The Boxtrolls (2014)

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The Boxtrolls

Directors: Graham Annable & Anthony Stacchi

Writers: Irena Brignull & Adam Pava

Based on: Here Be Monsters!, a novel by Alan Snow

Recommended? Highly

Finally, someone made a movie that does steampunk justice. The Boxtrolls is set in an alternate 19th century with mad inventors and giant robots and an aristocracy more concerned with tasting various types of cheeses than with caring for the poor, and the filmmakers didn’t just glue gears onto everything at random. More importantly, class relations are even more integral to the plot than the clanking machines of madmen.

It’s beautiful and stop-animated. It’s earnest, it’s cleverly-written, and it’s funny as hell without resorting to hidden sex jokes. Instead, the hidden aimed-at-adults jokes are fourth-wall-challenging references made by the henchmen who ponder the moral weight of their actions. Are they the good guys? Are they the bad guys? Despite having clearcut protagonists and antagonists, this film does a good job of examining the difference between good and evil actions versus good and evil people.

The Boxtrolls is set in an alternate 19th century with mad inventors and giant robots and an aristocracy more concerned with tasting various types of cheeses than with caring for the poor, and the filmmakers didn’t just glue gears onto everything at random.

Mild spoiler: in the film, the lumpenproletariat box trolls spend their nights digging through garbage for neat stuff (and maybe stealing some store signs and other things along the way). They’re hated and feared by the populace because of slander spread by evil men. The same evil men capture the lumpenproletariat and force them into proletarian servitude, working in a factory. Central to the plot of the film is them learning to free themselves. Which is to say: this movie is awesome.

Furthermore, while the rulers of the city aren’t the antagonists, their self-importance, self-indulgence, and uselessness is evident. Appealing to their power is the first mistake the protagonists make, in fact, and our heroes learn the hard way that only direct action will free their comrades. Oh, and at the end it’s the enemy’s own lust for power that destroys him.

Some people might be disappointed by how the main bad guy is a crossdresser, however.

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