It may not be the most conventional way to begin a review but I think in this case a disclaimer is needed.
Within the I’m With Geek family, I am known as the stop-motion animation girl. I do adore the medium and think it is beyond magical. It is also fair to admit that when it comes to the stop-motion studio Laika, I am something of a fan girl. This is not to say that I cannot watch a Laika stop-motion film without that bias. Baring all that in mind I went in to the inventive studios latest offering, The Boxtrolls, excited but with an open mind. Thankfully the studio that gave us Coraline and ParaNorman have once again delivered a brilliant feature film filled with humour, warmth, charm and naturally, top notch animation.
Laika may still be a baby studio but what a run they have had. The studio, that was the result of a merger between Nike founder Phil Knight and Will Vinton Studios, have made quite a name for themselves. Beginning with an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline back in 2009. The studio then produced an originally written feature film with ParaNorman in 2012. Their third offering, The Boxtrolls, is an adaptation of Alan Snow’s novel ‘Here Be Monsters!
The film has a brilliant opening, beginning when the Boxtroll’s mysteriously acquire Eggs. We see the boy grow as the Boxtroll’s begin to disappear. This is beautifully demonstrated by the image of the decreasing box pile the creatures make at night for Eggs to sleep upon. When the boy reaches ten he begins to question the world around him. Immediately, the audience are drawn to the young lead and his loving, if strange family. The central dynamic is between Eggs and his closest troll carer Fish, (each Boxtroll named after their boxes original inhabited item). This grows as Fish is captured and Eggs meets Winnie, a girl from the upper world. The film brilliantly keeps this pace as its characters face mounting peril at the hands of Snatcher. Yet the film is not all doom and gloom.
In terms of animation, stop-motion is a notoriously pain staking form. An hour and a half feature, with a full crew, crafting models and sets, will take between two to three years. Every single frame of movement must be timed perfectly and slowly moved to produce eventual movement. For backgrounds and sets the usual idea would be to avoid mass detail to save on manpower and costs. But not our Laika.
The studio have taken stop-motion to new levels with their craftsmanship. Every single scene and setting has been lavished with texture and detail, you just have to look at the town setting. Each house is given the tinniest of detail individual to itself. Alone this may seem insignificant but when this level of care is put on every single structure the result is truly breath taking.
The films diverse voice cast is led by Game of Thrones star Isaac Hemptead-Wright. Wright mangers to give the young Eggs an awkward charm that grows as the boy tries to save his family. Ben Kingsley plays the films villain, (as per usual) and is able to infuse Snatcher with a slimy and cruel edge befitting a great baddie. His voice also works for the characters interesting alter ego, (has to be seen to be believed). Elle Fanning’s British accent in Maleficent may have been hard on the ears but here its improved leaps and bounds. The character may seem at first spoiled and unsympathetic but Fanning is able to soften the strange girl as the film progresses.
In no ways a conventional family film but a gem none the less. Beautiful, funning, strange and charming Laika have delivered a film much like its two previous efforts. With great humour, lively characters and it’s most lush animation yet. For all us fangirling over Laika’s work, this is a must. For those who have not had the pleasure, prepare to be amazed.
The Boxtrolls is out September 12th