Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Rise and Fall of Tim Burton

Tim Burton, also known as the Prince of Darkness, broke into the industry with unbelievably good luck - but it's his talent and originality that have kept him at the top of the Hollywood tree. His first film, Pee-wee's Big Adventure was released in 1985 and it was a surprise box office hit. He then introduced himself as one of Hollywood's most inventive directors with films such as Beetlejuice, Batman and Edward Scissorhands. However, as he became Hollywood's go to man for quirky and gothic films, his films became higher budget and more mainstream, but much less memorable and critically acclaimed. 

One of his bigger earlier films, Edward Scissorhand, really brought Tim Burton and his leading man, Johnny Depp to the top of the Hollywood tree.  The film is co-written by Burton (along with Caroline Thompson). The idea for the film came from a drawing by Burton when he was a child. Edward Scissorhands is a relatively low-budget film, that ended up grossing $56,362,3524 at the box-office. Burton had full creative control of the film and it was self- produced by Burton which the end product shows. The film has Burton’s visual style and panache and the characters are typically Burtonesque. Also, the film received critical acclaim, receiving Saturn, Hugo and BAFTA awards and garnering a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Peter Travers Rolling Stone magazine   If you compare this with the other films I'm going to look at, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland - which both had much bigger budgets and pressure from major studios - I think the results are clear to see.

So why is Edward Scissorhand so popular? Many critics loved it because it was a modern fairy-tale story, that was so visually stunning and original. Film4 said it was Visually, stylistically and emotionally stunning.” While The New York Times said “Mr. Burton invests awe-inspiring ingenuity into the process of reinventing something very small.” In conclusion, the film did well because it was a quirky, bold and gothic tale from a new and exciting director.

His form quickly changed. 

Charlie and  the Chocolate Factory is, in my opinion, where Tim Burton started to decline. As a man who defends Planet of the Apes, this says a lot. The film has no determined style. Where is the style that made Edward Scissorhands a modern classic? Also Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as you know, is a remake and it’s adapted from a children’s book. This is hardly the Tim Burton of the past who declined making a Batman sequel and Beetlejuice sequel because he wanted to make Edward Scissorhands. The difference in this film and Edward Scissorhands also shows in the reviews. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory received mediocre reviews. Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post criticized Depp's acting, saying: "The cumulative effect isn't pretty. Nor is it kooky, funny, eccentric or even mildly interesting.” Depp, in particular receieved poor reviews. Depp has worked with Tim Burton several times and I believe that when you work with someone you know and are friends with you're work begins to decline and I think that's the case witrh both Burton and Depp. However, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory made a gross of over $470 million. Has Burton sold out?

Alice in Wonderland, for me, highlights everything that is wrong with modern Tim Burton. Burton makes another multi-million pound production on another remake that’s been adapted from the book. The film stars everyone he's ever worked with whether they fit the role or not.  The film cost an estimate of $150-$200 million dollars and made a staggering amount of over one billion dollars. It was, once again, critically panned. Jason Best of Movie Talk said “Storytelling has never been Burton's strong suit and his weakness is here compounded by a desire to somehow squeeze Carroll's topsy-turvy, logical-illogical tales into a teen-friendly, Disney-approved, big-screen adventure.” This tells me that Tim Burton has changed his film making style just for a big pay check from Disney. A user reviewer on Rotten Tomatoes said: “A bland adventure fantasy, Alice in Wonderland may be pretty to look at, yet offers nothing more than Tim Burton's now generic and uninspired brand of filmmaking.” I couldn't have put it better myself. 

To conclude, I believe that Tim Burton is a talented and innovative director. However, he can only achieve this potential when he’s working on a smaller budget, is passionate about the project and has full creative control. If he’s working with big Hollywood producers, I think he loses his love of filmmaking and finds the process boring. When Burton is working under these producers, he has more money to play with, but they become formulaic and unoriginal. Also, when he’s working for a big producer, it’s clear to see, that his films are not as well received as they are when he’s working on a small film such as Edward Scissorhands – or Beetlejuice, Ed Wood and Sleepy Hollow. 

Tim Burton of old - please come back!