Like all of you, we were both baffled and enthralled by the Wonka trailer this week. Timothée Chalamet doing Gene Wilder catchphrases? Check. Paul King making a world so charming he could drop Paddington right into it if he wanted to? Check. Loads of our favorite British sitcom stars in funny costumes? Check. Hugh Grant wearing orange face paint and dancing? Surprisingly, check.
We’re firmly in the tank for Wonka and expecting great things, as we were promised in our Paul King interview. However, we can’t help thinking that a return to the universe of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory never had to go down the prequel route. There’s already source material for a follow-up, and it’s so delightfully unhinged that we can’t believe they’ve not made it already.
If there are going to be new movies for this character after the Wonka release date, then they should adapt Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. Like, do it now. In fact, go back and do it yesterday.
Published in 1972 – a year after Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory hit cinemas – Dahl’s sequel book picks up immediately where its predecessor left off, with Charlie Bucket and his entire family joining Wonka in his glass elevator to take over the chocolate factory. Then, they go to space. Yep, space. We’re a long way from August Gloop falling into a river here.
More specifically, while attempting to get the elevator high enough to smash back into the factory, Wonka accidentally puts it into orbit. He docks at a space hotel, only to find that it has been invaded by shape-changing aliens – Vermicious Knids, which get a brief mention in the ‘70s movie. Wonka then uses the elevator to save a capsule full of hotel staff from the Knids, exploding the creatures on re-entry into the atmosphere.
So we’ve got shape-changing aliens being turned into shooting stars. So far, so great. Anything else? Oh yeah, Wonka accidentally wipes one of Charlie’s grandparents from existence by de-aging her to -2 years old. Two of the others are turned into babies. They all have to go to “Minus Land” to save the one they aged out of existence. To say it’s wild is an understatement.
Then, after all is solved, they get an invite to the White House. Frankly, dinner with the president is the least crazy thing that happens. That’s really saying something.
With all of that anarchy, you might well be asking why this hasn’t already been turned into one of the best movies of all time. Well, the date of publication is key.
By the time Great Glass Elevator hit bookshelves, Dahl was already angry at Hollywood. He didn’t want Gene Wilder to be Willy Wonka – Spike Milligan was his personal choice – and he hated the movie adaptation of his book for its “saccharine” tone and differences from his plot. We couldn’t disagree more; it’s a masterpiece and among the best family movies ever made.
Equally, although Willy Wonka is now considered a classic and one of the best movies based on books, it only did middling business at the box office and existed in relative obscurity for years. A sequel never made commercial sense. But, in common with movies like It’s a Wonderful Life and The Shawshank Redemption, Willy Wonka became a fixture of television schedules and its reputation grew.
Hollywood gave Charlie another spin with Tim Burton’s adaptation in 2005, in which Johnny Depp played Wonka. The movie was a commercial and critical hit at the time, but its reputation has since become divisive. Although it has its merits and is faithful to the book – outside of the weird and unnecessary flashbacks to Wonka’s childhood – it frankly isn’t fit to lace the boots of the original classic. Again, there was no sign of a sequel.
However, the path could now be clear for Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator to finally hit the big screen. Netflix made a deal with the Roald Dahl Story Company in 2021, and it’s already hard at work on multiple Charlie projects. Taika Waititi is helming an animated series based on the original book, as well as another delving into the Oompa Loompas. Perhaps orange-faced Hugh Grant will make an appearance.
Great Glass Elevator has, in fact, been on Netflix’s books since 2018, when one of the best streaming services shelled out a billion dollars for the rights to 16 Dahl works, including the madcap Wonka sequel.
So all of this is to say that Hollywood has been dragging its feet for too long. We need Willy Wonka in space. We need shape-shifters even more devious than the MCU’s rebel Skrulls. We need elderly women being erased from existence with magic potions. We need Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. Get to work.
For more of this candy-colored world, find out the five things we learned from the Wonka trailer event and learn more about who’s playing Willy Wonka in the new movie. And visit another literary universe as we explain why the new Lord of the Rings movies should use these three Tolkien stories.
Elsewhere, we’ve got everything you need to know about some of the biggest 2023 movies, including Chalamet’s other big blockbuster with the Dune 2 release date. And if Chalamet is your bag, find out about the Hollywood advice he got from Leonardo DiCaprio.