Tim Burton: Remaking the Movies You Grew Up With, One Movie At a Time

I am convinced that Tim Burton is on a mission to destroy all the movies I enjoyed growing up. First, there was his abominable remake of Planet of the Apes, which was an unpardonable dumbing down of Pierre Boulle and Rod Serling, even with the Charlton Heston cameo. Then there was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, in which Roald Dahl’s acid-barbed warmth was glossed over with ostentatious production design and thespic detritus (from Depp, no less!). I haven’t yet seen Sweeney Todd, but, despite Mr. Teachout’s thumbs up, I fear the worst. Now comes word, courtesy of Bookshelves of Doom, that Burton plans to direct another adaptation of Alice in Wonderland.

Let us be clear on this. Burton’s decline began when he began remaking old films, presumably because his ideas or his stock of fresh screenwriters dried up. Aside from the ho-hum offerings Big Fish and The Corpse Bride, Burton’s been a lousy director. His films have been crammed with showy commercial impulses in which the stylized early Burton — with its enjoyable Aubrey Beardsley hand-me-downs — has all but disappeared. (Years ago, I sensed that something was amiss when Burton opted for an over-the-top black palette with Sleepy Hollow.) He hasn’t taken a chance or made an unapologetically fun film since Mars Attacks! There’s simply no trace of the guy who gave us Beetlejuice or Ed Wood left.

And if the good Terry Teachout says that Sweeney Todd is “the best film ever to have been made from a Broadway musical,” I hope you’ll still pardon my skepticism.


  1. Who’s that over there? Hey look it’s Elvis!

    I think this actually might be a good look for me.

  2. Boulle, not Boule.

    Dahl hated the ’71 Mel Stuart version. Though he’s listed as the screenwriter it was heavily rewritten. But why anyone would hate the Oompa-Loompas, or Gene Wilder’s truly bizarre performance, is beyond me. I saw it for the first time since childhood a few years ago and it stands up.

    Aside from Beetlejuice and Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Burton’s whole career has been mannerist self-pitying schlock.

  3. The Sweeney Todd trailer has a couple of good moments, but the shot at the end, where the camera reverse zooms quickly from a tight closeup of Depp into a wide show of London is the kind of showy, CGI crap that undercuts Burton’s movies. I’ll go see it, but with foreboding.

  4. Altho Charlie & the Chocolate Factory isn’t a very good movie I still prefer it over the original just because it doesn’t contain the horrible Candyman song.A remake of Alice in Wonderland may not be such a bad thing.I don’t recall any previous ones being very good or very faithful.

  5. I’m willing to bet Burton gives the Mad Hatter a *back story*, the Queen of Hearts will be a mutation of Alice’s (corporate) stepmother and Alice will learn something about herself by the end of the movie. The questions being: which rock star will cameo as the hookah-smoking caterpillar (Keith Richards? Jack Black?) and how will they gloss the author’s pedophilia?

  6. “Mars Attacks” was also a lousy remake — of the great 1962 Topps bubblegum cards, drawn by Wally Wood.

  7. Sorry, Josh, have to respectfully disagree, if only because any movie that uses Slit Whitman’s music as a deus ex machina automatically has my esteem.

  8. I’ve seen “Sweeney Todd” and I think it’s better than most of Burton’s latest offerings. But too much of the background has that fake CGI look for my liking. And the throat-slashings looked too fake to me, too. And not in a cool, stylized way. Not that I’ve seen a lot of real throat slashings or anything, besides grainy footage on the Internet. But on the plus side, I have a thing for Helena Bonham Carter and she can actually sing. Oh, and her cleavage is really a separate character in the film. And the little kid is just amazing. Still, it’s always a bad sign when a director starts doing almost nothing other than remakes.

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