Thursday, July 30, 2009

Is Burton's "Genius" In The Rabbit Hole?

Is it Hayao Miyazaki's Alice in Wonderland or Tim Burton's? I'm confused. I just watched the Alice teaser trailer and I could have sworn that Cheshire cat is the same one piloting the cat bus in My Neighbor Totoro.

Spirited Away pops up, too. Burton's interior stylings of a large palace (or perhaps it's a mansion) are pure Miyazaki, as is the way in which the location is shot and cut.

I have only ever loved one Burton movie and that is Ed Wood. Ed Wood is a fantastic film to me, a perfect film about a fascinating individual. The script got it to the finishing line, not Burton's flat direction.

The rest of his movies are overrated bores. Rudderless shit marketed as rolled gold to easily satisfied morons. He ruined Willy Wonka. He fucked Planet of the Apes. Sleepy Hollow was a snoozefest. I despised Beetlejuice, was rocked to sleep by Big Fish, and enjoyed Big Top Pee Wee once because I was off my collective face. My second viewing ended in -- that's right -- more sleep. Edward Scissorhands? Great idea for a half hour short subject. As a full length feature, it sucked giant elephant dicks.

Lucky for Burton, he has great production designers, cinematographers, and musicians propping up his miserably limited talent. Most of the world has bought into his "genius", a "genius" that managed to destroy Willy Wonka and Planet of the Apes. How could anybody let that happen? Didn't he see the train rushing towards the giant anvil on the tracks of those unmitigated disasters?

So what's his problem? Easy. He's a visual guy. He gets a boner creating pretty, expensive, sumptuous visuals. And that's where it ends.

Give him ten thousand bucks and he couldn't put on a finger puppet play.

The guy, who looks terribly eccentric (so he must brilliant!) has no sense of pace (see Batman, which he also turned into a bore), no ability to improve upon a story (how could he possibly let the writers of Planet of the Apes and Willy destroy proven premises?), and zero knowledge of dramatic structure (again, see Batman, Willy, and Mars Attacks).

I'm man enough to concede that Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street was good (not great) because the source material was strong, as was Ed Wood's. Personally, I just loathe musicals and all that gratuitous, gaytard singing.

So, two good films in thirteen years from a bloke who has been given lots of opportunities and money and resources to get it right? That's impressive?

A strike rate like that is no indicator of genius. Thank Christ the prick isn't building space shuttles.

The better movies he is often credited with directing (Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline) weren't directed by him at all.

Will I see Alice in Wonderland?

Sure. Because I'm sick. And I'm a psychotic optimist. There is a slim chance that he'll pull a rabbit out of his hat (no pun intended) before the next thirteen year block expires. I won't hold my breath, though.

I'll see it mostly because I love the book, and I love little people. There will be little people in it, right? Just as there were in The Sinful Dwarf, Terror of Tiny Town, All Dwarves Started Small, The Tin Drum, and Freaks.

The film will be advertised like it's God and millions of idiots will confuse advertising saturation with universal canonization of its director, star, and content.

I'm much more excited about seeing Miyazaki's Ponyo when it opens in August. His batting average smashes Burton right out of the ball park. That's because he really is a "genius".


  1. Oh how I love your honesty!

    I will shamefully admit to buying into the hype for at least a couple of his movies, but hope you'll forgive me, because I am a *very* visual person. Plus my kids really dig Willy Wonka--the music is too much fun to ignore. I won't apologize for my Danny Elfman worship.

    A few years ago I may have felt you were judging Mr. Burton too harshly, but recently I watched MARS ATTACKS! again, and I was bored out of my mind. After having a lengthy discussion with someone close to me, we realized his films, while being entertaining the *first* time we viewed them, rarely interested us enough for a second viewing.

    Thank you for allowing me the freedom to state publicly, without fear of lynching, how I *really* feel.

  2. Trix -- thanks for a raw and honest post. Your Danny Elfman worship is another matter entirely. As I said in my post, Burton has surrounded himself with very talented people (Elfman is one of them).
    I wrote the post because I despise the flocking around mediocrity that is characteristic of modern pop culture.
    And this was just after seeing a couple of truly excellent films (Lorna's Silence and The Hurt Locker).
    I don't know precisely what it is, but his films (on the whole) lack dramatic momentum and grind continuously to a halt. The scripts are mostly terrible. That's why. But as director, Burton is in a position to get them rewritten, restructured, and improved. He doesn't. That means he's not perceptive enough to see the flaws, or he doesn't care. Great photography, production design, and wacky performances can support viewer interest for about half an hour. After that, his movies suffer a serious sugar crash and never recover.
    You are free to run naked or fully clothed here, Trix. Without a lynching.

  3. As you can imagine, I look forward to this latest Burton offering with some trepidation. I've yet to see a coveted book translated into film with any joy, so Mr Burton most certainly has his work cut out for him with my all time favorite. Let us attend together and tear it to shreds over dinner afterwards.

  4. AD -- Wish I could praise it to shreds, but I'm not optimistic.