Sunday, March 7, 2010

Film Yap: The Boring Art of Tim Burton

Last weekend I decided I was going to talk about Tim Burton and how I don’t think his vision is very unique. I was thinking of the different elements to discuss when burst my bubble. Usually they are one of my favorite sources of creative videos, but I don’t appreciate it when they take my topic. I’ve embedded the video below and unfortunately it is quite funny and spot-on.

The video brings up my biggest problem with Burton: his “creative” vision has become stale and predictable. I was never one among my generation to really connect to his quirky dark tone. What I find interesting is that for such a unique cinematic niche, he has rarely worked on original screenplays.

Most of the times, the adaptations are from well-known works. Sleepy Hollow, Sweeney Todd, Planet of the Apes, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, and now Alice in Wonderland are all stories that have had plenty of adaptations. The only one of those that seems justified would be Sweeney Todd because that never had a proper film version. (That said, the original Broadway cast of Todd was filmed and it’s really worth renting. Angela Lansbury >>> Helena Bonham Carter.) So with the other examples, there really ought to be more of a reason to make another film. Those original sources already have a strong tone to them so when Burton adapts them he feels like more of a journeyman director instead of a provocative auteur.

The filmmakers I respect are the ones that are always striving to test themselves as storytellers. The projects Burton chooses lately are not challenging and then the final products appear to be too easy. The last film of his I’ve responded to was Big Fish, a film that does not look like the clichéd Burton flick. Yes, it was based off a book but it wasn’t mainstream of even good. This was perfect because there was opportunity to put his own touch on the source and improved it. There was more heart in this project and that made it memorable.

His earlier films had that spark and energy to make something that hasn’t been done before. Even with his Batman films, he was taking risks and involving elements of German Expressionism. Now he approaches the material too comfortably. It has been announced that his next film will be a retelling of Sleeping Beauty from Maleficent’s point of view. Great.

Someone needs to go all Lars von Trier on Burton. von Trier set these ridiculous rules from his Dogme 95 manifesto to filmmakers to encourage them to step outside their boundaries. I’m not even saying that they have to be harsh demands. I want to see Burton make a movie for under five million dollars. I want him to work outside his acting troupe. I want him to craft an original story again. I just want something interesting!

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