What else is there to say about Tim Burton?
At this point, he’s been working the same sort of thematic and visual material for thirty years now. And how old am I? Old enough to think of Burton as “relatively recent” in terms of working directors.
It’s easy to reduce Burton’s work to his stylistic signatures and his incredibly familiar color palette. When you see a Tim Burton movie, you know you’re watching a Tim Burton film. You may hate the film you’re watching, and I’ve certainly felt that way several times in his career, but you still have to acknowledge that he’s found a way to indulge his interests and cast his favorite people and just plain make his stamp, no matter how impersonal or corporate the movie is.
I wonder sometimes what would have happened if he hadn’t made “Batman” in 1989. He was shooting the film through much of my freshman year of college, and I was following the film’s progress from a distance. I was convinced he was going to turn out to be an inspired choice, a choice that would update “Batman” for a whole generation of viewers.
And then… he sort of did exactly that. He made a “Batman” that made people sit up and take notice and that was a huge box-office sensation.
I may not like that film, but I can recognize that he bought the rest of his career with that first “Batman” movie. I maintain that his second one is really fairly subversive, like what Joe Dante did with “Gremlins 2: The New Batch,” but even that couldn’t burn down his hot streak. Like many directors who have a major hit, the followed it up with something very personal, and “Edward Scissorhands” is a pretty great little film to muscle into life after having a giant hit. “Ed Wood” is another personal effort that looked like a studio thanking a successful filmmaker by making something smaller and more unusual. There is no way Disney ever looked at “Ed Wood” on paper and thought, “Yeah, that’s box-office magic.” And yet they let him make it. And he cashed in his box-office success to get it made.
Even with his early pattern of successes, I would have never imagined a world where Tim Burton would make an “Alice In Wonderland” that (A) I did not like at all and (B) would be a huge hit. HUGE.
Talking to him at the SLS Hotel last weekend, he seemed to me to be genuine in talking about his love for the show “Dark Shadows” and watching it frequently after school. And while his version of “Dark Shadows” may not work for some fans of the series, there’s little denying that he’s obviously taken the iconography of the show and run it through his filter.
“Dark Shadows” opens tomorrow.