My first thought? What. The. Fuck?! The characters are there. There's Widow's Hill and Colinwood, but this is a comedy? A comedy?! It also looks absolutely horrible and I'm not sure why I'm surprised. Since he bred new life into the Batman franchise he has destroyed Planet Of The Apes, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, and Alice In Wonderland. Looks as though the streak continues. Did you know Tim Burton hasn't written and/or directed an 'original' film since Edward Scissorhands?! I can't describe how delighted I have been by Burton's 'World'. He's fascinated and entertained me on numerous occasions. It's when he attempts to try his hand at worlds already created, that he fails. Then again, what is failure? Most of his films have been commercial successes, therefore he is a 'successful' director, right? I remember the first time I viewed a Tim Burton movie, Beetlejuice. It was dark, quirky, and disturbing at parts. It was fresh and unlike anything I had seen in cinema up to that point. As a matter of fact, so was his major debut, Pee Wee's Big Adventure. Even the beautiful Edward Scissorhands had it's moments of comedy and melancholic-quirk, so what happened to Tim Burton? At what point did he lose his touch?
I'm going to point the finger at Planet of the Apes. It marked his first step out of his dark and elegant world. No more grays, blacks and blues. There were now earth tones and...well, apes. Tim Roth, who played the villain Thade, turned down the role of Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series to do this movie. I wonder how long it took that sting to subside (although, I do not want to live in a world where Alan Rickman is not Professor Snape)? The film lacked in most, if not all, departments. The make up effects, done by acclaimed make up artist (and frequent Burton collaborator) Rick Baker, were the shining achievement in a dismal film. The curve ball came when Burton followed Apes with Big Fish, which was a visually rich and well acted story. It achieved his signature wonder, quirk, and heart without a dark, Gothic backdrop.
Since Big Fish, however, he has seemed stale. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory missed the mark and lacked the oddball charm of the original. It seems that in trying to be different and avoid doing the things people expect of him, Timothy falls flat. Charlie, Alice In Wonderland, and Dark Shadows seem tailor made for him, yet in trying to suppress who he is as a filmmaker and as a storyteller, he cheats himself and his audience. When I'm going into a Tim Burton movie I want the weird. I want the dark. I want to be part of THAT world! Ah-hem:
Dear Mr. Burton,
Was it the Hot Topic, Mall-Goth subculture you inspired, Tim? Was the little, aloof boy inside of you feeling awkward and afraid? Just be you. We love the swirls of black and white. We love big eyes and wiry hair and GOD DAMNIT, we love Danny Elfman!
Who knows if he will ever write and direct another live action piece that recaptures his Dark Prince past. Perhaps he will never work with Johnny Depp again. Perhaps Helena Bonham-Carter will hence forth be his leading lady only in (real) life. Or perhaps he will go remake Buck Rodgers for the big screen (there's no rumors, I just picked a 70s television show). We may never know what the hell happened to Tim Burton, but I do know this: Dark Shadows looks horrid. Not in that good pre-Apes way, either.