When the idea came to remake Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, many wondered why would this need to be done? What in the world could be accomplished that Willy hadn’t previously done? Naturally that never stops Hollywood from making a film now does it? Thankfully, Warner Brothers decided to hire a feasible director in the visionary Tim Burton to helm this remake. Having made such previous visual masterpieces including The Nightmare Before Christmas, audiences knew they were in for quite the …reat when the film would come out. However, when the film came out, I kept on hearing that the film was very odd and almost too scary. Johnny Deep’s portrayal of Wonka was odd and confusing to audience. Still, this didn’t stop the film from making some extreme bank at the box office. Having never seen the film, I figured I’d give it a shot on the newly released HD-DVD version.
While the original Wonka focused on a more cheerful story, this version tells of a story 15 years before where Wonka, one day, simply closed his factory, laying off all of his employees in the process. One of the employees happened to be Grandpa Joe (David Kelly), grandpa to Charlie (Freddie Highmore). Grandpa revives old memories and let’s us know that Wonka was a delightful man who simply loved his business and all his workers provided everything he could for them. Charlie asks his grandpa how could chocolate still be being made if all the workers went home? That is one of the mysteries of the factory, a place Grandpa Joe wishes he could see one more time. Well, as many of you know, this is the part of the film where Wonka’s Oompa-Loompa’s go out into the night posting signs about a contest Wonka is holding. He has placed five golden tickets inside five of his chocolate bars. The five lucky souls he can obtain these tickets will win a tour of the factory lead by Wonka himself with one of the five winning a special prize. As we all know, Charlie does obtain the last ticket, but not without some suspense (particularly the candy bar sequence his parents get him for his birthday).
Well, the day arrives as the five lucky children get a tour of the factory and, for the first time in over 15 years, a glimpse at the man himself. When audiences do get a glimpse of Wonka for the first time, apparently, many thought Depp was trying to channel a Michael Jackson type part of his soul as his portrayal of Wonka had numerous Jacksonesque qualities to it – from the clothing, makeup, smile, and cane. I couldn’t really see this resemblance, quite possibly because I was so into his portrayal of this figure that I didn’t even think it was Depp in some scenes (reminded me a lot of Fox’s portrayal of Ray Charles). Speaking of acting here, I’ll add in that a majority of the actors in this film are very well portrayed, especially Freddie Highmore’s Charlie character. Despite his life being possibly poor and horrible (the house he lives in is missing parts of the roof, he lives with four of his grandparents, he eats cabbage soup with cabbage on the side every night), yet none of this seems to bother him, possibly due to the innocence of a child.
Ah, Director Tim Burton, can you do no wrong? Burton has added a new adaptation to Ronald Dahl’s novel giving the world of not only Wonka’s factory, but the surrounding world as well, such a colorful, detailed feel, that one can’t help but be convinced and immersed into what they’re watching. Sure I’ll admit that the choice of Depp as Wonka was a bit odd at first, but Depp, like all of his roles, is so convincing in everything he chooses, that the audience feels like they have won a secretive sixth golden ticket, courtesy of Mr. Depp and Mr. Burton. When comparing this to the original, I’m sure the original will still remain the children’s favorite while this will adhere more toward adult’s due to the somewhat darker tones. Still, I enjoyed this Wonka, not necessarily for the story, but for the acting and impressive visuals. And all this leaves a rather (pun intended) sweet taste in one’s mouth.
Presented in a 1080p, VC1 Encoded, 2:35:1 widescreen aspect ratio, Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is quite the masterpiece boasting extremely rich colors and detail that can only help to bring out the lavish, albeit mysterious, world of Wonka and his factory.
The biggest positive about this disc, naturally, are the boasting colors that help to paint the film’s world. The various palettes, from reds, blacks, purples, browns, greens, blues, all look fabulous. While some of the colors in the initial peak at Wonka’s world, particularly the bright greens, seemed a bit too bright, I can’t really see this as a huge detraction. The level of detail is exquisite here as the depth, especially the sequence where we first see the Oompa-Loompa’s in Wonka’s world, was amazing. The chocolate waterfall has a gooey, rich look to it almost looking, well, tasty enough to want a sample.
