Although we here in America are getting ready to celebrate our Independence Day, my mind is focused on the future. Not so far in the future that we suddenly have hovercrafts (though, that would be really cool), but the not so distant future where we’re celebrating one of my favorite holidays, Halloween. What can I say? I’ve never been a timely sort of person.
Halloween is months away, but this trailer and the buzz for The Book of Life have been floating around for about a month now. With its bright colors and overall atmosphere, I have to admit, it’s hard to ignore. And I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’m a bit sick of the yearly slaughterhouse/torture porn/rehashed horror movie lineup we usually get on the holiday—it’s refreshing to see something completely different.
The Book of Life follows the journey of Manolo, who is in love with the beauty Maria. Unfortunately for him, he is not alone in vying for Maria’s hand for love; the showier Joaquin gives our protagonist a run for his money. Watching this conflict unfold are our two puppetmasters: La Muerte and Xibalba. Xibalba concocts a bet with La Muerte on which man will ultimately get the girl, and in order to rig the contest, he kills Manolo. Whoops. From there, Manolo must overcome several trials in the land of the dead to regain his human body and return to the woman he loves.
I don’t think I’m going to break anyone’s heart by saying that this isn’t a new story. Once you get past the superficial level, you’ll find that the unique aspects of this film are what really make it shine. As obvious from watching the trailer, The Book of Life explores this otherwise tired story from the lens of Mexican culture. Not the stereotypical Chi-Chi’s/Taco Bell brand of white-bread Mexico interpretations, but actual, legit Mexican culture. Although you may not be familiar with the director, animator Jorge Gutierrez, you may know one of the producers on this film: some guy named Guillermo del Toro. What this means for The Book of Life is not only are we going to get a beautifully animated and screened film with detail and mythology that is captivating as well as interesting, but we have a story about Mexican folklore being presented by two Mexicans in a wide theatrical release. This is huge!
Even before release, I’ve learned something from this movie. Xibalba is the name for the underworld in Maya mythology. Isn’t that cool? So instead of getting one interpretation of death, we get to have two: the more frightening and ‘evil’ Xibalba—though he’s not really evil as much as he’s misguided and prideful, it seems—and the motherly and welcoming La Muerte. In addition to tickling my mythology bone, this also presents a wonderful message to the kids to whom this movie is most likely directed. Death doesn’t have to be scary; death can be a beautiful, freeing experience for those who have passed.
The Book of Life is slated to premiere on October 17th: close enough to Halloween that I feel safe enough calling it a Halloween movie. I hope that you consider seeing it not only because of its interesting take on the typically tired love triangle, but also because it would be supporting non-white stories being showcased in mainstream media.
Ooh, yay! 🙂 you did get to write a post about it!
Ooh! This looks lovely, and very different from the usual Halloween stuff. The animation is great.
The animation and designs kinda remember me to Manny Calavera, and I love that game 😀 It’s pretty clear I’ll enjoy the movie, if maybe only for its aesthetic, although I think the plot can be interesting too.