On Tim Burton
  • woerwoer June 2010

    Back in the 80s and 90s, Tim Burton became a celebrity director because he was the man with vision and originality. Here was a man with the bravery to go where no one else would, and to show us worlds that revealed the cookie-cutter Hollywood filmmaking industry for the soulless, uninventive mechanism it was.

    Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, and even the first two Batman films, we saw something that was dark, off-color, and edgy. Insane characters, plot elements that intentionally didn't make sense, and a style that no one had really seen before... it all seemed so new and refreshing!

    The thing is... Burton always is and always was a one-trick pony. James Cameron had great success with liquid characters in The Abyss and T2: Judgment Day... but he moved on. Scorsese had success after success pairing Robert De Niro with Joe Pesci and making them swear at each other a lot... but not any more. David Fincher worked wonders more than once by putting Brad Pitt in the middle of a gritty tale with a shocking ending... but not for every film.

    Meanwhile, we've all come to know Tim Burton's shtick. The Gothic imagery, the spirals, the Danny Elfman soundtrack, the insistence on casting Johnny Depp and/or Helena Bonham Carter regardless of whether or not they fit the role they were paired with... and on top of it all, Hollywood has adapted, they know that "dark" sells... so we get "dark" films about teenage wizards and "dark" films about vampires that sparkle... so Burton's no longer unique, and now we see just how limited he really is. It's like M. Knight Shymalan's "What a Twist!", only sadder because for a decade or two Burton actually kept up the illusion that he had something to offer.

    What's more, even Burton's associates have learned how to do his own shtick better than he can any more - just look at Henry Selick's Coraline and compare it to Burton's Corpse Bride. Both films build on the same stop-motion style that made The Nightmare Before Christmas a cult classic, but while Corpse Bride seems old and tired right from the start, Coraline actually has the same freshness that made TNBC so great - the plot is inspired (though that's undoubtedly Neil Gaiman's doing), the characters are likable, and the visuals maintain the dark and creepy feel without being afraid to show wondrous, vibrant color. It was like Selick took from Burton what he felt worked, and then built on it instead of just staying there for eternity like Burton seems content to do.

    What's really sad is that Burton could be a good director again if he learned how to abandon his tired old techniques. Big Fish was a damn good film, but it largely wasn't Burton's off-kilter flashbacks that made it so wonderful - it was the firmly-grounded story about a man having trouble understanding his father that gave the film the emotional foundation to make it work. As fun as it may have been to watch Ewan McGregor's wacky adventures throughout the flashbacks, it was Billy Crudup and Albert Finney's scenes that explored something interesting and worthwhile - the characters.

    If Tim Burton truly is capable of making a film with characters who are interesting, complex, grounded, and who the audience can identify and sympathize with, one wonders why Burton still feels the need to stick to his old tricks. In fact, he seems terrified to let the characters blossom, and seems compelled to emphasize his films' Burtonesque qualities rather than letting the films stand on their own. It seems like what Burton fears most is his own inability to tell a story without his grab-bag of gimmicks, and if the man truly does have some worthwhile stories to tell, that is a tragedy beyond any damage done to Alice, Willy Wonka, and their ilk.

    Perhaps someday Burton will grow a pair, artistically, and mature as a director enough to leave behind his staples and actually explore the art of storytelling rather than the art of applying his brand of paint to every story he touches. If we ever see that day, I suspect we may be given reason to celebrate Burton once again... but until then, we can only shake our heads in the sad knowledge that he has become the lack of originality that he once seemed to be the antithesis of.

    tl;dr: rickroll.wav

    thoughts? s/he has some good points
  • PheylanPheylan June 2010
    Brutal, but I can see how its true. I haven't seen many of the more recent movies mentioned, but I do know the trend being referenced. I guess you could kind of defend him by saying that Hollywood does need some directors that have found their niche and need to stick with it. Michael Bay doesn't exactly reinvent himself everytime he makes a movie, but I still (mindlessly) enjoy many of his films.
  • JonobonoJonobono June 2010
    As a long time fan of Burton's work, i'll go ahead and admit my bias. I like Tim Burton.

    As for the article, it did accually make me stop and think about the points being made. While some are true, its main point regarding Burton being a "one-trick pony" was particularly troubling. We're talking about a guy who is infact the total package when it comes to film. He directs, writes, produces and acts. 9/10th of the movies that come out are based on what sells well or books. All the while, Tim Burton has helped in creating some of the most memorable characters in Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice. As for his recycling of actors, Cameron had Arnold, Scorcese had De Niro and Leo. In the end, people like to hear and especially see what Burton has to show and for that he should at least be given the respect he deserves.

  • NunesNunes June 2010
    Meh. There are extremely few excellent directors. An argument could be made that James Cameron is also making the same movies over and over again. [Guy finds himself out of his element and finds a forbidden love just before the newly discovered world around him is threatened by disaster.]

    Furthermore, there are plenty of directors who were doing just great *until* they changed direction. I'm looking at you George Lucas...

    My point is that this gripe doesn't really change my perspective on a director's films. It's really easy to snipe basically any director as being unoriginal, and usually it's accurate. But I don't think that's the crux of filmmaking anymore.

    It's also not that devastating because I'm not a *huge* burton fan. TNBC is great... ESH never really did it for me.

    And comparing T2 and The Abyss is insanity. I don't even think it's the same technology being used in those two films. And if that's true then the entire point regarding Cameron "moving on" is moot. He still uses the fanciest technology money can buy to generate the film that sells the most.

    Seems like a cheapshot to me. After all, who *is* original?
  • JonobonoJonobono June 2010
    Your "cheapshot" comment hit the nail on the head in summarizing my thoughts. Seems like the original author was pissed Alice in Wonderland wasn't that great and then did the typical bloggers rant.
  • NunesNunes June 2010
    QUOTE (Jonobono @ Jun 13 2010, 10:38 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
    Your "cheapshot" comment hit the nail on the head in summarizing my thoughts. Seems like the original author was pissed Alice in Wonderland wasn't that great and then did the typical bloggers rant.

    I hear it's phenomenal if you turn it off right after Depp asks Alice to stay.
  • JonobonoJonobono June 2010
    It was most disapointing to me because it followed the same structure as the original Alice in Wonderland. Usually if Burton does a remake, he does it totally his own way. I didn't hate the film, but it wasn't my favorite.
  • coffeecoffee June 2010
    rant is kind of retarded - making "dark" movies with questionable sanity is what tim burton does. And lots of people still enjoy his work so why should he change if he doesn't want to. Almost all of john woo's movies involve crazy gunplay over the top action sequences but that doesn't mean he's unoriginal and should try his hand at a rom com
  • ErlingErling June 2010
    Meh, WTB American McGee's Alice.
  • JonobonoJonobono June 2010
    Don't we all. Burton should have made that. It would have been spectacular.
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