Who wouldn't fear the prospect of becoming a shoddy-looking ghost-child?

the movie = a videogame?

Is a movie being like a videogame necessarily a bad thing?

The ghost kids don’t fit with the rest of Coraline’s aesthetic. Considering all the other wonderfully creative objects that were somewhat ghostlike in the film (the fog was made by laying down a bunch of cotton and CG-manipulating it to make it look like it was flowing, the tea kettle whistle looked like a vibrating tuft of fluff, etc.), you’d think the modelers would’ve flexed their creativity a little more for the ghost kids. Maybe they could’ve tried frosted glass or clear gelatinous silicone with a skeletal structure inside, or…I don’t know, but however they made the ghost kids, they appeared flat and poor-effected. Their return, as gold-sprayed angels, was likewise visually subpar. Perhaps worse than their uninspired appearance were the deficient performances of their voice actors. With the possible exception of the girl voicing Wybie’s great-aunt (Aankha Neal), they were not believable. Finally, and worst of all—they put a crimp in the plot.

The “game” with the Other mother (Coraline’s search for the three souls of the ghost kids) did improve upon the book, but perhaps Selick should have applied a more fundamental rethinking to this aspect of the novel. It felt too lateral to the film’s plot. The game—defeating a sequence of three “bosses” with the assistance of a magic implement (the stone) to retrieve three tokens to advance to the final level, in which the final boss transforms into its most formidable manifestation—was a videogame.

I’m skeptical that Gaiman intended this association when he wrote Coraline. More likely, he was shooting for some kind of archetypal quest structure that would simultaneously reveal the Other mother’s “wonders” as horrors. But to me, the reference feels strong nonetheless and it begs the question: is there something wrong with a film being videogame-like? That depends on whether you think classic RPG structure expresses some deeper truth—whether “adventure” can be distilled into a replicable formula where interaction becomes as simplistic as defeating opponents and acquiring objects—without a loss of meaning. I’m skeptical.

To be fair though, Coraline doesn’t attain the three souls by virtue of physical strength. Her Other father wrests his hand free of the glove controlling him to give her the first, she uses intelligence and bravery to acquire the second (provoking the bat-terriers to attack the Spink/Forcible taffy-creature), and then Coraline breaks down, believing she’s lost the game, until the cat retrieves the third.

There are other aspects of the film reminiscent of videogames which do seem to express a deeper meaning though, such as when Coraline and the cat walk around the “small world,” traversing the blank, unformed virtual space.

Freeing the souls of the three ghost kids was a nice thing for Coraline to do, it just felt unfortunately arbitrary and contrived to have their souls imprisoned in three little balls and particularly grating whenever they would talk to her through the balls: “Bless you miss!” “Hurry girl, time is running out!” et cetera. There’s got to be a less corny way to save lost souls. Knowing that the Other mother wouldn’t have allowed Coraline to leave, regardless of who won the game, adds a nice dose of realism to her villainy at least.

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