One Silver Sovereign

It’s pitiful – arguably even lazy – criticism – to ask why Wonka exists. It’s a prequel and an origin story that exists to explain things about Willy Wonka for profit; that’s the answer. How Willy Wonka (Timothee Chalamet) started his candy empire, how the Oompa Loompas came to be involved, the magical secrets of his chocolate, and his entire defined personality begin here, as an origin story.

Wonka is like Prometheus in a way, Ridley Scott’s prequel to Alien. That film similarly existed to answer everything. The problem is how that mystique so easily fades once audiences have those answers rather than the mystery, and Wonka doesn’t provide anything satisfactory in that regard. Or at least, anything worthwhile.

Wonka lacks the earthen-surrealism to sell this fantasy

It’s a fun thought experiment, to revisit these properties and explore their worlds. Wonka isn’t an experiment so much as trendy though, a way to create movie universes around known names. The end result doesn’t really foretell Willy Wonka’s near maniacal side. If anything, Chalamet is overly charming compared to the lesson-giving maniac from a film this movie supposedly pre-dates, and the mopey, darkly lit backstories with dead mothers are just grueling compared to the wacky Chocolate Factory generations grew up with.

With its litany of bland, lifeless digital backdrops and particularly noxious Hugh Grant Oompa-Loompa (if still preferred to Roald Dahl’s original description – yikes), Wonka lacks the earthen-surrealism to sell this fantasy as hundreds of modern films all do the same. What this becomes is an appropriately storybook take on greed, Wonka upending an illegal chocolatiers business to begin his own, but the lesson isn’t there, or at least not one kids can respond to.

Bribing cops doesn’t convey the same message to impatient kids or spoiled ones. Wonka is made for the adults who grew up alongside Gene Wilder, not a brazen fantasy about a crazed candy maker meant to teach kids right from wrong. In that, Wonka feels hollow, empty, and soulless, speaking to people who already know of bloated corporations destroying competition, even if nothing ever changes that after centuries of similar stories.

What’s left is a few catchy original songs, but to finish Wonka, the inevitable nostalgia takes hold for a round of “Pure Imagination.” It has to be there to match audience expectations, if also creating an awkward situation where it’s less about imagination than copying. More a statement on modern studio filmmaking though, Wonka exists with limitless visual possibilities thanks to today’s technology. And yet, the whole thing feels inherently grounded in a visual truth everywhere but around Wonka, inhabited by caricatures that thus seem totally out of place. It’s just boring to see.


A clean 4K master shows minor noise within the complicated digital effects shots, but Wonka is otherwise crystalline in its digital clarity. That doesn’t always translate into elaborate, hearty texture or definition in close (although on occasion…), but it’s razor sharp anyway. The environments, whether the grubbiness of the early scenes or the more magical ones later, do look spectacular.

It’s as expected, marvelously colorful too. The saturation of Wonka’s purple coat is only the beginning as the movie transforms into a playland of varied hues and densities. Once the candy shop opens, it’s all literal eye-candy. While there is a warmer grade overall, this doesn’t change the flesh tones or their integrity. The slightest banding (super mild) is noticeable within the steam of the laundry room.

A dose of Dolby Vision invigorates scenery, with glistening sun reflecting off surfaces or through windows. It’s bright. Not the brightest, but rich and bold regardless. Black levels don’t pose any problems.


A marvelous Dolby Atmos track enlivens the musical numbers by a grand degree. Whether that’s chocolate pieces floating upward, steam filling the soundstage, or voices trailing off into stereos or rears, Wonka gets all of this right. It’s persistently active, with a wide split between the available channels and overheads. Height channels find near constant use, wherever possible.

Wonka doesn’t offer deep, potent low-end other than strumming along to the songs. It’s not designed for it, but when given a chance (a boat explosion), it’s rich enough.


A collection of featurettes include bonuses on the music, production design, and a piece on director Paul King.

  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras


A perfectly fine modern musical, Wonka lacks Dahl’s complete surrealism, but it’s creatively fun material regardless.

User Review
3 (1 vote)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 46 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD:

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