So we meet again, Mr. Burton. It seems like only yesterday when your bloodless, soul-sucking vampire melodrama "Dark Shadows" provided the content for my first review on this very website. I didn't have many nice things to say back then, but considering you have "Frankenweenie" coming out this weekend, I'm thinking we start fresh.
As a sign of good will, here are five Tim Burton movies that I actually quite enjoy and give merit to the director's reputation of quality and creativity.
It's ironic that my favorite Tim Burton film is one that features so few of Burton's typical clichés. It's not bathed in perpetual blacks and whites. Color is used for something other than showing the gaudy horrors of suburban life. Johnny Depp is nowhere to be found (it's actually the last time Burton hasn't collaborated with his superstar muse).
Perhaps that's why 2003's "Big Fish" feels so refreshing, sweet and heartfelt, as opposed to wrung through his usual trite visuals and characters. It certainly still feels like a Burton film – from the off-kilter look at the world to a few dark sequences involving a local witch – but it plays like something Burton actually cared about and put feeling into making, instead of a Disney-financed remake.
For those who find its emotions a little schmaltzy – an understandable complaint – consider this: Steven Spielberg almost directed it. The sentimental goop could've been a whole lot thicker.
It's easy to hate on 1990's "Edward Scissorhands" since it's essentially a handbook for all of things Burton (save for the fact there's no Helena Bonham Carter). It's also easy to hate it for what it created, but in doing so, it's also easy to overlook that it's a really well-made and well-told story. Depp is very good in the almost mute title role, one of his first big performances that showed his potential as a serious actor. Burton's imagery – namely the mess of metal and humanity that is his lead character – is actually imaginative and often beautiful. Once again, it's the kind of Burton film that feels like the result of inspiration instead of branding.
"Ed Wood" is one of Tim Burton's least popular films. It's not because of quality, but due to the fact most people just don't think of it when the topic of Burton movies comes up. It's probably because it's easily the least like the rest of the director's work. Burton's style and aesthetic has never been based in reality, so the concept of him doing a biopic seems absurd.
However, the results are pretty impressive. Depp delivers a charming performance as the legendarily inept director, and Burton fills Wood's life story with several entertaining characters, including a profane Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau). It's a sweetly presented tale about the love of film, no matter how bad the movies may be.
Watching "Batman" now in a post-Christopher Nolan universe is admittedly difficult. "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight" are two of the best comic book movies ever made, and the third one, while deeply flawed, is perhaps one of the most ambitious entries in the genre. But if Nolan has almost perfected what an adult comic book film could be, Burton laid down the groundwork with his 1989 rendition of the Caped Crusader.
The director's dark inclinations fit surprisingly well with the hero, and the combo of Keaton and Nicholson make for good sparring partners. Burton is not much of an action director, but his gripping version of Batman led to the bold movies we have now, while standing up pretty well on its own. It's too bad the bridge between Burton and Nolan had to be built by Joel Schumacher.
"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"
Let's get this point out of the way right away: Yes, Depp and Bonham Carter are not great singers. Calling them good is even a bit of a stretch. It seems apparent that Burton wanted to hire actors for their acting abilities, rather than for vocal talents. It backfires in some regards, but it also works since Depp and Bonham Carter are very good in their exceptionally heavy roles.
"Sweeney Todd" is certainly a grim tale, and Burton doesn't hold back, showing a seemingly endless string of gushing bloody slit throats. The film almost plays like an endurance test, but it's made pleasing by Burton's usual visual panache, some sinister performances and Sondheim's hauntingly beautiful music – a rare Danny Elfman-free production. It may not be the most polished of musicals, but as a whole, it doesn't hit many wrong notes.
1 comment about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Matt Mueller
Published Nov. 30, 2016
Marcus Lemonis' recent visit to Milwaukee for "The Profit" may not have gone according to plan, but he still has his sights on the Cream City, as his Bentley's Pet Stuff chain will open six new shops in around the city this weekend.
Published Nov. 29, 2016
While scenic designer Todd Edward Ivins' knowledge of the Milwaukee Rep's "A Christmas Carol" was mostly a blank slate, he was more than aware of the daunting legacy before him when he began work helping to reimagine the holiday classic.
Published Nov. 29, 2016
For many, Election Day was a day of shellshocked hurt, disappointment and fear. But today is a new day, and it's time to go to work doing good and helping those in need. Here are just a few ways you can reach out and make a difference.
Published Nov. 28, 2016
Christmas came early for Milwaukee, as Vogue Magazine gifted the city a flattering place in its recent "5 Industrial Cities Making America's Rust Belt Shine Again" travel article. See what they had to say!
Published Nov. 27, 2016
Netflix's much-anticipated "Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life" premiered this holiday weekend, and, while most of the show played like a sloppy but warmly satisfying Thanksgiving dinner, the ending left an uneasy aftertaste.
Published Nov. 22, 2016
Kenneth Lonergan's movie "Manchester By the Sea" has been a part of Oscar talk ever since January, but before it hits town, audiences can get a taste of his work with the Chamber's "Lobby Hero." We learned more about the show and why Lonergan's material works so well.
Published Nov. 22, 2016
Christmas has come early for Netflix subscribers, as the service announced its new arrivals for December - including "Captain America: Civil War," only the biggest movie of the year. And that's far from all. Here's everything coming and going next month.
Published Nov. 21, 2016
Some excitement quite literally hit Farwell Avenue early Monday afternoon, as a significant part of a building set for demolition fell onto the street.
Published Nov. 20, 2016
Despite being surrounded by the unfamiliar, I felt like I was cozily at home during my stay at The Astor Hotel - and that's a pretty impressive achievement for a hotel, especially when a guest's guts are actively staging a violent coup against him.
Published Nov. 16, 2016
Progress is moving fast on The Westin Milwaukee hotel - which will hold 220 rooms and a restaurant when it opens in June 2017 - and as evidence, this morning, The Westin hosted a special ceremony and a tour of the views and rooms in progress.