How to Fix Tim Burton

Earlier this year I did posts on how to fix Superman and Alice in Wonderland. Now I am taking on a great visionary like Tim Burton. In my opinion aside from his animated films he hasn’t made a good movie since Sweeney Todd in 2007. I’m sure he is rolling in his money somewhere but if anyone were to ask my advice here’s what I would say.

tim-burton1. STOP ADAPTING THINGS!– Tim Burton comes from an animation background and his animated films (both producer and director) have still remained great. What’s unique about them? They are original properties!  They come from Tim Burton’s brain!

Let’s look at his track record with adaptations:

Planet of the Apes- clunky, awkward, boring, and aside from Rick Baker makeup Tim Burton’s visual style nowhere to be found.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory- they replace all the whimsy of the Gene Wilder classic with a Michael Jackson version of Wonka. I hated this film so much in the theater.

Alice in Wonderland- long, boring adaptation that trades in the Wonderland nonsense for a prophecy and chosen one with a apocalyptic battle scene and Crispin Glover being creepy, Helena Bonham Carter screaming

Dark Shadows- based off of cult TV show feels like each performer is in a different movie. The tone is all over the place. I didn’t laugh once.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children- just like so many YA adaptations it gets bogged down in exposition instead of creating compelling characters. I was so bored.

So there you have it. STOP DOING ADAPTATIONS!!!!

2. Animate Again– I don’t know how good Burton’s relationship with Disney is after Frankenweenie but I’m sure he can find a studio to work with again. In my opinion Frankenweenie and Corpse Bride are by far the best thing he has done since Ed Wood.

You could say that’s just because I am an animation addict and that would be true but Tim Burton started in animation and some of his most personal projects have been in that medium. His short Vincent feels practically autobiographical.

vincent06The other thing is animation takes time. A live action film can be filmed in as short as a month. Animation is multiple years process and I think Burton needs that to refine his scripts and make sure they are more than style over substance.

I’m not saying never do live action again but let’s get the Burton mojo back with animation. I’m sure Laika would work with him again and that would be awesome.

3. Collaborate- In my opinion Tim Burton’s best movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas, isn’t actually directed by him. It is directed by Henry Selick. Sometimes I wonder if Tim Burton and Zack Snyder both need collaborators.

They are both visionary storytellers. There’s no doubt about it but left to their own devices the stories are muddled and boring.

ed-woodI don’t have any proof but I’ve got to imagine in the early days of Burton he was reigned in a lot more than he is now. At the very least I know Ed Wood was a very collaborative effort between writers Larry Karaszewski, Scott Alexander, director Tim Burton and producer Denise Di Novi.

Working with his muses such as Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter (who has evidently been replaced by Eva Green) you would think would invite collaboration but it does not appear to be the case. Perhaps you get too comfortable and that leads to uninspired work.

Animation is a very collaborative medium so it is no surprise his best work has been there.

4. NO CG-  Now I don’t really mean no CG, but I think CG has kind of ruined Tim Burton.  I can only imagine how much cooler his Alice in Wonderland would have been if he had to literally create the world.

If you think about Edward Scissorhands, Burton created an entire world. Just as an example, his version of suburbia in Edward Scissorhands is full of color and makes a statement about the life just in the color of the paint and the way the castle floats above the small houses.

edward_scissorhands_hillIn his recent Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children the suburb is just normal houses that look like any other houses.

peregrine-houseThe one part I liked in Miss Peregrine’s was the skeleton scene which is made to look like stop motion! It was like a little peak at what might have been.

skeleton5. REMEMBER THE EMOTION– Most of Tim Burton’s early films work (for me at least) not because of visual splendor but because I am emotionally attached to the characters. Big Eyes is the only one of his recent live action films I have connected with on that level (I so wish Christoph Waltz hadn’t ruined that movie with his overacting). Sweeney Todd has it because of the Sondheim music but other than that Tim Burton has had one flat protagonist after another.

Alice's expression through most of Wonderland...
Alice’s expression through most of Wonderland…

Ed Wood is a great movie because we care about Ed making his horrible movies. He is so happy doing what he is doing and that makes you root for him. Edward Scissorhands is heartbreaking. Jack Skellington is likable despite stealing christmas. Frankenweenie breaks your heart in two and I’m not even a pet owner.  The list goes on.

edward-scissorhands2Even a silly movie like Pee Wee’s Big Adventure you laugh but actually care a little bit about him finding that darn bike. I’m not the biggest fan of Burton’s Batman films but particularly Batman Returns has a lot of emotion in it. I mean Penguin’s story is a complete tragedy. I wish we could get a tenth of the emotion from Penguins funeral with the birds walking him into the water in films like Alice in Wonderland or Dark Shadows.

