By Sorraya Brashear-Evans
“The Boxtrolls” is a film adaptation of the book “Here Be Monsters!” by Alan Snow. The story takes place in the town of Cheesebridge, where citizens live in constant fear of the Boxtrolls — which are small monsters that live underground but come out at night to steal arbitrary objects from around town. One night, a baby boy disappears from the town and the Boxtrolls are immediately blamed of kidnapping and eating him. But instead of eating the baby boy named Eggs, the Boxtrolls raise the child as one of their own.
The Boxtrolls only steal discarded items, which they take to their homes in order to build intricate devices. They teach the boy how to use trash to make awesome inventions, and he spends many years with his adoptive father, Fish, making inventions to create music. As the amount of captures by the exterminators increase, Eggs has an encounter with a girl of his own age from the outside world, Winnie, and together the two set out to save the Boxtrolls.
What makes the Boxtrolls an extremely well-crafted film is the dismantlement of prejudice ideals, particularly tackling classism. Cheesebridge has two distinct classes: the White Hats, which are among the richest and run the town, and the Red Hats, which are the bulk of the town. The head exterminator, Snatcher, is a Red Hat who desperately dreams of moving up to a White Hat — so much so that he’s willing to kill all of the Boxtrolls to do it. The Boxtrolls make up the lowest class which are ignored or feared by the middle and upper class. This film has a lot to say about the way classes’ function in our society, from the cutthroat attitude toward advancement, to the callous indifference of those with power toward those who don’t have as much.
Besides prejudice, the relationship between Fish and Eggs is also a major component of the film. They go through a stressful time when Eggs finds out that he isn’t a Boxtroll and was in fact adopted by Fish when he was a baby. He questions the many truths he grew up believing; the most important being able to look past the surface and seeing what lies beneath. The true definition of a father is also brought into play, as Egg’s real father is found and he becomes conflicted on who is actually his father. Although Fish isn’t his biological father, he raised Eggs to the best of his ability and loved him all the same. Winnie explains to Eggs that a father is someone who protects you no matter what, but fathers come in all shapes and sizes and in this case, species. It was this message that had me slightly dabbing my eyes in the back rows of the movie theater.
Stop motion animation is a time consuming process that requires a near meticulous attention to detail. The process of taking 24 photos of precisely positioned models for every second of film (because the standard cinematic frame rate is 24 fps) is a doubly difficult discipline. Just think about it: a minute of footage you see contains 1,440 photos, so “The Boxtrolls,” a film that ran at least 100 minutes long, is comprised of 144,000 photos, each one slightly moved to create the illusion of life.
“The Boxtrolls” is remarkable for the fact that the film has a distinctive, grotesque visual appeal that sets it apart from typical animation films. Nothing is quite the shape it should be, with roads twisting and turning round architecturally dubious houses populated by bulbous and bony people, similar to both “ParaNorman” and “Coraline.” The animators at Laika are gradually carving out their own niche in the market, and it’s constantly refreshing to see.