Monday, March 21, 2005

Trying to Keep the Faith

All this talk about the new Star Wars movie has gotten me to thinking. Thinking about film directors who I once idolized, but have become recently disenchanted with, due to their latest works. After George Lucas, I'd say the next on my list might have to be Tim Burton.

What the hell happened to Tim Burton?

I don't mean what the hell happened as in, where is he, why hasn't he made a movie recently? I'm using the colloquilism to connote the despair that I feel as I look at Burton's track record and wonder HOW THE HELL he went from doing films like Beetle Juice, and Ed Wood, to Planet of the Apes, and Big Fish? Are all incredibly talented artists just bound to go insane sooner or later?

There was point in time when Tim Burton seemed to be one of the most creative and original minds in Hollywood. His unique visual style and the stories that he chose to tell, stood out among all the other films of the time. Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Beetle Juice, Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns, and Ed Wood are all so wonderfully dark yet whimsical at the same time. These films posess a visionary artistic quality lacking in so much of the bland movies that are churned out by the Hollywood movie making machine.

Mars Attacks! which was a genius concept, was the first sign I had that something might be awry in the mind of the master. Of course without hindsight, and in the context of his other films at the time, I didn't pay alot of attention to some of the sloppiness that seeped through the narrative seems of the movie. Up until then the only real complaint I had ever had with his artistic choices was the fact that he made Winona Ryder go blonde for Scissorhands.

Then came Sleepy Hollow. When I first heard he was making this film, I became really excited. The story of Ichabod Crane had always been one of my favorites growing up. It was deliciously spooky source material with an intriguing mythic element to it that I thought Burton's telling would be a smash hit. Unfortunately with Sleepy Hollow, a lead brunette actress with a bad blonde dye job was the least of his problems. While the film was still quite striking visually, the story lacked cohesiveness, and the characters felt flat. It was the first time that his work felt shallow and superficial. Previous to that he had always chosen a tale that had layers to it, that could be appreciated on different levels. But Sleepy Hollow was just eye candy.

What was next? Ah, yes The Planet of the Apes. I could maintain an entirely seperate blog that was just devoted to my thoughts on the POTA remake. First of all, I've heard it wasn't necessarily Burton's idea to remake the film, but whoever's idea it was should be shot. I have mixed feelings on remakes as it is. But to remake the original Planet of the Apes, a sci-fi classic and an amazing film, which also has one of the best twist endings in the history of cinema is absolutely, positively ludicrous. That being said, Burton's remake as an entity in and of itself, does not hold up at all. First off, this was actually his first film in which the visuals were really not that impressive. Ok, well the apes looked pretty great, but that was about it. Since he decided to shoot the second half of the film desert for that God awful battle sequence, there wasn't really much set to speak of. Not to mention the fact that they screwed up the story. Between having the humans on the Ape Planet be able to speak and that cockamamie ending with the Abraham Lincon Ape it was all I could do not to toss my Beetle Juice DVD out of the window in an impulsive rage.

Big Fish was just an expensive Hallmark card. Sort of sweet in its intentions but ultimately forgettable and disposable.

So now here comes his next film. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I was a huge Roald Dahl fan as a child, as well as a fan of the orginal film. I am intimately familar with this marvelous story filled with fantastical events and colorful characters. So there was admittedly, a part of me that was instantly curious to see what Burton could do with it. But at the same time, there was the part of me that thought to myself, "Really Tim, another remake?" I mean what was one of the most creative directors to emerge in the last twenty years, doing, filming remakes of movies that were already incredibly well known and loved?

The teaser trailer came out a couple months ago. I wasn't really sure what to make of it. I like the fact that its wierd, and the bizarro song playing in the background. All the sets and costumes look great except Wonka's factory looks a little more like it did in the original film than I would have liked. Its Wonka himself that I'm not so sold on. I think Johnny Depp is a very strong actor, but I'm so used to seeing Gene Wilder's mercurial smile peek out from the brim of that purple hat. Johnny Depp's Wonka sort of looks like the more demure younger sister of Marilyn Manson. Still, being the idealistic fool that I am, I'm hopeful that this will be Burton's return to his roots. A fantastical fairy tale that doubles as a social allegory with alluring visuals.

Just when I thought I was out....They bring me back in. Why am I such a sucker?


Anonymous spidy55555 said...

For once there is a person that dares say, "the king is naked". Keep it coming!

6:06 PM  

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