And you don’t have to make the character have Daddy issues to get emotion. Just have a character experiencing something that matters to them. Put on that Danny Elfman score and you’ve got my attention! Corpse Bride gets emotion out of me in Victor playing a piece of classical music. It’s a moment of human connection. That’s all it takes.

corpse-bride-victor-playing-pianoI really do think that Tim Burton is a talented man, a genius when he is on his game. I LOVE Corpse Bride. I LOVE Ed Wood. I LOVE Edward Scissorhands. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure is genius. I thought Sweeney Todd was terrific. Frankenweenie made me bawl my eyes out. I want to like a new movie from him so badly!

So, that’s my opinion on that. You are welcome Mr Burton for the free advice 😉

Alice Through the Looking Glass Review

alice-through-the-looking-glass-poster-aliceIf you guys read my response to the Beauty and the Beast trailer you might have an inkling I’m not the biggest fan of these Disney live action remakes. Even the Jungle Book I didn’t like as much as others; although I certainly enjoyed it. The only one I have really LOVED is Cinderella. It’s odd because I’m not normally opposed to remakes on principle but have found the decision making on Disney’s part to be very disappointing.

And unfortunately these bad choices all started with 2010’s Alice in Wonderland. It’s like Disney doesn’t even understand the appeal of their own properties. They certainly don’t understand the appeal of Alice in Wonderland I can tell you that. But to everyone’s confusion the 2010 film made over a billion dollars. It’s so odd because only one person I know really likes it. Alice is kind of like Disney’s version of Transformers- everyone hates it and yet it still made a lot of money?

So it is perhaps no surprise a sequel to such a hit would come. To tell the truth I’m surprised it didn’t come sooner. Many are calling Alice Through the Looking Glass ‘the sequel that nobody wanted’ and after seeing the film I must concur. As bad as the 2010 film is this is even worse.

alice bookTo begin with, don’t let the title fool you.  This movie has almost nothing to do with the Lewis Caroll book Alice Through the Looking Glass. I recently read both Alice books and found them to be delightful. You can read my review here. I actually think the novel has potential as it has a bit more narrative than the first book. Alice ends up in a chess game where she must outwit various players including Humpty Dumpty and the White/Red Queens. This could have been a nice middle-ground between the prophetic narrative of the 2010 film (ugh) and the nonsense of the animated  film but no they abandoned it for some reason. I actually wonder if director James Bobbin and producer Tim Burton have read either of the Alice books…

alice 2No, in this version you have Alice (a bland Mia Wasikowska) who has been a sea captain outwitting all the men around the world (literally…ugh). She ends up returning to Underland to help The Hatter who is heartsick over his dead family. He wants Alice to bring his family back from the dead for him. Quite the request I’d say! And the weird part is the movie assumes this great friendship between the Hatter and Alice which I don’t recall being established in the first movie. My thought was ‘why doesn’t the Hatter get off his butt and go find his family? Why must Alice do it?”. He’s even kind of cranky when she tells him she has no power over death…

alice5It turns out there is a way to help when Alice goes into a clock and literally meets Time (Sacha Baron Cohen). At great peril to all of Underland she steals a chronosphere and goes back in time to undo what hurt the Hatters family.

This all could be good but it is unfortunately very dopey. The worst part is when you find out what kept the White and Red Queen apart you won’t believe it. It’s one of those movie things that a 3 minute conversation could make right and this disagreement caused the war in the first movie. It caused all kinds of misery and all over desserts…I kid you not.

Alice-Through-the-Looking-Glass-Wallpaper

The key to a story like this working is the chemistry of the cast and the believability of the world building. Neither of that exists here. I wasn’t a fan of the artistic style of the first film but admit it was a style. This is very generic (although a little brighter).

Johnny Depp is annoying as the Hatter. Anne Hathaway deserves a Razzie award as the White Queen. Helena Bonham Carter shrieks a lot. Alan Rickman literally has 3 lines as Absolem (so disappointed this has to be his final role).  Most of the side characters are marginalized and not heard from and instead we get the dopey relationship drama between the two queens and Alice messing things up.

It’s frustrating because it has all of the pieces to make something good. I would actually love a good Alice in Wonderland movie but instead we get this.

