charlie and technology

After the mixed reports i heard about Charlie and the Chocolate Factoy, i was skeptical. but tim burton's unique and structured take on this now-classic story makes its terror darker and its humor more sugary.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is now a tale about just that: a boy and technology. every moral is built from the characters' adherence to various technologies, both actual (television, manufacturing) and metaphorical (family, money, success). caution! spoilers follow.

the opening shots of the film are cgi machines producing thousands of wonka bars, five of which are wrapped with golden tickets. the machines exist in a dark space, operating seemingly by themselves, but it is Willy Wonka who adds the tickets, the spark, the magic.

willy wonka is the ghost in the machine - he controls and is surrounded by the most fanciful of all technologies. unfortunately, he is so caught up in them as to be totally detached from social interaction and the normal workings of human contact. he's a bit rude and a bit creepy.

when one of the brats sees oompa-loompas whipping a cow to make whipped cream, she says "but that doesn't make sense." and willy (in invented usage fashion!) rolls over this objection; children and candy makers shouldn't get caught up in the gears of logic.

the world is not all bleak for this film. in opposition to technology stands the family. charlie's father lost his assembly line job to a machine, and the family lives in a slanty shanty cut off from the rest of the industrialized town. wonka's own family history is a clearly painful subject - his dentist father had him strapped into headgear from an early age, and this rigorous adherence to dental science kept young willy nearly tortured, as he was barred from eating any candy at all.

and charlie chooses family. the choice between joining willy wonka in his ultimate technology, the great glass elevator, and being able to stay with his family is no choice at all.

only when the family no longer stands outside and excluded from technology is the conflict of the movie resolved. charlie's dad learns to work with technology and gets a better job repairing the machine that replaced him. and the entire house is moved from the periphery of town, to the center of the factory. and this is the triumph of the film: that technology, while dangerous and dehumanizing, can function with and within a strong family system. and perhaps that system is another technology that isn't so bad as it seemed.

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