Wonka: Worth the watch?

Willy Wonka, a classic novel adapted to film, has undergone two remakes since its original theatrical release in 1971. The latest iteration, titled ‘Wonka,’ recently debuted on December 15th, 2023, featuring Timothée Chalamet as the titular character.

In the original release, “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” actor Gene Wilder portrayed the mysterious and eccentric Willy Wonka. The narrative follows Charlie, a boy from a poverty-stricken family, who gains the opportunity of a lifetime upon discovering the golden ticket inside a Wonka chocolate bar. Those in possession of the golden ticket earn the chance to meet Willy Wonka and visit the magical chocolate factory. 

However, ‘Wonka’ presents a different story, exploring Willy Wonka’s once mysterious and unknown past. Timothée Chalamet does a wonderful job portraying Willy Wonka as young, happy-go-lucky, and energetic.

Wonka follows Willy’s journey to becoming a master chocolatier. Despite being faced with many challenges, Willy perseveres, and with the help of his new friends, his dream becomes a reality. The film features its original soundtrack, as well as the introduction of new characters. The movie also pays homage to “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” through the song “Pure Imagination” and Wilder’s famous line, “Scratch that, reverse it!” 

However, fans of the franchise may notice that the characterization between the two seems to be completely different. Wilder’s version of the character appears to be socially awkward, somewhat of a hermit, and rather strange. While Chalamet’s version of the character is also strange, his strangeness is portrayed in a quirky, fun, and humorous way. In Wonka, Chalamet’s Willy sings significantly more songs and creates more silly solutions to his problems. “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” is more serious, and Wilder’s Wonka doesn’t seem to have much time for horsing around.

 Both actors also bring a completely different aesthetic to the table. Wilder’s Wonka, adorned in the infamous purple coat and brown top hat, is a classic look. Chalamet’s Wonka wears a similarly colored coat but is more subdued – however, he still wears the classic brown top hat. While the outfits are different, both bring out the chocolatier look. 

“I enjoyed both Wonkas,” junior Julian Polanco said. “They’re different, but in a good way. I think that’s what I like the most about the movies.”

Both movies are excellently made, and the strangeness and quirkiness of Willy Wonka can be felt in both of the actor’s portrayals. While some may argue that Wilder’s performance is better because it’s the original, there is no doubt that Chalamet’s performance is also amazing. 

“I kind of like the original more,” junior JP Zangara said. “He was definitely weirder, in a creepy way. I think that’s what makes the first movie stand out more.”

There is no real answer as to who is better, as it’s all up to opinion, but both actors do a fantastic job portraying all of Willy Wonka’s unique personality traits. Though the original book by Roald Dahl was published almost 60 years ago, Willy Wonka’s legacy continues to live on.