Burton’s Willy Wonka Exceeded My Expectations

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I’m a big fan of the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder. I still think it is one of the most unique portrayals of a character in a fantasy movie ever. Having said that, I was skeptical about the re-make.

I’m also a big Tim Burton fan, so I figured it would be fun to watch no matter how well the adaptation played, but I have to say it was far better than I ever expected and, in some ways, better than the original.

First off, cinematically speaking, the movie was stunning, in typical Burton fashion. The sets were, in some ways, strikingly similar to the original film, but the movie’s heart was closer to the book. The Wonka TV set was almost identical to the original movie, but the landscape of the factory and the town around it were pure Burton.

The Oompa Loompas were decidedly less creepy this go-round, but Johnny Depp was just as odd if not odder than Gene Wilder’s Wonka character.

The story is what made this one most comparable. There were certain plot points dropped from the original and the back story of how Will Wonka came to be was added – really a nice touch that helped to make this story more about Wonka than about Charlie in some respects.

As with all Burton films, the movie leaned heavily upon fairy tale qualities and, of course, gave way to the quality seen so often in Burton’s work – redemption, complete with the classic redemtive snow at the end…with a bit of a twist.

The character portrayals in this film were, in some ways, more superficial than the first film, but the acting wasn’t nearly as over the top. We also meet Charlie’s father, absent in the first film. Helena Bonham Carter, playing Charlie’s mom, is the only well-known actress in a role from the original film outside of Depp’s Wonka, but Christopher Lee gives a wonderful performance as Wilbur Wonka, Willy’s dentist father and the source of Wonka’s flashbacks – another element brought into this film from the book.

There have been quite a few good movies this summer – Star Wars III, Batman Begins, Wedding Crashers – and most of them have been re-makes or takes on previous films. This easily ranks among the best films of the summer and was well worth the price of admission.

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