The silent Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come (Jim Carrey) is actually portrayed as Scrooge’s shadow-or rather Scrooge’s shadow transforms into it. At first, I found this somewhat anticlimactic. (Does Scrooge really fear this specter more than any he’s seen so far? Didn’t he notice the giant laughing skeleton?) But the subtle creepiness of it grew on me and it is nice to see this adaptation being subtle about something.
Of course, the spirit doesn’t stay a flat shadow. After Scrooge urges it to hurry up and get this haunting over, it leaps off the floor, knocking him backwards. Scrooge falls through the wooden floor and tumbles down the stone steps of…OK, I haven’t written about this so far, but it’s about now that I’m really starting to get sick of how this Scrooge keeps falling over. It’s really not that funny. Anyway, he lands at the bottom of the steps of the London Stock Exchange in the future where he invisibly overhears some gentlemen (Cary Elwes, Paul Blackthorne and Julian Holloway) talking about how someone has died recently, and they really don’t care. They fade away as the day turns into a dark and still night. While I really don’t like what’s going to happen next, I have to give this moment credit for eeriness.
A giant shadow of a horse-drawn carriage (or possibly a hearse) appears against the pillars of the building. The horses’ heads turn revealing themselves to be fearsome, red-eyed monsters. The ghost points at Scrooge and the horses and carriage leap into three dimensions and tear after him.
As Scrooge runs down an alley, the driver cracks his whip and either the alley grows bigger or Scrooge grows smaller. Other spooks try to reach out from the sides and try to grab him, cackling.
Yeah, this is the nadir of the movie.
I once wrote that I didn’t mind adapters doing things like adding actions scenes to Dickens stories since Dickens was always a popular writer.I’ll admit I was mainly thinking of the way the 1982 Nicholas Nickleby adapted the arrest of Squeers and the 2002 one adapted John Browdie’s rescue of Smike. But A Christmas Carol is one Dickens book where that simply doesn’t make sense. Or if there is a way it could make sense, this isn’t it. While the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come is definitely meant to be scary, he’s not a villain. His goal is to help Scrooge, not kill him. If you’ll pardon me for stereotyping, I suspect the people who mainly watch action movies and for whom this scene was created are the kind of people who wouldn’t appreciate the surreal storytelling and lack of clear character motivation.
I guess you can say this visual represents Scrooge trying to escape his own mortality. But what’s the symbolism behind him shrinking? As far as I can tell, it was done so his voice could get all high and chipmunk-y because that guarantees hilarity. (Please note my sarcasm.) I will say there’s a great moment when tiny Scrooge briefly seems to have escaped the death carriage, only for it to come barreling out from around a corner. Before running away, Scrooge gets an irritated look on his face and squeaks in disgust, “oh, come now!”
That moment perfectly summarizes my reaction to this scene.
Scrooge ends up sliding down a drainpipe and over a rooftop. The scene drags on and on and would you like to know what’s really horrifying about it? It was almost even longer. To confirm this, check out the deleted scenes. There’s one at least for whose deletion I am truly grateful.
Anyway, Scrooge falls into a sack that a woman, Mrs. Dilber (Fionnulla Flanagan), brings into Old Joe (Bob Hoskins)’s rag and bone shop. As the two of them unpack the contents, we learn that she is selling the bedcurtains and clothing of her recently deceased employer, who died alone and unloved with no one to prevent such theft. While there were three thieves in the book, this adaptation manages to include all the most horrifying and hilarious lines from the scene. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see why Scrooge would be paying attention to this crucial dialogue while he’s busy navigating the world the size of a mouse.
The scene ends with Old Joe noticing a rat on the floor and trying to hit it with a poker, almost flattening Scrooge in the process. He upends a floorboard, catapulting Scrooge across the room. He is caught by the hand of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come (sort of) and comes out the other side in a room in a completely different building. Scrooge returns to his normal size, making me wonder yet again what the point was of it changing in the first place, and tells the spirit he understands that his life tends the same way as that of the mysterious dead man. Under the circumstances, shouldn’t Scrooge be demanding why the ghost was just chasing him in a terrifying death carriage a little while ago? No, that never comes up.
But I can’t criticize the adaptation too much at this point because we now get an awesomely spinetingling scene from the book that often gets cut.The 1984 and 1999 movies are among those that keep it. Scrooge finds himself in a dark bedroom with no one in it except a corpse covered by a sheet. The spirit gestures for Scrooge to look at its face.
A nervous Scrooge first requests to see anyone who feels emotion at the man’s death. The ghost points at a wall, which then opens up into a portal. As with Christmas Present, I don’t understand why Scrooge has to be physically present for some things and just watches others on ghostly television. But, again, this is a scene that is far too often omitted by adaptations.The 1999 movie does it very well. Scrooge sees a poor couple (Callum Blue and Fay Masterson) who owe the dead man moneyI don’t know why I’m being so coy about his identity. and are relieved that the payment will now be delayed long enough for them to get the necessary amount.
Desperate, Scrooge demands to see some tenderness connected to death. Suddenly, he is seated on a stairway in the Cratchit home sometime earlier in the future. He witnesses the family grieving in the room below and gets a glimpse of Tiny Tim’s corpse in the room above. Everyone’s acting is great in this scene. At least, their vocal performances are great and I assume the rest of their acting is too. But this is one those scenes that I don’t think motion capture does very well. In particular, there’s a moment where Scrooge comes face to face with the devastated Bob Cratchit. Clearly, his face is supposed to be conveying something highly dramatic, but I honestly can’t tell what.
