Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Boxtrolls

In late September, a movie called The Boxtrolls was released, adapting a novel by Alan Snow called “Here Be Monsters!”, Volume I of The Ratbridge Chronicles. Since I had read the book when I was younger, this movie interested me and I wanted to see how it handled the source material. Recently, I was able to see it via a free screening at Paramount Pictures, and, while it does differ from the source, I found it to not only be better than I thought, but also enjoyable in its own right.

A Boxtroll is seen carrying off a small child into a sewer in the town Cheesebridge, which leads an exterminator named Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) to bring it to the attention of Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris). A curfew is soon established on the town, with a deal made that if Snatcher can eliminate every Boxtroll, he will become a member of the White Hats, who control the town (yet care more about cheese than anything else). Meanwhile underground, the Boxtroll from earlier, Fish (Dee Bradley Baker), is looking for the child from earlier, a boy wearing a box that has adopted the name Eggs. Over the years, as the Boxtrolls scavenge for junk around the town at night, Fish raises Eggs as though he were a fellow Boxtroll, though by the time Eggs (Isaac Hempston-Wright) has become a young boy, the Boxtroll population has been dwindling due to capture by Snatcher.

One thing I can give praise for right away is the animation quality. Though not often seen nowadays, the movie is rendered using stop-motion, and the end result is glorious. It’s evident that the care was taken with the animation and time and effort was spent creating elaborately detailed sets and (very expressive) character models. There is a small amount of CGI used here and there, mainly for things like fire, smoke, or gas, but even then it’s amazing what was accomplished with the medium and the end result is a sight to behold.

A group of the titular Boxtrolls.
In front from left: Shoe, Fish, Bucket

Another point of praise is the voice cast, which includes Nick Frost and Simon Pegg alongside names like Steve Blum, Dee Bradley Baker, Ben Kingsley, and Tracy Morgan. While these voice actors, some of whom I was surprised (in a good way) to see in the credits, did really well in their parts, with Blum and Baker being very well-seasoned in that line of work, I felt that the characters were very well-cast, including Isaac Hempton-Wright as Eggs and Elle Fanning as Winnie Portley-Rind. While the Boxtrolls themselves don’t have much in the way of dialogue, let alone full words, the voice actors that played them did really well in giving them full emotional range.

I also enjoyed the music of the movie, and not just the background tracks. There are at least one or two points in the movie where a character sings (though it’s not a musical and the songs are relevant to the plot), and they are not only sung well, but also a little catchy. A song that plays during the credits is “The Boxtrolls Song”, notably written by Eric Idle of Monty Python fame, which is well-executed and fits in with the tone of the movie.

As it’s been a while since I’ve read the original book, I can’t really go into much detail about what makes the movie different from the source. However, I do remember enough to say that, between both versions, cheese is very important to the story, which becomes evident the more you watch it (also, “Ratbridge” became “Cheesebridge”, but I didn’t really think that detail was worth getting hung up over). While I’m aware that the two stories are not identical, the differences give the movie a separate identity, plus it tells an enjoyable story regardless.

It's a good read anyway.

Also, while it isn’t anything like with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I would advise you to stay during the credits. There is an additional scene that you don’t want to miss and must be seen to be believed.

Whether you’ve read the book or not, The Boxtrolls is a very fun movie. The animation is spectacular, the voice acting is amazing, and its music is well-orchestrated. If you’ve read the “Here Be Monsters!” novel by Alan Snow, this movie may be worth checking out, so long as you know going in that’s it’s not a direct translation. If you haven’t read the book, I would still recommend this movie, especially if you have children and/or are a fan of the stop-motion medium. Even with the differences in story, The Boxtrolls stands up on its own merits and is an excellent display of animation that shouldn’t be missed.

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