Tim Burton, You Are Walking a Fine Line

June 26, 2009 at 2:35 pm 5 comments

Like many people our age, I grew up watching and loving the work of the young (by comparison) Tim Burton. I remember seeing one of his early feature films, Frankenweenie (1984), when I was but a wee lass of 8 or so after my mom picked it out for me at Blockbuster. I was somewhat hesitant to watch it, seeing as how it was neither animated nor in color, but after I did it elicited one of the most intense emotional reactions I have ever had to a film and remains burned into my memory. Because it was traumatizing. (It’s the story of a kid whose dog is killed, then he reanimates it into a Frankenstein monster of sorts. Burton is re-making it. We’ll see.)

From there, Burton continued to nourish my interest in film with his classics, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands, and even Beetlejuice. His aesthetic was like no other’s; it was his fantastically dark, yet somehow childlike rendering of characters and production design that made him so unique among other auteurs of film.

But lately, Burton seems intent on pooping all over my love for him. Of his latest works, there’s very little that seems genuinely weird and original; rather, it’s become all candy colors and attempted shock value that seems overly contrived and tainted by too-big budgets and the Hollywood machine’s over-arching goal to appeal to the masses. As a filmmaker, he’s like a lo-fi underground band whose whole attraction was their originality and off-beat creativity, who then gets signed to a major record label and is then over-produced and hyper-slicked in the interest of garnering a radio Top 20 and being played at every high school homecoming in the Tri-State area, and in the process, loses all that was interesting about it in the first place!! (GAHH!!)

So after getting noticed in Hollywood for making movies that were actually good, he got signed on to making movies that were pretty mediocre and not really his own (Planet of the Apes, Batman), and after paying his dues to the system is now free to do whatever he wants with tons of money*. Lately, that means forgoing original material in favor of puking rainbows, I’m sorry, “re-imagining,” all over beloved classics, which I expected him to remake with more subtlety and nuance. And repeatedly using the same cast over and over. Yeah we know you impregnated Helena Bonham Carter and you’d no doubt do the same to Johnny Depp if it was physically possible, but I have to say that things are getting a bit tired, predictable, and episodic. Even though Burton is weird, he’s become mainstream, and I’m tired of seeing him do the same thing with the same people.

For instance: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Yeah, Johnny Depp’s character was fucking weird, but in a very in-your-face, possibly pedophilic way. And if we are to believe this was such an out-there, creative “re-imagining” of the original, what was with all those Kidz Bop-esque musical numbers by the computer replicated oompa-loompas? (I’d like to take this quick moment to say that I think computers are not and may never be as satisfying as practical effects [in-camera, makeup, etc] at least for me, anyway.) Personally I found the original to be more unsettling. I mean Slugworth alone was creepier than anything in the new version.

I’ll admit that I liked Big Fish, and Sweeney Todd was okay, but I feel like it did suffer from the over-production I mentioned earlier.

So why the rant now?  Because Burton is re-making Alice in Wonderland, one of my most cherished childhood books, and based on the recently publicized photos from the film, I can’t be certain he will be treating the book with tender loving care in the way Spike Jonze appears to with Where the Wild Things Are. I mean, look at this:

alicetease2

What the fuck? Why does he look like a bizarro LSD-tripping Ronald McDonald with weird-ass snake eyes (contact lens abuse!)? Is this film going to further highlight the very obvious allegory of being on drugs? I’m hoping this was ramped up for publicity because it’s altogether too garish for my taste and seems like Burton is just milking the makeup department and trying to make things super weird just for the sake of being weird. Which, really, doesn’t seem weird anymore. It seems like trying too hard.

Despite the fact that this picture totally sort of pissed me off, I am trying to hold out hope that this movie will be good and I’ll enjoy it. Other stills were more promising than this one, but it’s still too early to tell (the movie isn’t out til March 2010). I don’t want to be mad at Tim Burton (because then I’d have to rescind my invitation for him to attend my birthday party) and I certainly don’t want to hate on any incarnation of Alice in Wonderland like I’m some kind of book snob.

Maybe I’m just getting heated because this is all so personal and near and dear to my heart. I just hope he doesn’t let his boner for “pushing the envelope” for (what has become sort of cliche and calculated) “weirdness” coupled with a big budget cause him to blow a magenta-and-lime-colored load all over one of my favorite stories.

*My personal interpretation. No facts were checked.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. parkrangerolivia  |  June 26, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Hey. I liked that Batman.

    Reply
  • 2. alisaurus  |  June 26, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    Yeah it was alright. It was a franchise film though! i.e., not entirely original. Sad to think he’s only directed two original scripts in the last 10 years.

    Reply
  • 3. seph  |  July 26, 2009 at 7:11 am

    Oh come on, we would _all_ impregnate Johnny Depp if we had the chance.

    (besides that, yeah, I agree. I have no interest in his newer stuff, which is a shame because I used to love him)

    Reply
  • 4. Phil  |  June 28, 2010 at 3:57 am

    I see your points, I do. But nothing is more mainstream than your opinion. Please come up with a new one, it’s boring me. K? Thnx.

    Reply
    • 5. Phil  |  June 28, 2010 at 1:19 pm

      That was rude and unnecessary. I apologize.

      Reply

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