All I can really say for it is that the costumes are well done and it is less violent than the first film, so I guess you can take kids to it. But save your money for Finding Dory. Even Angry Birds is better than this. See Jungle Book again but skip Alice Through the Looking Glass.

Overall Grade- D

Here’s my youtube review. I’d be very grateful if you gave it a watch/thumbs up. I’m nearing 1,000 subscribers and so if you aren’t subscribed I think you will enjoy the content.

Animated vs Burton Alice in Wonderland

Many of you know I am doing a Disney Canon rewatch over on my youtube channel.  I’ve honestly been surprised how different my experience has been with several films- with my either looking more highly or slightly down on films from my 2014 watch.  I mean there are very few Disney films I don’t like on some level, so I suppose degrees of liking will vary depending on mood/situation.

Anyway, I am up to week 13 which means Alice in Wonderland.  I love Alice in Wonderland and it ended up at #11 in my original Disney Canon ranking.  This time it could end up even higher.  What struck me on this watch is how it is nonsense but nonsense with a purpose.  Alice says she thinks the world would be better if it was nonsense and all books had pictures, right was left, up was down etc.  So when she gets to Wonderland she experiences her vision of what she thinks will be better and it turns out it isn’t.  There’s something interesting there.  How often in life do we think another world/lifestyle would be better but if we walked around in our dream world it might not be so great?

Alice’s journey is non-linear as far as plot.  She meets one character and experiences their version of nonsense.  Whether it is an insane tea party, an angry Queen of Hearts or a blubbering philosophizing caterpillar.  Some people don’t like that lack of structure but I love it.

I actually just read the book for the first time and posted a review on my other blog.  I loved the book as well.  It’s funny, endearing and magical. http://smilingldsgirl.com/2016/03/29/teaser-tuesday-alice-in-wonderland/

The voice cast here may be the best in Disney history and the artwork from Mary Blair and team is geometric and rich in detail.  I love it.

So here is my youtube review of the Animated Alice.

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Now let’s talk about the 2010 Tim Burton version.  I did not like this movie when it came out in the theater but I knew I needed to rewatch it for the upcoming sequel so I tried to go in with an open mind….and boy do I still dislike this movie.

First of all, it entirely gets the purpose of Alice in Wonderland wrong.  She thinks that nonsense is better and she gets a chance to confront that belief.  In this version she is escaping a stuffy proposal because she’s a free spirit. Groan…They keep saying in the film it is her dream but what proof have we gotten of that in the real life segment?  And who dreams of these things?  It makes sense for Alice in the animated film to dream of a world of nonsense but who dreams of prophecies, battles, apocalyptic death and destruction?   That makes no sense where an angry version of nonsense does make sense.

Even if you accept a different purpose for the story, the purpose that they chose is incredibly generic and boring.  Alice is the chosen one we’ve seen in a million other movies who is prophesied to save Wonderland…oh excuse me Underland (gag me).  I mean how many movies from Twilight, Harry Potter, Narnia, Hunger Games do we see this story arc.  What they’ve done is take a bright unusual story and turn it into the most milk toast of stories.

Now about the visuals.  This film won Oscars for visual effects and costumes but to me it looks extremely flat and one-note.  Everything is gray and brown and a lot of it can feel quite garish and gross (how about the mote of heads…). I can see why they are pleasing to some palates but to me it is completely bland and seen it a million times. To me it is remarkable that Mary Blair with essentially black backgrounds gets more creativity and better world building in the animated film than all of this 2010 version accomplishes.

Then we have the performances and characters. Mia Wasikowska is completely generic and boring as Alice.  What is great about Kathryn Beaumont is she seems to have the personality of both a grown up and a child. Here she is a free spirited independent girl- yawn!

As far as the other performances, they don’t realize that in the animated film these characters are on screen very briefly so they don’t ware out their welcome.  Here Johnny Depp as the marose Mad Hatter is very annoying and nobody should want to hear Helena Bonham Carter shrieking for a nearly 2 hour movie.  It’s just awful. The one stand out for me is Alan Rickman as the Caterpillar who is perfect for the part.

I know a lot of people like this film but I really hate it.  On the rewatch I honestly dislike it just as much as Maleficent.  Just not for me I guess.

Here is my video review of 2010 Alice in Wonderland

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I know that is throwing a lot at you guys in one post but I would love to hear your thoughts on either film.  Thanks so much! And if you like my videos please give them a thumbs up and subscribe because each Wednesday I post my Disney Canon reviews. Next up Peter Pan.