at the vast emotional and temporal spaces through which Scrooge will soon soar.
Carrey gives a solid performance in both voice and body movement, almost till the end, after Scrooge has had his change of heart. Sometimes, the script being close to the original Victorian speech patterns of Dickens may prove bit of a challenge to audiences (especially in India).
Scrooge, Bob Cratchit and Scrooge’s ebullient nephew Fred all look like some ancestors or relatives of Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman and Colin Firth respectively and all very real. However, the less important the characters, the less detail has gone into them. Is it deliberate? So, that the main characters stand out? I doubt so, then...even in Dickens' world, Zemeckis can't be God!