It’s fair to say that Tim Burton has stagnated for the past several years, trapped in a torrent of critical flops that can be attributed to Burton’s over-reliance on cast regulars and a shameless mining of the macabre themes that he brought to the big screen decades ago. So that said, how does Tim Burton’s first “Deppless” cinematic horror of recent times turn out?
When Victor’s faithful pet dog, Sparky, bites the dust, the young genius makes it his mission to bring his best friend back to life. But mother nature is not to be trifled with and soon Victor sees the consequences of toying with life and death.
For those not in the know, Frankenweenie is the feature film adapation of Burton’s short film of the same name. It’s nice to see that Burton is adapting some original material, even if it is just from his own portfolio. The story is sweet, occasionally funny, and a little creepy and thankfully, not quite as pretentious as most of the directors work usually is. It’s actually a little humble in some respects and it’s nice sentiment to know that he’s at least attempting to keep the medium of stop-motion alive.
As is the case with all of Burton’s stop-motion work, Frankenweenie retains the directors signature visual look i.e. characters have large heads and bulbous eyes with spindly limbs barely attached to skinny bodies. The style suits the story and once again, Burton proves that above all, he is a visual artist more than a narrative one – because the story is really just a platform for showcasing the characters, which have a peculiar charm to them.
Of course the most striking visual difference is the choice of a monochrome colour treatment as opposed to the richly saturated, candy-like palette that the director has opted for lately. This approach is a welcome one and puts the film into the context of an “Ed Wood” era horror, and by now, it should be common knowledge that Burton is deeply inspired by that Woodian style of filmmaking.
The 3D in the film is better than most nowadays, but it still begs the question that if a cinematographer doesn’t use the potential of the medium (and by potential, I mean gimmickry), is it anything more than a commercial ploy to get better sales? Unfortunately Frankenweenie, just like any others goes for a natural use of the technology which is good if you’re just looking for a tolerable viewing experience, but not so good if you were hoping to get your money’s worth. On the plus side, the stark visual contrast means that everything has a pleasant pop to it.
It’s not exactly aimed at kids, but it’s not dark enough to evade the appeal of young minds.
The Bottom Line
Frankenweenie isn’t a resounding accomplishment but it is the best Tim Burton that we’ve seen in a long time, still, it’s a bit of a copout that the story has just been adapted from Burton’s own short story. What matters though is that the film is very watchable and isn’t quite as depressing many of his other works – whether that be depressing in writing, or depressing in missed potential.