Watch: Tim Burton’s ‘Frankenweenie’ trailer feels like a master class in the director’s themes

03.01.12 6 years ago 3 Comments

I like this trailer a lot.

When Tim Burton first announced plans to take his 1984 short film and turn it into a stop-motion animated feature film, I sort of dismissed it as a weird late-career indulgence and haven’t thought much about it since.  After all, once a director makes a billion dollars for a studio with one movie, he’s in a position to get any random weird-ass dream off the ground as a movie, and it felt like the sort of thing where Disney was just allowing him to do it as a thank you for the Scrooge McDuck style vaults full of money they were swimming in thanks to “Alice In Wonderland.”

But looking at this trailer, it strikes me that if George Lucas would have just been honest with himself and remade 1977’s “A New Hope” instead of endlessly tinkering with the original film and giving it weird digital face lifts, my guess is the outrage would have been more pronounced at the beginning, but it eventually would have settled down because they would exist as different movies.

This looks to me like Burton has always harbored some regrets about the live-action short film, particularly in the rich surreality of the suburbia he created, and this short not only pushes things further than he could have in live-action, it also gives him the ability to really invest Sparky and Victor and all his characters with more subtle behaviors that he can control and that don’t depend on him coaxing performances out of a kid or a dog, no matter how good they are.  Burton’s always been more concerned with the small visual details, the little quirks and signatures that distinguish his work.

The interesting thing about remaking this now, from this vantage point, is that in some ways, you’ll be able to look at “Frankenweenie” as bookends of his career.  These are both fairly pure expressions from Burton, but one is him struggling to define his voice, and the other is him in full command of his voice, and the level of control in the stop-motion one isn’t just because it’s a filmmaking style assembled one frame at a time.  I may not always like Burton’s films, but I would never accuse him of being anything less than 100% in charge of what we see onscreen now.  He has a visual style that is his, and more than that, a perspective on the world as he sees it and experienced it.  His Burbank childhood, his obsessions with Vincent Price and black-and-white horror, his sense of being “other”… it’s all there in spades in this film, and throughout his work. 

Will “Frankenweenie” turn out to be a hit?  Honestly, it doesn’t matter.  It looks like this was an itch he absolutely had to scratch, and now he’s done it.  Color me curious.

And by the way… this comes out in October.  And it’s already got a trailer.  Any special reason there’s not a frame of footage yet for his May release of “Dark Shadows”?

“Frankenweenie” opens on October 5, 2012.

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