Tim Burton is kind of like Nicolas Cage in the sense that, a while ago, they used to be awesome sometimes. Now, he’s simply the Spike Lee of pale people. Every T-shirt in Hot Topic has a small stitch where it was originally attached to Burton’s umbilical cord. He succeeds in creating a good movie in the same way that shouting prevents a bear attack: maybe, leaning highly towards a messy failure.
These are three of his best and three of his worst, because the ultimate way to make something suck is to put it directly beside something that doesn’t.
Big Fish is kind of a touching story. It has Ewan McGregor in it, who owns a grin that could fill Christmas stockings, and tears so potent that when wizards collect enough of them, they can see the future. Big Fish is a man’s search for his son’s acceptance and deals with the struggle to preserve a legacy, which is something that many people deal with. It’s outlandish, but still remains in touch with human emotion. If you didn’t read those last two sentences, imagine the following, vague scenario:
A lot of people are very sad. Now, cut from those sad people to highly stylized weird folk who teach you cool stuff. Now, back to the sad people. That’s Big Fish, except a little better.
Alice in Wonderland
Johnny Depp wears sticks on his hat in this abortive reaction to Lewis Carroll’s book. Filled with so much computer animation that the plot actually, visibly crumbles underneath it, Alice in Wonderland is a story of what happens when a director sees a classic work, and actively seeks to ruin it. He takes his domestic partner, Helena Bonham Carter, and shoves her into the thing, gives her a huge head and everything is so “crazy” that you can’t help but wonder why the projectionist hasn’t felt morally obligated to quit his job.
Michael Keaton is my favorite Batman and actor. He plays the part as a borderline autistic billionaire, who sits around, waiting for the Bat signal and sleeping with emotionally damaged women in his spare time. I can relate to this, with the exception of the part about being a billionaire. He also hates the shit out of clowns, so much so that he’ll attach bombs to the nearest one’s chests and push them down wells. That kind of devotion to an ideal is far more entertaining to me than watching Christian Bale growl his way through a metaphor that any person in the audience could’ve deciphered on their own.
At one point in Batman Returns, The Penguin bursts through the floor of a ballroom on a giant penguin car. He then takes Christopher Walken hostage. The fact that this sequence is in a Batman movie makes it more fever dream than film, and it works to ridiculous extent. Batman Returns is Tim Burton’s greatest contribution when it comes to working with a pre-existing subject. He wouldn’t be so lucky later, when he’d take on one of the most beloved science fiction films of the 1960’s, simply to prove that he didn’t like you at all.
Planet of the Apes
If I was unfunny, I’d describe this film as “something you’d make if you were smoking crack AND WHERE CAN I GET SOME OF THAT!?!” But I find myself hilarious, so I won’t use that to illustrate the amount that Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes fails. I’m still confused as to why Burton was picked as the director. Were the producers blindfolded and asked to feel for the person most likely to wear a thick black coat? Or did Tim Burton win a raffle for “Remakes You’ll Likely Fuck Up”?
I don’t have the answer to this question, because I’m not a Hollywood producer. Their decisions make about as much sense as trying to explain free healthcare at an NRA meeting. Hollywood producers would give The Godfather remake to a horse if they were told that the horse used to work in music videos. Developing a movie for them is a complicated process of picking a number behind someone’s back, sacrificing that many chickens and hoping that the Comic Con Robocop teaser poster generates some excitement.
If you love the original Planet of the Apes, which you do, you’ll almost be ashamed watching this. Mark Wahlberg demonstrates a lack of acting prowess so severe that you’d swear someone needed to wake him up. The plot is most famous for the twist at the end, where the future is ruled by apes, meaning that nothing you watched previously mattered. Sometimes, people will call this “nihilism,” but the screenwriters of this are far too dumb to know what that word means. Therefore, it’s just blind luck that Planet of the Apes makes you feel empty after viewing it. It’s like watching a loved one slowly dying of cancer, and then accidentally slow-clapping for the cancer.
Beetlejuice also stars Michael Keaton, and he delivers the most memorable performance of his career in this movie about a crude poltergeist who offers his service to a ghost couple who want to scare a family out of their old house. What was once nightmare fuel as a child (the stop-motion furniture creatures became the catalyst for at least two pee my-self’s, and the sand worms have stayed in my head forever. AGGHHHHH, FUCKING SANDWORMS. MY MIND SCREAMS FOR PEACE AND THE ECHO IS ONLY MORE SANDWORMS) is now one of my favorite movies.
Beetlejuice is probably, overall, Tim Burton’s best work. It combines his gothic sensibilities with his comic sensibilities in a way that doesn’t offend the audience. However, in the next film, he wouldn’t be so lucky. The next film is to the audiences what the first half of I Spit On Your Grave was to vaginas.
Tim Burton’s inconsistent output as a director could be compared to Johnny Depp’s inconsistent work in Tim Burton movies. Dark Shadows is one of those times when his goofy Deppiness gets in the way of his likability, lending Dark Shadows that special feeling of Good God, When Will It End. With costumes that look like they were designed by someone who only knew firsthand what it was like to be lame in both the 1700’s AND the 1970’s, and a script with about as much direction as a compass droppedin a room made of magnets, hearing the title “Dark Shadows” is enough to make me flip off any TV screen in sight.
Watch this clip. Usually dialogue or a certain, single performance stilts a scene. In Dark Shadows, Dark Shadows stilts the scene.