Review: A Christmas Carol

So I don’t need to explain the story of A Christmas Carol, because surely everybody knows the immortal Charles Dickens tale by now? It is the definitive story to be adapted into film for Christmas time, and as such it has been given many iterations over the decades, so many in fact that people have their own favourites. Often the one they grew up with. I have mine, and it is in this review!

What makes the story timeless is that everybody, everybody can relate and sympathise with the characters involved in greater or lesser degrees. Whether you take Christmas with all of its religious significance, or as a holiday with tonnes of shopping and being given stuff, everyone ultimately appreciates it as a coming together of friends and family. At least I would hope they still do, and the story of A Christmas Carol always reminds me of what’s important (in almost all the appearances it takes) and leaves me with a warm feeling inside.
I also enjoy A Christmas Carol stories because of its surprisingly dark and psychological twists and turns it throws at its main character. It isn’t burdened with a deliberate twee or gaudy Christmassy feel, but it always ends with happy, joyful relief.

Now I have probably said everything that needs to be said about the films already! But I find myself with three celluloid apparitions: one from the past, one not exactly from the present but I love it, and one that represents some of cinemas futuristic endevours!

A Christmas Carol (1984)

(Oh ho, I happen to get a film from the year I was born too!)

I have been duped for the second time in renting a film that was actually a television production (the last one was Snow White: A Tale of Terror) and so this will not feature in my final year summary. But I feel inclined to include it as I found this rendition surprisingly well made for television.

George C. Scott gives a powerful performance as Ebenezer Scrooge, set in the classic Victorian settings, as he is set upon by three spirits that are intent on changing his foul, cold and uncompromising nature.

I should have guessed this was a television production upon the reveal of Marley’s spirit, Scrooge’s late business partner, whose face is merely transposed on top of a door knocker. However the film’s spirits provide to be effective and exciting to watch, especially the Spirits of Present and Future (mind you, I always like the Spirits of Christmas Yet to Come)

The soundtrack is a little too obvious for my liking and things can feel a little twee at times, this could be me being uncompromising about Christmas myself! It does make it have a definitive Christmas feel, and really Scott’s performance is the thing to watch, especially in the more subtle moments.

I found it a nice watch, and the dialogue and treatment felt accurate to the story. I would recommend it as an all-rounder Christmas movie.

Additional Marshmallows: I was amused to see David Warner as Bob Cratchit. I knew I recognised him… as Ed Dillinger / Sark from TRON! Ah, fun facts.

Scrooged (1988)

Yep, Scrooged is surely my favourite Christmas film, despite how it may be finally dating now.
From the man who directed, deep breath: The Goonies, Superman, Superman 2, The Omen (1976), Ladyhawke and the Lethal Weapon series, this film is a riot of good cheer, black comedy and an completely energized Bill Murray.

Murray plays Frank Cross in this modern take on the Christmas Carol story. Frank is a television executive whose cynical and selfishness summons three spirits of Christmas to show him the errors of his ways and make him a better person.
The modern adaptation has levered in a romantic plot for the younger Cross character, but it is a warm and well played relationship and only adds to his losses and his redemption. In fact, the character of Claire is one of the strongest here.

The supporting cast are all energetic and manic with humour. From the unfortunate subordinate that Frank fires, who loses everything and proceeds to hunt Frank down with a shotgun, to the spirits themselves, a train-smoking New York cabby, a bruising, punching fairy and a goblin infested specter of Death, are all incredibly imaginative. The film barrels along with heaps of humour, sincere moments and just enough bleak reality to tie it all together.

Scrooged has to have one of the silliest, wildest and happiest finales I have seen, and it always makes me feel good. All of this energy pours off Bill Murray in waves, while the script and direction is so snappy and quick that it all becomes infectiously fun. If you haven’t seen Scrooged, I highly recommend it.
(you just have to forgive those funny people in the late 80s who become super-excited over the “state of the art VCR”.)



A Christmas Carol 2D (2011)

This appears to be the definition of what I can love and what I can hate.
So Disney tries its hand on adapting A Christmas Carol, with Robert Zemeckis directing another of his 3D “photo realistic” animated films. I say “photo realistic”… because it isn’t. Zemeckis, what happened to your brain?

Yes, I am going to bang on about the animation because it slams into your face with the full force of the uncanny valley. The quality of animation varies: Scrooge is finely detailed, yet side-characters look positively cartoonish. This uncanny feeling is exaggerated with Jim Carrey voicing Scrooge and all of the Spirits of Christmas, throwing voices and crazy accents for each of them. I had to adapt to Scrooge sounding like The Emperor from Star Wars
The 3D… is hideous. It is that blatant 3D that ruins watching a film like a normal person (in 2D) Scrooge’s lesson in humanity is punctuated with over the top transitional scenes where the Spirits show off 3D effects by flying him over towns and countrysides. They even throw poor Scrooge into the upper atmosphere! Now… that’s unique, granted, but when I see Scrooge wailing through the clouds in his night clothes, I just wonder what Charles Dickens would have said!
It sounds like I hated it. But that’s because everything I dislike is in my face all the time. However, I was impressed by the dedication to the original material; the language is virtually unchanged and traditional, many of the stories visual cues are exaggerated lovingly, the Marley knocker, and some of the Spirit of Christmas Future for example. The soundtrack is also really nice as it is almost exclusively classic Christmas Carols, making the film very festive indeed. The Spirit of Christmas Future has some great use of light and shadow, and the climax is hauntingly grim (the transition from Present to Future was amazing).

However the film’s climax was shot to pieces when it has to follow a ghastly… ghastly action sequence where the Spirit of Future miniaturizes Scrooge and chases him through London. Clearly designed by Disney to wake up the restless children of modern society. Ugh.

So yeah, it is mostly a miss. What will people say about these 3D films in ten years? This already looks old and it was released last year! I will say it has plenty of redeeming features, but it would have been great to see this in live action. Less Christmas Spirit and more… Dated 3D Tech Demo.

Additional Marshmallows: And… someone please tell me how that fat woman spun around so fast in midair during a dance that her head was blurring? I understand the Spirits causing otherworldly things to happen… but… that was “real life”, and nothing that zany happens again. WHY was it in there?? Why was there a fat-lady-spinning-top sequence?? What did I just witness!?

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