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Seattle Pacific University's Student Newspaper

The Falcon

Seattle Pacific University's Student Newspaper

The Falcon

Mostly pure imagination

Looking at the new cinematic version of Roald Dahl’s ‘Wonka’
TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET as Willy Wonka in Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures’ “WONKA,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (PRESS KIT)

★★★☆☆ (3.0 stars)

Of all the famous children’s stories and films that have come and gone over the years, the story of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” still stands tall above most of its contemporaries. With all of the fond memories audiences have of the classic story of Willy Wonka movies, it makes sense that people would get excited to watch a new tale of his, as is the case for “Wonka.”

“Wonka” is a film that has been in development since 2016 and has gained much attention throughout its production and marketing. The movie finally hit theaters in the US on Dec. 15, 2023. Though the film has many passionate people behind it who have a lot of creative and beloved source material to draw from, not everything in the film works as well as fans may have hoped.

The film follows the titular aspiring chocolatier Willy Wonka, played by Timothée Chalamet, who arrives in a small town looking to make his dreams of creating candy for the world a reality. However, things do not go as he planned as his candy rivals attempt to shut him down, and the cruel owners of a boarding house trap Wonka. With the help of some new friends, including a young orphan named Noodle, played by Calah Lane, he continues to pursue his dreams.

“Wonka” does not have the most creative setup or story development in the world, but the movie shows its strong elements through other avenues. “Wonka” is a musical adventure that showcases some of the most creative visual effects, sets, costume designs and catchiest musical numbers of any film in the past year. These elements make it clear where this film’s creative effort went. 

The cast and crew are all obviously very dedicated and excited about being a part of the movie. The cinematography, in particular, is very good and has a very distinct flare to it that makes many of the shots of the movie very memorable, like the opening and closing musical numbers. 

Most of the actors give decent performances as well. However, a few standouts exist, such as Keegan Michael-Key as a corrupt cop and Hugh Grant playing an Oompa Loompa. These two casting decisions are some of the more notable in the film. Still, the actors gave standard performances that all worked well, but not many of them were particularly extraordinary.

On that point, however, is where many of the negatives lie in “Wonka.” Little about the film is incredibly memorable, with passable being a better term to describe the movie. While the film is impressive on a technical level, it can be very hard to find substance in the plot, characters or anything else.

Willy Wonka himself is portrayed as an eccentric optimist who has a tragic backstory, but he is not really a very interesting character. This movie seems to take place right before the world of the 1971 movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” since “Wonka” borrows a lot of musical numbers and visual references from the former. Chalamet’s performance, however, is nothing like Gene Wilder’s restrained and less sporadic interpretation of the character. 

The film follows a basic story structure and is predictable from beginning to end. Nothing happens that could not be expected. Because of that, a lot of the film that does not focus on the visual or musical elements and instead focuses on plot progression is incredibly boring. It is hard to get excited about a film when so much can be seen coming a mile away.

With all of that being said, “Wonka” definitely has a lot of positive aspects that make it an overall enjoyable movie experience. While “Wonka” has a lot weighing it down, it makes up for many of its shortcomings with an incredible visual style and catchy music that should satisfy most moviegoers. It certainly is not perfect, but by no means can a movie with so much style and creativity be all bad.

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About the Contributor
Trayton Pike, Features Editor
My name is Trayton Pike. I'm a history major. My hobbies include hanging out with friends, watching movies, and listening to the Beatles.
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