On Thursday, October 29, the fantasy "Witches" will be released in Russian cinemas.
Several of the best storytellers and masters of science fiction cinema of modern Hollywood took part in the creation of this film.
The director's chair of the project was taken by the director of the films "A Christmas Carol", "Back to the Future" and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" Robert Zemeckis.
Guillermo del Toro, co-author of scripts for the films of the Hobbit franchise and an Oscar winner for the fantastic drama The Shape of Water, worked on the script with him.
Both he and Zemeckis produced The Witches alongside Alfonso Cuaron (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Pan's Labyrinth).
Despite the abundance of high-profile names, most of all in this promising story is the handwriting of the fourth master of the fantasy genre - the British writer Roald Dahl, whose novel "Witches" formed the basis of the picture.
The main character is a little boy performed by the novice actor Jazir Bruno.
After the death of his parents, he goes to live with his grandmother (Octavia Spencer).
From her, the boy learns about the existence of witches who, it turns out, live among ordinary people and dream of exterminating children.
Soon, the boy meets a witch for the first time, and the grandmother decides to hide her grandson away from her.
Together with his grandmother, the boy goes to a resort in a luxury hotel.
By a tragic coincidence, several dozen witches come there for the annual Sabbath.
The main character unwittingly turns out to be a witness to the rally, at which the sorceresses discuss a plan to turn all the kids into mice, and to top it off, he himself becomes a rodent.
In a new look, it will not be easy for him to stop powerful ladies and save his peers.
© Shot from the film "Witches" (2020)
The plot of the film practically does not deviate from the text of the book.
The filmmakers treated the original source with great care and preserved both the key scenes and phrases, and the character of the narrative as a whole.
For the latter, Chris Rock was responsible, brilliantly coping with the role of the narrator.
However, Zemeckis and his colleagues still brought something of their own into the plot.
Most of their ideas went to the benefit of controversial (like almost all of Dahl's work) history, but some innovations raise questions.
African Americans became the main characters instead of Europeans, and the action was transferred from England and Norway in the 1980s to the USA in the 1960s.
This decision made it possible to exploit the bright and colorful atmosphere of those years with the appropriate entourage: characteristic costumes and hairstyles, old turntables, a nostalgic soundtrack and fried wings for dinner.
In addition, thanks to the transfer in time and space, references to voodoo were added to the plot, and the heroine of Octavia Spencer found new hobbies.
If in the book the grandmother is a retired witchphile (which is why she knows so much about witches), then here she is fond of numerology, fortune-telling on stones and is treated with herbs.
However, although this decision added color and explained grandmother's sagacity, it does not seem rational or necessary.
So, with all the abilities and knowledge of the heroine, her skills are not even enough to cure her own cough - not to mention the fight against witches.
By the way, the presence of this cough, which arises only when it is necessary to create a more dramatic environment, and is completely absent the rest of the time, is also not justified by the plot.
Among other redundant finds by the authors of the film is a drawn cat, which, in theory, should pose a threat to mice, but in reality it is completely indifferent to them.
The instincts of the cat, again, appear only once, for the sake of the plot.
The rest of the time, the animal safely ignores the rodents running around it.
The allusion to the situation of African Americans in those years fell out of place.
American filmmakers always have something to say about racial segregation in the United States, and the transfer to the 1960s also creates optimal conditions for this, but in this case the topic is mentioned only once, and in the future it is not revealed at all.
Probably, the creators of the tape decided not to burden the children's film with adult problems - but in this case it is not clear what these hints were at all.
© Shot from the film "Witches" (2020)
However, there are some successful innovations in the Zemeckis' tape.
So, the authors of the picture paid great attention to the elaboration of characters and relationships.
In particular, the film shows the boy's experiences after the death of his parents and his relationship with his grandmother.
Quite flat in the book, on the screen, the heroine of Octavia Spencer is a bright, charming, self-confident, resourceful woman who is ready for anything for the sake of her loved ones.
This grandmother is the boy's best friend.
She is always able to find the right words, support him, encourage and comfort him.
This approach allowed us to make the story much more emotional, soulful and family.
Long conversations and other protracted episodes disappeared from the original plot, due to which the film turned out to be dynamic.
Also, some scenes are smoothed in it, and thanks to this, the tape, unlike the original source, is more entertaining than scary.
So, for example, a boy in the guise of a mouse is not chopped off his tail, and he does not bleed.
The authors very carefully bypassed the story of what happened to the girl who turned into a chicken.
This moment is also not revealed in the book, but Roald Dahl says in the abstract that witches turn children into pheasants and rejoice when they are eaten by their own parents.
The visual series of the picture came out as bright and life-affirming as possible.
Colors, stylistics and an abundance of lower angles (they show the world through the eyes of a child and mice) the film sometimes resembles Tim Burton's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", also based on the novel by Roald Dahl.
In addition, there are very few special effects in The Witches, thanks to which, again, the picture is less scary and more realistic.
At the same time, the authors of the tape practically did not change the completely unhappy original ending, which would more organically fit into a children's horror film.
The ending of the tape runs counter to the upbeat main story.
Also, due to the constant attempts of the film crew to hide everything terrible, the degree of tension in general has dropped significantly, and there are few truly exciting scenes left in the film.
© Shot from the film "Witches" (2020)
The roles in the film, in addition to Octavia Spencer and Jazira Bruno, were played by Stanley Tucci, Charles Edwards, Morgana Robinson and others.
They are organic in their bright and somewhat caricatured images, which are quite appropriate for children's fantasy.
However, all the actors involved, no matter how expressive and talented they are, immediately get lost and fade when Anne Hathaway, who plays the Greatest Most Important Witch, appears in the frame.
This time, the actress appeared in an unusual comedic form, which unites several movie villains at once.
In a wig and pink cloak with a bow, she looks like Professor Umbridge from "Harry Potter", Hathaway's makeup obviously refers to the Joker, and the motives and some antics - to Pennywise.
The actress managed to fully transform herself into a vicious, vile and unusually comical sorceress at the same time, each appearance of which on the screen became an event.
In this image, with her emotional range and unforgettable antics, Anne Hathaway could well compete with the master of ridiculous comedic roles, Jim Carrey.
When so many talented filmmakers meet on the set, the viewer involuntarily expects a rare masterpiece from them.
However, either because of the lack of some kind of creative harmony, or because of the weak primary source ("The Witches" is far from the best work of Roald Dahl), this film did not become such.
Nevertheless, we have before us - a cheerful, kind and very sincere family tape, capable of charging the audience with optimism and letting them enjoy a talented production and great acting.