Frankenweenie: A Long Overdue Return to Form for Tim Burton?
Jul 2012 14

Ahhh Tim Burton, what are we to do with you, eh? We used to love you so. You were the champion of the alternatives, it was you who made the outsiders feel understood, the geeks and goths represented out there in the world.

In short, you were one of us.

But now, ever since Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (and maybe even earlier), you’ve got a load of new friends. The cool kids. The rich cool kids. So I wonder: whilst you’re lying on your bed (which is no-doubt fashioned from a big pile of money), do you ever long for the days when you were the poster boy for the downtrodden?

Let’s face it, the answer’s probably no. If he’s even listening. And when you’ve just directed Alice in Wonderland and Dark Shadows, you don’t have to listen to nobody, no how. But even if the man himself doesn’t long for those days, I do. Yes, Dark Shadows does contain some of those quirky, alternative stylings that marked out his earlier work, but (and I’m not alone in this), just doesn’t really work, nor does it quench our thirst for his older output. We, the old-school Tim Burton fans, want BeetlejuiceEdward ScissorhandsThe Corpse BrideSleepy Hollow and The Nightmare Before Christmas. We want Batman, Ed Wood and Big Fish! What we can do without, is more glossy, day-glo, big budget, Depp collaborations.

So, it is with this deeply-felt longing in mind, that we look forward to Frankenweenie, Burton’s forthcoming film. Having had our fingers burnt before, we, the Burtonites (the few, the proud, the geeky) approach with caution, but also optimism (although there is still plenty of time for us to be disappointed). Frankenweenie sounds promising enough, it tells the story of a child scientist named Victor who reanimates his beloved (but very dead) dog, Sparky. As you can probably tell, not all goes to plan, and, no doubt, hi-jinks ensue.

A boy and his (undead) dog

Having seen the first trailer, and now the second one, it ticks a lot of the boxes that indicate his mainstream dalliance was just that. Here are 3 reasons to feel positive:

1. It’s animated. Not just that, it’s stop-motion animated. Has any medium suited Tim Burton’s aesthetic better than stop-motion animation? He clearly knows it well, and can follow his creative visions through to fruition with very little compromise. Plus the lo-fi, old-fashioned feel always dovetailed very well with the worlds he wanted us to visit.

2. It’s in black and white. This could be a sign that he’s isn’t aiming to so shamelessly target the mainstream. As we all know, most people won’t watch black and white films, even modern ones, even when made by one of their favourite filmmakers. So with this one change, Burton’s sending out a very clear message. It also makes sense, with Frankenweenie seemingly owing a debt to classic horror such as Frankenstein.

3. It doesn’t star Johnny Depp. Harsh, perhaps, as Burton’s recent travails are hardly Depp’s fault. But their mainstream-wooing partnership seems to have coincided with a marked downturn in the the quality and artistic merit of their output. It does star Winona Ryder though, so fingers crossed.

There are other reasons to feel good about this whole Frankenweenie thing, but those are the headliners. Let’s hope that this is a new phase in Burton’s career, maybe he’s made all the money he feels he needs and can now have a Soderbergh-esque ‘one for them, one for me’ arrangement with the big studios? Whatever’s going on, October 5th will be a date well worth checking out, to see if Tim Burton has rediscovered his artistic mojo and wants to make creatively-fulfilling films, rather than financially-fulfilling ones.

Check out the trailer below, and if you disagree completely, leave a comment eviscerating me with stylish wordplay.


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