Got fifty minutes, blog, can’t afford to waste time. Can’t afford to be slow or non-hasty on anything, which means that at the moment, I should stop talking to my friends online. I gotta write about something, but I can’t really figure out what. I mean, it’s been nearly a hundred articles in volume two and I don’t know what number this is. I don’t want it to be number 100. I should probably have something meaningful prepped for that on–wait a second, why am I still talking like J. Jonah Jameson? And/or Cave Johnson. –It’s really a JK Simmons impression, but that’s beside the point.
What’s the point, blog? That’s a good question. I think today it’s time I bust out my rant on the one thing I hate most of all: talented people who are lazy or who have become lazy, and this relates back to Hans Zimmer as much as it’s about to relate to my intense loathing of all things Tim Burton has touched since Big Fish. I remember watching Big Fish in theaters; it was the first time I’d been so purely enchanted by a feature film. I loved the story, I loved the restrained style of the “Tim Burton Look”. I loved the characters and the moral that sometimes, the passionate tall tale can be more honest and emotionally true than the straight up truth. It was a beautiful examination of storytellers and what drives them to be who they are. But it seems like since then, Tim Burton has learned all the wrong lessons. Let’s take a walk backwards.
I have his two Batman movies–Batman and Batman Returns–on my DVR at the moment, and in watching the majority of both of them, I noticed a couple things. It’s said that creative people work better under restraints. Remember the budget for Cloverfield? It was thought to be an indie-scale feature film at the time it came out, being only $30 mil to make. It was a small movie. Moon was shot for $5 million and looks as good or better than Cloverfield–okay, as good. Still, shot for $5 million dollars, and do you know why it looks as good? Because it was shot around limitations. Because Duncan Jones had to work to achieve the style he wanted.
Whereas nowadays, Tim Burton has his style handed to him on a silver plate along with his breakfast hors d’oeuvres. All he has to do is wave his hand and he has a seamstress working on striped dresses and black and white spirals. He already has Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp in principal roles, and if there’s a lead that neither of them are suitable for, then he has some no-name actress to fill space. And if we go back and look at Batman, this wasn’t the case. Batman is a unique film for Burton, being not only in a style not his own, but a style already established: the style of Golden Age comic books. The 16:9 aspect ratio, used to better emulate comic frames. The great use of negative space with bright, garish colours. The deliberately antiquated not-swearing lingo–for instance, you won’t be worth spit. The look of that film is one of pure mimicry and is fantastic for it. It might be the best Batman comic book adaptation on record (though best Batman movie is debatable).
Back in the days of Beetlejuice, his style wasn’t taken for granted. That meant he had to specifically detail to people exactly what he wanted in every frame–he had to work to get his vision onto the screen. There weren’t people there every step of the way to kiss his ass and make sure everything was just the way he wanted. He had to try and try and try to get it to look the way it did, and the effort and care are visible on screen. Beetlejuice is a damned funny movie, a dark movie and the most demented movie my parents assumed I could handle as a child. And this trend continued for a few pictures here and there. Sleepy Hollow is an uncharacteristically funny work for Burton, considering the absolute joyless muck he made out of Sweeney Todd. And there’s a story from production that I rather like.
You know what colour the blood was on set? It was orange. Because Tim Burton couldn’t get his trademark cold blue look in post, and had to use deep blue filters on set to get the cold, deep blue look he wanted. He couldn’t just slide a fader on the digital intermediate because there was no digital intermediate. He had to decide how to get his colour scheme on set, and because he was so invested into that feature, it came out really, really good–at least, compared to his more recent stuff in the same style. And so, the blood on set that comes out this beautiful, deep red on film is actually bright, neon orange. All because Tim Burton had to look at what he was doing and make real, important choices about what he wanted. Which is something he really hasn’t had to do since Planet of the Apes bombed–what, you thought I’d forget that?
And really, Tim Burton is just representative of the whole movie industry by this point. He went from what could have been an original and daring auteur and turned into a spoiled brat incapable of producing anything but the same bland crud he’s made for the last four features. I so desperately want to see Tim get back to his legitimately dark-side-of-Disney roots. I so desperately want to see him stop making films with his wife and Johnny Depp and eye make-up that makes your eyes look far too sunken. See, I’m saying all of this cos I saw Batman Returns today.
Did you know that between Batman and Batman Returns, Tim got a huge raise in budget and a huge raise in trust from executives? And instead of turning in a sequel in the same style as the first, Batman Returns plays like a Tim Burton movie–that just happens to have Batman in it.