Afterwards, Scrooge asks about the identity of the man he saw lying dead. The floor gives way beneath him (because we obviously needed more of Scrooge falling) and he plummets down into a snowy, stormy graveyard at night. The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come is looking a lot more like how I imagined this adaptation would portray him.
The ghost points at a gravestone and snow instantly blows off it, revealing the name, Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge promises that he’s not the man he was and begs for another chance. (Jim Carrey’s performance really is good here.) As he speaks, the snow beneath his feet starts to give way like quicksand. Scrooge finds himself holding onto a root, dangling over his own grave. An open coffin lies at the bottom, illuminated by a hellish red light.
I’m not a huge fan of this since, while mortality is definitely a theme in this part of the story, a careful reading of the text shows that what Scrooge really fears is not death itself (after all, he’s going to die eventually whether or not he persists in his miserly ways) but, like Marley, never being able to turn his life or public perception of him around. An immediate threat of death distracts from that crucial point.
But what really disappoints me about this scene is its lack of craziness. I can name at least four other Christmas Carols that do some version of this falling-into-the-grave scenario.They are Mickey’s Christmas Carol, the 1970 musical, Scrooge, the 1988 parody/homage, Scrooged, and the 1999 movie adaptation. The flying see-through floor in the Christmas Present section of the movie may have been ill-advised and the death carriage chase scene downright stupid, but they were also things that no other Christmas Carol had ever done. To climax with something so unoriginal feels like a letdown.
The spirit leans down over Scrooge and as lightning flashes, we get a glimpse of its face.
Scrooge cringes but continues pleading for help. The ghost pries Scrooge’s fingers off the root and lets him fall. This bothers me since Dickens portrayed the previously impervious phantom as wavering and pitying Scrooge at this point. But, on reflection, that could still be true in this version since you can, if you wish, interpret Scrooge’s fall as what causes him to wake up in his own bed on Christmas morning.
Here’s a quick point by point replay of the next few scenes.
In a borrowing from the 1951 movie, Scrooge sees Mrs. Dilber and terrorizes her with his newfound joy. It’s not as hilarious as the longer one in that movie, but it’s pretty fun.
Scrooge buys a huge turkey for the Cratchits and sends it anonymously. Afterwards, he hitches a ride on the back of a carriage just as he sneered at two boys for doing at the beginning of the movie.
As he walks down the street, Scrooge meets one of the charity collectors from the night before and gives him a generous donation.
Scrooge gets another interaction with the carolers at whom he glared seven years ago. It’s actually one of my favorite bits that’s not from the book, so I won’t spoil it.
There’s a nice twist to Scrooge attending his nephew’s party. He shows up at an extremely awkward moment and it briefly looks like his reception will be cold before everyone rushes to embrace him.
The reason I’m skimming through all this, besides the fact that this series has gone on longer than anyone cared to read it, is there’s really not much to say about this part of the movie. Nothing is really wrong with these scenes and even quite a bit right about them, but because the film has treated Scrooge like a punching bag for so long, they don’t pack the emotional punch they should.
After Scrooge gives Cratchit a raise the next day, Bob directly addresses the camera with some closing narration even though no character has done anything like that prior to this. Not that I have anything against narration, especially when it draws from Dickens, but the movie had been doing a fine job of telling the story without it.I mean it’s had plenty of problems but none of them were due to the lack of a narrator. It’s like it just got lazy at the end.I think a really clever and creative ending for A Christmas Carol adaptation would be to show an adult Tiny Tim visiting Scrooge’s grave at Christmas, confirming that he was able to change his … Continue reading We close with the iconic image of Scrooge carrying Tiny Tim on his shoulder. Again, rather generic for such an inventive adaptation, but after the wackiness of that crazy chase scene and the incredible shrinking Scrooge, you could argue that’s a relief.
I probably watch this movie every December which is probably way more than it deserves. But I don’t think it deserves to never be watched at all. If nothing else, I’d say it’s better than Robert Zemeckis’s other mocap Christmas movie, The Polar Express, and while I haven’t seen his other attempt at adapting a classic of English literature with motion capture, Beowulf, nothing I’ve heard about it leads me to believe it’s better than A Christmas Carol.Though I will give Beowulf credit for having the brains to adapt something that actually lends itself to an action movie. And while more psychologically driven cinematic retellings have come closer to the heart of the story, there’s something to be said for one that focuses on surreal and fantastic imagery, a major aspect of the book that some previous adaptations didn’t have the technology to reproduce even if they’d tried to do so. It’s true that this movie has some of the stupidest moments in any Christmas Carol adaptation, but, in my opinion, it also has some of the best moments.
Merry Christmas, everybody!
|I’ll admit I was mainly thinking of the way the 1982 Nicholas Nickleby adapted the arrest of Squeers and the 2002 one adapted John Browdie’s rescue of Smike.
|The 1984 and 1999 movies are among those that keep it.
|The 1999 movie does it very well.
|I don’t know why I’m being so coy about his identity.
|They are Mickey’s Christmas Carol, the 1970 musical, Scrooge, the 1988 parody/homage, Scrooged, and the 1999 movie adaptation.
|I mean it’s had plenty of problems but none of them were due to the lack of a narrator.
|I think a really clever and creative ending for A Christmas Carol adaptation would be to show an adult Tiny Tim visiting Scrooge’s grave at Christmas, confirming that he was able to change his future. Nobody, steal this!
|Though I will give Beowulf credit for having the brains to adapt something that actually lends itself to an action movie.