Over the weekend I finally saw The Boxtrolls months after I saw and met Mark Shapiro during his presentation of behind the scenes of Laika at the New York International Children's Film Festival. Like many others I have been following the making of The Boxtrolls for quite some time and you better believe that it has succeeded my expectations (which were already pretty high) all while giving me some critical things to think about. Before I divulge into those things I want to review it and there will definitely be spoilers in this post.
One thing I really appreciated about The Boxtrolls was that the story was constantly moving forward. Never once was I given the opportunity to think “Why is this here? Why are they showing me this?” The story was very well paced so that you were never experiencing lulls or felt as if you needed a beat to collect yourself.
In essence the story is a case of the alleged good versus the alleged evil. The character development was great from Eggs, Winnie, Snatcher and even the boxtrolls themselves. Everyone’s arc unfolded over lapping one another so as I previously said you didn’t really feel any idle moments.
Laika really did an amazing job in creating the universe for this movie. There is an INSANE amount of attention to detail. I often found myself just analyzing the backgrounds and the little gems created to make it more true to life feeling.
The henchman and his villains are very comparable to Scar and the hyenas from The Lion King. One bad guy, three sidekicks, two pretty smart ones that begin to question their contributions and a really dunce one. Also the overall demeanor of Snatcher is similar to Scar's and now that I think about it more I can even include Dr. Facilier into the comparassion.
The thing that really caught my attention was Laika’s continued flirtation with the sexuality of their characters. Remember in Paranorman, Mitch was gay? In The Botrolls Snatcher dresses in drag and is known as Madame Frou Frou. Many men, such as, Lord Portley-Rind are attracted to her (Madame Frou Frou). It may even be enough to say that Lord Portley-Rind is the most fond of her. There are scenes of him being jealous, other men slapping her butt and being really flirtatious with her. The part that really tickled me was towards the end of the film, Snatcher reveals that he is Madame Frou Frou and Lord Portley-Rind says something along the lines of him regretting “so many things”.
In 2012 Sam Fell (Co-Director of Paranorman) said in an interview with Diane Anderson-Minshall “It’s strange, isn’t it, to have films that are just so far behind the current times. Mainstream entertainment is often five years behind the reality, and that’s a strange thing.” I completely agree with him. Laika is without a doubt a trailblazing studio for their execution, delivery and their handling of characters. When Fell says that mainstream entertainment is “five years behind current times” I wonder when will we start having more diverse casts of human characters more frequently in feature length animations? Hasn't 5 years come and gone already?
Yes, I know I’m making this about race, “when it isn't”. In light of what has been happening in Ferguson and just Black Americans throughout the history of this country, how can I watch a movie about a group of characters that is misunderstood, that lives in fear of being harmed or killed by seemingly the “good guys” and not draw a correlation? A movie about a group of characters that have had false stories made up about them to instill fear and rage against them by others, that are criminalized and live in poor conditions due to these false stories, how can we find compassion for these “monsters” and not for our fellow Americans whose lives parallel with the boxtrolls?
With Laika being the trailblazing studio that it is, it would be wonderful to see more human characters with wider ranges of complexions in their upcoming features. They have proven to be capable of having zombies, ghosts, monsters, boxtrolls and more, I know this is something they can achieve with ease!