Film Review: Frankenweenie

Tim Burton could make another film that epitomised his output as a filmmaker, but it would be difficult for him to match Frankenweenie in this respect. For Frankenweenie is quintessentially Burtonesque.

High school student Victor Frankenstein prefers learning about science than playing sport and enjoys the company of his dog Sparky. When a tragic accident occurs, Victor uses the knowledge he has gained from science class to conduct an experiment to bring back Sparky…

Frankenweenie is based on a live-action short film Tim Burton made whilst he worked at Disney in the early 1980s. It is pleasant for fans of Burton’s older work to see him remaking something of his own this time round. A totally original film may have been preferable in terms of output, but at least Frankenweenie is derived from Burton’s original idea.

Frankenweenie is a well executed film. The story has heart, and seems more genuine than some of Burton’s recent efforts. It is a well crafted tale. Despite being based on a short film, Frankenweenie never feels stretched or padded out. It offers more by way of plot and characters to compensate for the longer duration. There is a good mix of humour and the macabre, the latter of which is never really frightening. The film is certainly suitable for family viewing.

Frankenweenie is an unequivocal product of Tim Burton in that it references his own work whilst highlighting his influences. References to Edward Scissorhands, Vincent, The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy stories and others can easily be spotted by those who have a familiarity with Burton’s work. Similarly subjects that have influenced his earlier work are made abundantly clear, with monster movies, gothic horror stories, Universal and Hammer horrors all taking a prominent place.

The fact that it is stop-motion animation and shot in black and white gives the film a quaint feel. It appears that a lot of care has gone into the making of Frankenweenie. Burton has chosen to reunite with Winona Ryder, Martin Landau and Catherine O’Hara, further feeding into the theme of going back.

Frankenweenie could only be the product of Tim Burton, which should inform viewers whether they are likely to enjoy it. The film is sweet, and acts like a homage to Burton’s influences and earlier work.

Frankenweenie opens the London Film Festival on 10th October 2012. It is released in cinemas on 17th October 2012.

Film Review: Alice in Wonderland

Tim Burton’s live action-CGI extravaganza is an entertaining escapade well worth the watch in 3D. A sequel to the Alice stories rather than a remake, it bares little resemblance to earlier cinematic adaptations. In this version, Alice is a nineteen year old who falls down the rabbit hole after running away from an undesired marriage proposal.

Burton’s film features a far more active Alice, one who eventually fights in battle against the Red Queen’s army. Whilst the film features the familiar Wonderland characters, the plot diverges greatly from the 1951 Disney animated feature of the same name. Screenwriter Linda Woolverton has created a quest narrative for the teenage Alice, which contrasts significantly with the whimsy of Carroll’s original stories.

The cast features many of the familiar Burton players, with Bonham Carter making a fittingly over the top Red Queen. Depp is suitably outrageous as the Mad Hatter, although he does play the character with a modicum of sadness. New blood is injected with the welcome presence of Mia Wasikowska and the delightful Anne Hathaway. A particular highlight is Stephen Fry voicing the enchanting Cheshire Cat.

As ever, Danny Elfman produces a score that compliments the visuals perfectly. Generally the 3D works well given the content, although it does look a little flat when compared to recent box office behemoth Avatar.

Alice in Wonderland‘s opening weekend success is unsurprising, considering its first quarter opening and the huge promotional campaign orchestrated by Disney (the publicity of the threatened boycott no doubt helped to boost audience awareness). Nonetheless, as a longtime Tim Burton fan, one can’t help but be disappointed by lack of originality in his recent work. With a reworking of Dark Shadows being reported as his next project, it looks like the days of Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands are long gone.