Wonka for the Win

Wonka for the Win

While chocolate never seems to go stale, over-done, repetitive plots certainly do. I feared Paul King’s Wonka would be guilty of just that when I first turned on my television, unable to muster any enthusiasm for the film after viewing multiple failed updates to my childhood favorites. But nearly two hours later, as the end-credits rolled, my cheeks ached from grinning. While paying homage to its predecessors through various Easter eggs, the movie is unique both in plot and characters, making it stand out in today’s remake craze. 

Most every aspect of the production is high quality, including the visuals, writing, and characters. Whether viewing Wonka’s saturated candy shop, or the winding, dingy corridors of Mrs. Scrubitt’s inn, the audience is transported into an immersive fairytale world. Each setting is visually distinct, keeping even the most inattentive of viewers on their toes. Additionally, Wonka engages both children and adults, featuring a range of goofy jokes. The storyline is surprisingly complex for a film of its genre, featuring multiple subplots among its colorful cast of characters, including a zookeeper’s romance and a chocolate cartel. Nestled among all of the action, there are plenty of nods to the film’s predecessors, such as the use of the original Oompa Loompa design, and a chocolate waterfall in the protagonist’s candy factory. Ultimately, Wonka is a thrilling viewing experience, just as wacky as its titular character.

However, while the movie is generous in its references to its source material, and captures much of the original’s charm, it retains its own distinct identity. Many modern updates and retellings have flopped, relying upon the nostalgia of older viewers to compensate for sub-par plots. They often lack a unique touch, rendering them soulless imitations of their predecessors, or differ too dramatically, such as Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and Brenda Chapman’s Come Away. However, Wonka offers further depth to the original’s story, acting as both an independent film and a believable addition to the franchise. While the plot and setting are entirely different from the 70s edition, the film  manages to capture the older film’s feeling due to Timothy’s Chalamet’s goofy performance, coupled with sci-fi machinery and saturated visuals. The film is entertaining in its own right, capturing audiences’ hearts without exploiting its source material’s legacy.

Considering Hollywood’s derivative practice of recycling old films into remakes, Wonka is what modern updates should aim for. In a world dictated by “cancel culture,” originality is dying. Directors and other artists, terrified of upsetting viewers, cling to worn storylines as a safe alternative to creating something unique. But these works often lack the heart of their originals. Wonka is exceptional in that it builds upon its source material, rather than trying to compete with or alter the story. The storyline is entirely new, and thus much more engaging than a weak retelling. 

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