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A Christmas Carol in 3-D

This weekend, my wife and I went to watch Disney’s new 3-D movie, A Christmas Carol.

A warning for anyone who has not seen the movie or read the novel: Spoilers abound below.

As I watched the movie, I couldn’t help but notice how much the movie tied into the novel:  In fact, Robert Zemeckis seemed to try hard to remind movie watchers that the movie was inspired by the book (not the other way around).

In fact, the movie even starts out with a book flipping to the first page:

Marley was dead, to begin with.

From the first scene, it was also clear that Zemeckis wanted to do something different with the movie than had been done before (besides making it in 3-D animation).  In the beginning, Zemeckis shows how Scrooge is a stingy miser–giving even one gold piece from his heavy purse is painful, and giving a second is as if he were slicing into his own hand.

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

In fact, separating from each coin is so painful that he removes the two coins weighing down his recently deceased friend’s eyes.

This was a brilliant method of conveying both Scrooge’s miserly ways and the fact that he cared for nothing more than gaining an extra coin in his stack, all in a very short time frame.

As a screenplay, Zemeckis did a good job of using the elements that have been shown in films before, while also showing off some of the new technologies that we can do with today’s technology.

I loved the way that Zemeckis used the aging of wood and brick to show time passing (without moving the camera).

While watching the movie in 3-D, I noticed something else that struck me:  transitions between places, which is typically shortened in movies, were actually lengthened in this movie.  The journey, which is really what books are about, becomes much more important in the 3-D form.

Part of me wonders if, in a decade or so, when 3-D movies are more common, traveling between places will shorten again–as developers are concerned less about trying something technically challenging and more on creating deeper stories.

Perhaps my favorite part of the movie was the way Zemeckis chose to handle fear:  rather than focusing on something “scary” and trying to make people jump, he chose instead to focus on the feelings Scrooge was experiencing–showing a trembling lip, widened eyes, breathing quickly.  Though this was a movie, the idea is sound–to truly communicate that something is scary, show it through your character’s reaction, not through trying to add blood and guts.

Still, I thought this was a good retelling of the old story.  In a lot of ways, I think adding the third dimension truly does add some depth to the old tale.  And, of course, the tale ended with the traditional, well put ending, “God bless Us, Every One.”

This version of the movie also referred back a few times to the fact that this story has been around for more than 160 years. I felt a bit of awe in the idea that a short novella has had such an impact on our society for such a long time.  Charles Dickens’s story has achieved a level of immortality that I think all authors strive to match.

What makes the tale so memorable?

I’d guess it’s the idea that someone as unlikeable as Scrooge, when confronted with the choices he had made throughout his life, can be struck with a sudden epiphany and completely change his outlook on life.  No one is irredeemable–anyone can make the decision to start living life in a more compassionate manner.

When writing your own work, keep in mind the core message of your story. Are there ways for your characters to reflect on their own past, and make decisions differently?  Are there ways that a character can realize he/she is on the wrong path, and make steps towards a new direction?

Who knows, perhaps your novel is the next one to have an impact for the next 160 years!

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