The Uncreative Artist – Tim Burton

I’d heard rumors, and today I got sent an article on the prospects of Tim Burton making a Beetlejuice II. Normally these types of remakes and sequels are things that make me want to beat my head over a desk, but in this case I want to throw myself out a window too.  Here’s why.

If you haven’t noticed the problem with the last batch of Tim Burton movies perhaps this video parody will help. I don’t think I noticed the problem until Alice in Wonderland, that was the “A-Ha” moment for me. I was weary around Sweeney Todd, but hadn’t quite gotten to the moment of “wtf is wrong with Tim Burton?”

I use to LOVE Tim Burton. Nightmare Before Christmas (his concept and screenplay) is I think one of the most incredible movies in cinematic history.  Beetlejuice, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Batman, Edward Scissorhands are all great movies any movie maker should be proud of.  And Big Fish is one of my favorite movies of all time. I thought it was a spectacular moment in Burton film making by combining a true average character who liked the normal life (Crudup) with the more fantastical tales that Burton is famous for and the compromise in between.  I cry a river every time I see it.

The story of a man with an imagination too big for a small town.
The story of a man with an imagination too big for a small town.

But then, after a while, you see a problem…

And the problem is all the movies are exactly alike with the only exception I can see as the remake of Planet of the Apes. Edward Scissorhands was an outcast that went to live in a suburban area that was admittedly made to look like a bit like a version of the suburban life on steroids.  This really added to the whole outcast angle. Years later, Dark Shadows is about that vampire suddenly waking up years in the future in an ordinary town where he is the fish out of water.  But it doesn’t work because the entire town and all of vampire dude’s family look like crazy people in a Tim Burton movie.  I don’t see a fish out of water. I see a vampire in a castle full of crazy people.

Edward Scissorhands family dinner
Dark Shadows family dinner

I might have been excited at the prospect of a Beetlejuice II had it not been for the notion in my head that Burton is out of ideas and only wants to work with Johnny Depp and his own wife. Case in point his last movies; Frankenweenie (a remake of his own movie), Dark Shadows (remake of TV show), Alice in Wonderland (remake of children’s story), Sweeney Todd (adaptation of musical that was adapted from short story).

Now, I understand not all directors work with their own original material. The thing is, he is literally remaking things that have already been translated into a visual medium and making them “darker”. He’s not finding someone’s original screenplay. He’s not directing a movie based on a beloved book that with the advances in CGI could now truly be something amazing.  For all we know, up next, Tim Burton’s Dirty Dancing, the tale of a girl (Helena Bonham Carter) who finds love at the haunted house with the ghost of a tragic dancer (Johnny Depp) who was murdered.

Dirty Dancing of the Dead

So, as much as I use to love Tim Burton and admire his view on the world and making it come to life…. I’m done. In my world, a true artist is a person who creates, experiments, pushes the boundaries, challenges themselves.  Tim Burton is drowning in a niche he found for himself it’s not really working anymore. Even if he spends the rest of his career making movies based in supernatural and fantastical universes (which he might as well, nothing wrong with that) can he maybe stop recycling characters and sets? I believe in you, Tim.  I know you can do better.  That’s why these past few years I’ve been so disappointed.


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