Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday Best: Director of All Time #22 - Tim Burton

photo by Pina90

-Ed Wood

-Edward Scissorhands
-Big Fish
-Pee Wee's Big Adventure
-Batman Returns
-Sweeny Todd

-Sleepy Hollow
-Mars Attacks

Tim Burton has a very distinctive style.  He inhabits a kookie view of the world and invites us to see life from that perspective.  And in that sense, he overwhelmingly succeeds.

Burton's main asset is that he loves to create spectacle.  You can feel the color oozing out of Pee Wee's Big Adventure and Beetlejuice.

His take on Batman is important (though not the best version of the character) because he took the dark aspect of the Caped Crusader seriously.  This seems like a now-brainer now, but the most prominent depiction of Batman up until Burton's movie was Adam West.  But Burton's film shaped all of the other ones that followed.  It is not a perfect movie.  As Stan Lee points out, it isn't really a Batman movie; it's a Joker movie.

But Burton's masterpiece is the gloriously beautiful film Ed Wood.  An homage to the person many consider the worst director of all time, Burton does something incredible.  He emulates much of Wood's style, including angles, lighting, poor set design, etc.  But this does not make the movie feel haphazard and cheap.  Instead, it's as if he reaches into Edward D. Wood Jr.'s bag of cinematic skills and shows that you can still create a great work of art with those tools at hand.  It is a fantastic movie for people who love movies.  Martin Landau is fantastic as Bella Lugosi.  My praise of this film might seem a bit over-the-top, but this movie is funny and touching and beautiful.

But Burton's biggest problem is his venom.  Gene Siskel once said that directors either loves people or hate people and that Burton loves people.  I respectfully disagree.  I think that Burton actually hates people.

No, I don't mean that he is a misanthrope.  He loves to shower sympathy on the outcast, the weird one.

What I mean is that if he thinks that you are unworthy of his esteem, he will refuse to portray you with any sympathy.

For Burton, he is consistently anti-Christian.  We can see how one-dimmensionally bad and judgmental and villainous all of the explicitly Christian characters are in movies like Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, and especially Sleepy Hollow.  He also shows his disdain for average Americans in Mars Attacks!  Granted, it is a work of satire, but he covers most everyone in the movie with an intense hatred.  Burton stings at his perceived opponents with great venom.  For that reason, he is kept from climbing any higher on the list of directors.


  1. Tim Burton is overrated and has punished the public with some of the worst remakes of all time.
    - Dark Shadows: terrible.
    - Willy Wonka: soulless
    - Alice in Wonderland: Horrible
    - Planet of the Apes: Useless

    I agree with Catholicskywalker, only someone who hates the public would release such awful movies that make the SyFy Channel's Frankenfish look like Gone with the Wind

  2. The movies you mentioned were ones I had not seen, which is why I didn't comment on them in the post. I avoided them for some reason (now I know why).

    But I do think that even if a director degenerates into a hack (notice all of the movies you mentioned were made after Batman and Ed Wood), it doesn't take away from the fact that they were at one point a great director.

    I agree that Burton has not made a good movie in a long time. But this section is not about the best directors currently working (meaning those who are currently doing the best work), but the best of all time (those who have demonstrated their quality either now or in the past).