“Wonka” does this better than any previous story about the chocolatier

The big picture

  • Wonka
    explores the origins of the character, showing his journey from a humble inventor to the beloved Willy Wonka.
  • Timothée Chalamet’s performance brings a new vision of Wonka, showcasing his vulnerability and showmanship.
  • The film modernizes the story with thoughtful revisions, emphasizing the character’s kindness and empathy.

Remaking films that still evoke strong nostalgic feelings is challenging, as audiences are often uncomfortable with the idea of ​​seeing a new version of a story directly related to their childhood. This challenge is only amplified when the original source material is intrinsically linked to a specific performance; for the generation that grew up with it, Gene Wilder‘s performance in the classic 1971 musical Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is the perfect distillation of “pure imagination”. Despite negative reactions from fans of the original film, Tim Burtonthe 2005 redesign of Charlie and the chocolate factory featuring Johnny Depp he certainly endeared himself to a slightly younger generation who appreciated his baffling and eccentric comedy. While it’s hard not to compare a new release to what came before it, Paul Kingthe origin story Wonka manages to establish itself as a future family classic. Rather than simply repeating the above, Wonka identifies the titular character’s good-spirited nature and humble origins.


Based on the extraordinary character at the center of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, “Wonka” tells the wonderful story of how the world’s greatest inventor, magician and chocolatier became the beloved Willy Wonka we know today.

Release date
December 15, 2023

Paul King

116 minutes

What makes “Wonka” different from other adaptations?

Both Mel StuartBoth the original film and Burton’s stylized remake had the benefit of exploring the mystique of Wonka himself through an outsider’s perspective. In both films, it takes the young boy Charlie, who lacks the cynicism of the outside world, to remind Wonka why he created his candy empire in the first place. Although it may be interesting to see the effect that a child’s wisdom has on a character who has lost track of his youthful passions, Wonka succeeds because it is told specifically from the main character’s point of view. Rather than the instigator of a conflict encompassed by his creation, Wonka is a younger man still living his own coming-of-age story.

Living up to Wilder’s performance is no easy task. The legendary comedic actor managed to deliver each line with a mixture of sweetness and sincerity that made his motivations almost completely ambiguous. It is only during the film that we realize Peter OstrumIt is Charlie that Wonka has built a facade to hide his disappointment with the way the children are behaving. Depp’s version did more of the same thing, but with a more malicious edge that suggested he didn’t want to share his creations at all. However, Timothée Chalamet’s performance wasn’t simply an impression of previous iterations of the character. Chalamet’s excellent performance presents a character arc that resembles that of Charlie: he is simply trying to find his place in the world and find a way to both protect his family and ensure their happiness.

If it wasn’t obvious in just the first ten minutes, Chalamet is an excellent singer with a strong talent for showmanship. While the versions of Wonka played by Wilder and Depp had equally flamboyant ways of breaking into the musical numbers, Chalamet does an excellent job of showing a slightly less polished and more unpretentious version of the same quality. Whereas Wilder and Depps’ Wonkas performed in environments over which they had complete control, Chalamet’s Wonka wants to turn even the most menial conversations into an elaborate performance. It often falls flat on its face and embarrasses itself in ways that previous versions didn’t. In addition to adding humor to the film, Wonka’s imperfections as a performer make him a more empathetic and emotionally engaging character.

“Wonka” shows the kindness of the character

Timothee Chalamet as young Willy Wonka amidst a song and dance in 'Wonka'
Image via Warner Bros.

It is often questioned whether Wonka himself is a villain in previous adaptations, as his factory is designed to dismiss potential successors who suffer from indulgences. Wilder’s performance is that of a genius who is bored with his creation, both disappointed by the consumers who buy his products and dissatisfied with his accomplishments. Depp’s performance is perhaps even more acidic and less charming. However, Wonka differentiates itself by exploring the character’s motivations for becoming a “candy man”. Despite growing up in poverty, Wonka seems determined to spread joy and happiness to bring a sense of hope to those who need it most.


Review of ‘Wonka’: A Shaggy Tale with Timothée Chalamet at his Sweet Center

From “Paddington 2” director Paul King, “Wonka” recaptures the joy and optimism of this younger version of Roald Dahl’s character.

While not every movie classic needs a prequel story explaining the character’s origins, knowing where Wonka comes from shows why he is so empathetic. Wonka goes to Europe to keep a promise to his mother (Sally Hawkins), whose affinity for chocolate inspires him to bring joy to a community controlled by evil chocolate cartel leaders Arthur Slugworth (Paterson Joseph), Gérald Prodnose (Matt Lucas) and Félix Fickelgruber (Matthew Bayton). While the cartel’s leaders view chocolate as simply a commodity used to line their own pockets, Wonka understands the calming power of candy to create community. He is not motivated by greed, but by a genuine desire to make people smile. If Wilder and Depp’s Wonka have learned to accept their own wondrous creations, Chalamet’s Wonka is still proud of the work he has accomplished.

Why “Wonka” is an effective prequel

While the film industry now relies heavily on “legacy sequels” that play on viewers’ familiarity with a franchise,Wonka uses nostalgia appropriately. While there are a few overt references to the film’s original score, the most notable being Chalamet’s terrific rendition of “Pure Imagination,” the film relies largely on its own soundtrack that specifically fits the parameters of his “rags to riches” story. It also brings more thoughtful revisions, like Wonka’s complex relationship with the Oompa-Loompa Lofty (Hugh Grant) helps modernize a relationship from the original film that is generally considered problematic today.

Rather than showing a redemptive arc for a tortured genius, Wonka shows how its inventor faces a difficult world with spirit and optimism. It is these avant-garde themes and positive messages that have enabled Wonka to achieve such astonishing financial milestones. While most reboots feel like incredibly outdated and cynical retreads, Wonka understands why the character has power and presents it in a new light.

Wonka is now streaming on Max in the US

Look now

Leave a Reply