Tuesday, April 2, 2019

A Whiny Post About Tim Burton

If you've watched TV or gone on the internet in the last week or so, you've doubtless seen an untold number of ads for the latest Disney live-action remake, DUMBO. The movie is directed by Tim Burton.

When it comes to Tim Burton, I have a certain way of looking at the man and his work. For me, there are two Tim Burtons. There's the 20th Century Tim Burton, the man who directed such unique and entertainingly off-beat films such as PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE, BEETLEJUICE, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, and ED WOOD. I was a huge fan of the 20th Century Burton.

As for the 21st Century Tim Burton...he doesn't really make movies anymore--he remakes them. PLANET OF THE APES, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, DARK SHADOWS, ALICE IN WONDERLAND, and now DUMBO. All directed by Tim Burton, and all of them remade from material that, in my opinion, didn't need to be reworked in the first place.

Setting aside my old white guy bias against remakes for a moment, the 21st Century Tim Burton keeps using a style that was once fresh and intriguing, but now seems pedestrian. Most folks are familiar with the Tim Burton style...the faux-goth art direction, the quirky characters, visuals over plot construction, the Danny Elfman music....all accomplished film directors have certain elements that they use frequently, but with Burton it just seems all same old, same old. When you hear "Tim Burton movie", you know what you are going to get. (My brother Robert took his family to see the new DUMBO, and while he told me he liked it, he also said it was what he expected.)

I'd love to see someone as talented and visionary as Burton go back to some original type of material, and get off the Disney "family movie" highway. But, honestly...does he really need to?

Think about it. Burton is one of the few major film directors that keeps putting out theatrical features on a regular basis. (Many of Burton's director contemporaries from the 80s and 90s don't even make movies period.) Burton's association with Disney is rather advantageous--when he does release a film under their banner, it's going to get plenty of publicity and playing dates, and having a relationship with the most powerful company in entertainment certainly doesn't hurt. His films always make a fair amount of money (family movies always have a long shelf life on home video and TV, because there's always going to be kids to watch them), and he constantly works with well-known performers. Burton is one of the few directors that has name recognition among the general public, and he gets to hang out with Eva Green.

Film geeks like me can whine and moan about how his career has turned out, but I'm sure he isn't complaining. It's not like he's going to listen to what someone like me is going to say anyway. But, just in case by some unthinkable chance he did....making a THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS type of story and bringing Michael Keaton back as Batman would be a fantastic idea. I'm just sayin'.

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