Alice In Wonderland is out today, and I can’t say that I’m too excited about it. Besides how unnecessary it is to adapt this book again, Tim Burton’s cinematic output in the last 15 years has been a little. . . weaksauce. Here’s my list of favorite Burtons, from best to worst:
1. Batman Returns
2. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure
5. Sleepy Hollow
6. Mars Attacks!
7. Ed Wood
8. Sweeney Todd
9. Edward Scissorhands
10. Planet Of The Apes
11. The Nightmare Before Christmas (Technically not the director, but c’mon. . .)
12. Big Fish
13. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
14. Corpse Bride
The top 9 are all great movies. The bottom 5, while not being bad per-se, I found to be a little mediocre. And those 5, with the exception of Nightmare, were all made since 2000.
So what’s different? Why do I suddenly have a lack of interest? Well, one of the main things I love about movies, or any art form, is passion; If I can tell that the creator was passionate about what they were doing, I can forgive a lot of flaws. Case in point: Kevin Smith. Kevin Smith is pretty damn lackluster as a director, but I can tell that when he makes a movie, it’s because he really wants to make that movie. Does Alice look like the work of a man who’s been wanting to adapt Lewis Carroll since he was a little kid? No. It looks like the work of someone who said “Well, I guess I could do this. . .”.
In works like Batman Returns or Ed Wood, you get a real sense of pathos. My guess is that the misanthrope worked his demons out through the medium of film, and is now. . . happy. He’s not a screwed up, lonely kid anymore; He’s the grown up reminiscing about how unhappy he used to be. And, let’s be honest; Happy people don’t make good art.
So, where does the “defense” come in? Well, while Tim is still highly financially successful, and the general audience seems to love him, within the nerd community he’s starting to lose his “street cred”. And while this is certainly deserved, I just want to put this in perspective for a moment. . .
Yes, Tim Burton has been fairly passionless this decade. But “fairly passionless” compared to who? Michael Bay? The dude is still making quirky, bizarre, morbid films the way he wants to make them, just like he always has. Is it his fault that he became so successful, against the odds? Would we have the same complaints about him if he were working from the margins, making straight to video horror films?
I appreciate the man’s current work more than enjoy it, but I always hold out hope. I thought that Sweeney Todd was genuinely great; Maybe it’s the really morbid material that reignites a spark in him. Here’s hoping that Dark Shadows turns out “bloody” awesome!