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Arts and Entertainment

Wonka Brings His Chocolate Factory to Theaters

By Staff Writer Fiona Yang

Released on Dec. 15, 2023 after a nine-month coronavirus-related delay, Wonka shares the backstory of Willy Wonka, the elusive and quirky chocolatier of Roald Dahl’s 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. With the power of teamwork and the funny quirks of each character, Wonka shines new light on Wonka’s origin story and how his chocolate business came to be. Although the movie captivates the audience with magical cinematography and music, it lacks a fulfilling plot, resulting in a hurried epilogue. 

The film follows a young Wonka (Timothée Chalamet) and his journey to fulfill his dream of running a chocolate factory. After obliviously signing a labor contract at Scrubbit and Bleacher’s, the overarching antagonists, boardinghouse, he meets a group of fellow workers, and they band together in hopes of escaping the unfair and tedious chores. Wonka’s confidants work with him to take down the monopolizers of the chocolate industry to finally make Wonka’s chocolate factory dream a reality. 

As the movie progresses, the parallels between Wonka and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory become apparent.  The inclusion of Gene Wilder’s famous 1971 song “Pure Imagination” is a nostalgic tune, and the golden paper found in Wonka’s mother’s chocolate bar resembles the golden tickets in Wonka’s chocolate bars. The connections between the multiple adaptations make Wonka an enticing watch for fans. 

Just like the tune of “Pure Imagination”, Wonka magically opens with its catchy song “A Hatful of Dreams” as Wonka dances and sings through the city, spending all the sovereigns he has saved to vendors — a shoe shining service, a map seller, and a produce seller — who offer neverending services and reminiscing on his dream of meeting his mother at his future chocolate factory. The cheerful beats compliment the vibrant colors on scene, allowing the audience to tangibly experience Wonka’s joviality. Wonka’s soundtrack melds into each of its individual and respective scenes. In the scene when Wonka promises to leave the city to ensure good futures for his friends, he wistfully murmurs the lyrics to “Sorry, Noodle”. The slow piano keys, Wonka’s regretful voice, and the gray skies create a somber ambience the audience empathizes with. 

Wonka not only excels in matching the soundtrack to elevate the mood, the movie’s cinematography reflects the emotions of the character in the scene. For example, when Wonka is targeted by the Chocolate Cartel — Prodnose (Matt Lucas), Fickelgruber (Mathew Baynton), and Slugworth (Paterson Joseph) — for creating delicious chocolate that poses a threat to their businesses, the villainous triumvirate menacingly tower together in one entire frame, eliciting Wonka’s nervousness and inferiority as an outnumbered person up against a powerful trio. Cool light illuminates one side of the antagonists’ faces, highlighting their threatening figures and allowing the audience to feel the tense atmosphere between Wonka and the three men. 

Wonka’s cinematography is not only admirable for its lighting but also its infallible ability to draw out emotions in the audience through camera movements. For instance, when Wonka finally shows off his chocolate factory, the camera slowly pans over awe-inspiring chocolate trees, flowers, and rivers. Low angle shots of Wonka compliment high angle shots of customers happily tasting chocolates, showing Wonka’s joy at his success. 

Although Wonka excels in its varied camerawork and cinematic lighting, the rushed 116-minute plot leaves little time for the audience to share the characters’ joy at the end, abruptly cutting from taking down the villains to finding out Wonka’s mother’s secret to chocolate making to tracking down Noodle’s birth mother. The quick time lapses — from jumping into the ocean to getting back onto land, and from selling unlicensed chocolate to officially selling chocolate in a shop — provide an inadequate and loosely connected visualization of how Wonka’s factory came to be. Overall, despite the lack of depth that Wonka adds to the origin story of Dahl’s classic, mysterious character, its soundtrack and cinematography makes Wonka an incredibly fun addition to the franchise.

Rating: 8.9

Soundtrack 9.5/10

Storyline 8/10

Cinematography 9.3/10 


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