I absolutely loved the varying sets Burton used here with one of the favorites being Wonka’s initial world. As I mentioned, detail is rich and powerful only helping to create a child’s dream in front of us. I suppose a possible issue with these worlds created is that, Wonka in particular, looks so white and pale (again possibly channeling an inner Michael Jackson) that one may think Wonka looks, well, fake and robotic showing little emotion. Director Burton, I’m sure, had a sense of purpose behind making Wonka look this way. One could assume this was to add to the extreme fairytale world Wonka has created fulfilling not only a child’s dream, but also his dream as a child.
Still, when comparing this side to side with the SD-DVD release, one can easily notice the higher level of detail, and the sharper picture. While not as impressive as his recently released Corpse Bride, this Wonka still earns high marks for bringing the odd world to our home.
The standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 is available here in English with an optional Dolby TrueHD audio track for the music only. Speaking of this Dolby TrueHD audio track, many early adopters of this format, myself included, are simply curious as to why Warner Brothers would do something like this. Yes, Danny Elfman’s score to the film is excellent, but why not include this TrueHD with the film as well?
Anyhow, the provided Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 is still pretty good. Dialogue is clean and clear never causing one to have to reach for the remote even with all the wacky noises occurring in the background. Speaking of the background, the film’s use of surrounds was perfect. Little things like the various machines making the candy, the doors swinging open in Tokyo, the little footsteps of the Loompa’s, to the flashing of the news reporters camera’s, all sounded perfect.
While the obvious biggest disappointment here is the lack of the TrueHD option for the film itself, Wonka is still quite the fine audio experience. All the little sound effects are brought alive in a refreshing manner. I must add that I wouldn’t be surprised if WB re-releasing this film when a higher-spaced HD disc works perfectly.
- Fantastic Mr. Dahl: This 18 minute feature, which was produced by the BBC (you know it will be good then), focuses on various interviews with Dahl’s children and his widow about his various writings. This is easily the most interesting available feature here that, unfortunately, runs way too short.
- Making the Mix: This featurette is divided into five separate features that go over various parts of the film’s making. The first up, Chocolate Dreams, runs about 7 minutes and has Burton share his vision of the story with his. Different Faces, Different Flavors, runs about 10 minutes and shows us the film’s rather young cast that was used. Sweet Sounds, runs around 7 minutes and shows us the process Danny Elfman used to produce the score for the film. Designer Chocolate, runs around 9 minutes and shows us the various production designs that were used. Finally, Under the Wrapper, runs around 7 minutes and shows us the film’s various effects.
- Attack of the Squirrels: This 10 minutes features gives us a behind-the-scenes look into the film’s effects.
- Becoming Oompa-Loompa: This 7 minutes feature shows how actor Deep Roy, who portrayed the Oompa Loompa’s, transformed himself into these little men.
- Interactive Games: Here we get a few different interactive games mostly for the kids. The kids can search for candy, create candy and learn the Oompa-Loompa dance.
- IME – In-Movie Experience: Another HD exclusive feature here! Boasting the, obviously, most interesting, visual-wise at least, IME, Wonka producers, cast members and Director Burton give us tons of information from little factoids to production ideas, casting and music. Worth a watch if you’re a fan of the film. While this was highly interesting, I found the problem similar to other IME features. There are numerous times when no one is speaking, which can get kind of annoyed sometimes.
While this Wonka may not be for everyone, those who decide to watch it will find themselves surprised by the film, as I was. Boasting better video and audio, with a some interesting, albeit short, features, this HD-DVD package of Wonka comes recommended simply as this package is still cheaper than the 2-Disc edition that was released on standard DVD.
Special Features List
- Fantastic Mr. Dahl
- Making the Mix
- Attack of the Squirrels
- Becoming Oompa-Loompa
- Interactive Games
- IME – In-Movie Experience