With directors/producers like Tim Burton (and writers like Stephen King) many of us go through phases in which they rock our socks off. In part, it comes from initial exposure to them, realizing the elements which made them popular to begin with and then it weens down as we consume more work from the same mind. We’ve seen Burton make CG fantasy worlds for children’s movies several times. I was actually most impressed with the beginning segments of Alice in Wonderland. Sweeney Todd stuck out to me for being a musical as well as adult title. Let’s do a short rundown:
-Beetlejuice- a children’s film we all love
-Batman, Batman Returns– the glory. Such a dynamic cast and amazing vision!
-Edward Scissorhands – an unexpectedly twisted film
-Ed Wood – He’s buddies with Depp and we got Bill Murray. Cool!
-Mars Attacks! – Michael J. Fox? Jack Nicholson? Pierce Brosnan? DeVito? A bit of a stylized mess, but I did enjoy it.
Then came 1999 with Sleepy Hollow, five years after Ed Wood. Since then it’s been Sleepy Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, Sweeney Todd, Alice in Wonderland, and Dark Shadows. Every one of those includes Depp, and usually Burton’s wife as well. The only break from the pattern is Planet of the Apes, Big Fish and Frankenweenie. Apes and Fish still had Mrs. Burton, and thank all that is good in the world Big Fish was there to cement our appreciation of Burton’s talent. Still his focus is Depp for almost 5 movies straight (over nine years), all of them dark, he risks viewer fatigue, even if the movies he produces are good on their own merits. We lose out on varied dynamics between differing actors. And how many of those were remakes? I did enjoy Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as well as the aforementioned Sweeney Todd. I own Burton’s work and hold several titles close to my heart. Still, I feel the fatigue. I want to see something that’s a raw creation on his part, straight from his soul, because that is how he shines.
Plenty of directors and producers recycle actors (Woody Allen, the Coen Brothers, Tarantino, Joss Whedon), but many have mastered dodging fatigue with their work. Case in point: Scorsese uses DeCaprio a lot. And DeNiro. He just loves those “De” people. Still, he switches it up. He used DeNiro in Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, and Casino. The closest he got to redundancy was making three crime flicks with his buddies in five years, but he ran from it and made a thriller, Bringing Out the Dead, with Nicholas Cage. Then he fell in love with Leonardo and made 5 movies with him in eleven years, usually directing 2-3 flicks in between. Over his career, he’s shaken it up with The Last Temptation of Christ, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, The Age of Innocence, and a slew of documentaries and biography tales. He recently made a children’s film called Hugo, went into The Wolf of Wall Street and is now doing a bio on Bill Clinton as well as preparing a Sinatra flick. He’s known for one thing, but does a hell of a lot more than it.
Now I pose this question: What do you think Burton will do next?
If you expected a snarky answer, you’ll be let down. His newest picture, Big Eyes, is a drama/bio piece on painter Margaret Keane. It stars Amy Adams and Jason Schwartzman. Who’da thunk it?
I was going to ask who the reader considered to be the better director, but that’s not fair. I just ripped on Burton and Scorsese has decades on him. We don’t have their complete life’s work to take into consideration. Rather, what directors do you feel recycle actors most/least effectively? Are there some newer pairings we should be watching?
Matthew Scott Surprenant's personal blog and bookstore can be found at http://matthewscottauthor.wordpress.com .