Shooting for Wonka, the prequel-slash-origin-story about Willy Wonka, recently started filming. Is this about to be one of the most pointless films in cinematic history?
Wonka has been in development for several years, and it’s finally going to see the light of day. But maybe it shouldn’t.
Slated to hit theaters in March 2023, the movie will star Timothée Chalamet as a young Wonka.
A younger Wonka obviously means that the movie will be a prequel that explores candyman’s origins. Clearly, he had to amass a fortune. How did he wind up with all those Oompa Loompas? And why does he feel the need to torture children in a chocolate factory?
But really, we should be asking ourselves, “Do we really need a Wonka prequel movie?”
Let’s First Look at Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Tim Burton’s adaptation starring Johnny Depp as the chocolate maker himself, has proven to be polarizing. You either love it or hate it; there doesn’t seem to be much in-between.
Regardless, Burton’s version is technically closer to the book. The 1971 movie removed a lot of the dark humor that Dahl was famous for. In fact, so much was changed that Dahl disowned the film.
For instance, the nightmarish squirrel scene was changed completely, and Veruca was simply deemed a “bad egg” after a song and dance. The boat scene is also wildly different–and as much as I love Gene Wilder’s monologue here, that gilded boat with dainty decorations and a parasol doesn’t match the book at all. It looks like an old-school ride at Disney’s Magic Kingdom.
Meanwhile, here’s what the book has to say:
“A steamy mist was rising up now from the great warm chocolate river, and out of the mist there appeared suddenly a most fantastic pink boat. It was a large open row boat with a tall front and a tall back (like a Viking boat of old), and it was of such a shining sparkling glistening pink colour that the whole thing looked as though it were made of bright, pink glass. There were many oars on either side of it, and as the boat came closer, the watchers on the riverbank could see that the oars were being pulled by masses of Oompa-Loompas — at least ten of them to each oar.”Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (Chapter 18)
And here’s what Burton did with the boat scene:
So, if Burton’s 2005 adaptation is closer to the book, why are there so many people that will jump at the chance to tell you how much they didn’t like it?
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Proves Why We Don’t Need a Prequel
Nostalgia and Gene Wilder aside, there’s one huge difference between the two movies: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory doesn’t bother with an origin story.
Sure, Wilder is an amazing Wonka–there’s no denying that. However, it’s not just Wilder himself that makes the movie great. Without a backstory, Wilder’s Wonka is a charmingly inconsistent sociopath. You never quite know if he’s a hero or a villain.
When Burton adapted the story in 2005, he decided to take some liberties with the chocolate maker. He went from being mysterious and unknown to having a full backstory and tangible motivation. Burton’s Wonka traveled the world, amassed a fortune, and built a chocolate empire as revenge on his dentist father.
Wonka was no longer a character of intrigue. He was just a mere mortal with daddy issues.
Much like the Joker or Han Solo, Wonka loses his captivating charm when the shroud of mystery is lifted. Origin stories take away more than they add, in cases like this.
What Does a New Wonka Origin Story Even Look Like?
Are we going to see a painstakingly dull movie about how Wonka acquired his signature top hat? Does Wonka spend years figuring out how to create the only factory in the world that mixes chocolate by waterfall? Or do we end up with a problematic film about colonization and kidnapping people to work in a chocolate factory as free labor under the guise of “saving” them?
Worse still, are we seriously just about to see a rehash of Wonka’s flashbacks in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? It’s already been done (and it made the character less intriguing, to boot).
According to Charlie, Wonka’s dad was a dentist who refused to let him eat candy, so he made it his life goal to become the biggest and most innovative candy maker in the world. He coaxed Oompa Loompas away from their homeland with cocoa beans so they could run his factory. He’s a giant man-child who doesn’t know how to talk to other humans because he’s been holed up alone for most of his life.
If anyone desperately needs to see how Willy Wonka ended up where he’s at, they can literally just watch the 2005 movie.
Look, am I curious to see what they do with this new Willy Wonka movie? Sure. But at the same time, I’m not going to hold my breath. And I’m certainly not going to rush to the theater to see it, either.
Part of the allure of the entire story is the mystery of where the chocolatier came from. Having it blatantly spelled out for everyone on the big screen would effectively ruin the original film.