Tim Burton seems to be one of America’s favorite filmmakers due to his flare for creativity. The number of people in my life who adore Burton’s work is high. I too love (some) of the films he has directed but what’s interesting is that he is also responsible for a few films that are among my most disliked. Now this is just my opinion but I don’t think I’m alone in saying that his best films occurred during the 80’s and 90’s. But love him or hate him, no one can deny that he is one of the most gifted people in the business.
Coming in at number one is 1999’s Sleepy Hollow. Now I realize that most folks probably would not say that this film is their favorite of Burton’s, but in my opinion it’s his most entertaining. What’s so great about this mature film adaptation of the classic Halloween tale is that it’s appropriately dark but it’s also deliciously campy. The mixture of R rated horror and over the top campiness blends very well and makes for a perfect Halloween treat. Burton is known for this type of dark campiness and has made many films of that nature but I think this film is the best representative of it. And the fabulous costume design and near perfect performance by Miranda Richardson.
My second favorite Tim Burton film is a little more family friendly, in fact it was a film I was quite obsessed with as a child and that is 1992’s Batman Returns. The tone of this film is actually similar to Sleepy Hollow in that it has a dark tone but also features plenty of camp. This is not just my second favorite Burton film but also my number one favorite Batman film. Burton strikes a really great balance between camp filled fun and brooding drama. And of course the performances are near perfect, especially on the part of Michelle Pfeiffer. This is also another example of the visual wonder that abounds in so much of Tim Burton’s work. I continue to be impressed by the visual wonders in this film. And also like Sleepy Hollow, Batman Returns is just endlessly entertaining! The action sequences are high octane and have a very realistic look to them, mostly thanks to the fact that green screen wasn’t around back when this was released in 1992. One scene in particular that I simply must praise is the moment when Michelle Pfeiffer demonstrates Catwoman’s whipping in the department store. What’s so impressive is that that wasn’t smoke and mirrors, Pfeiffer actually performed that! All in all, this is simply one of the best comic book films ever – highly recommended to anyone who hasn’t had the privilege of seeing it
My pick for the third best Tim Burton film is actually one of his first, 1988’s Beetlejuice. This film is nothing but pure silly entertainment and a Halloween classic. Burton once again shows off his flair for dark Halloween like fun. The amount of creativity here is impressive. It’s not just the visuals that are striking, it’s the script as well. The storyline has a satisfying amount of adventure along with amusing comedic material. And the two main characters are well drawn too, played by Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis. Baldwin and Davis are two of the best Hollywood has to offer and they have palpable chemistry as a young married couple who are in for the surprise of their lives. Two more actors that must be mentioned for their work here is the always hilarious Catherine O’Hara and the brooding Winona Ryder. O’Hara turns in a delightfully campy performance as a necrotic artist wife. I even frequently quote of her character’s hilariously frantic lines. Now, I know I said there was more to this film besides the visuals, BUT that’s not to say the special effects aren’t impressive. What comes across the screen is certainly very captivating! The vast majority of the effects still hold up and some of them actually look better than some of the CGI you see a lot of today. Definitely check this one out if you haven’t already!
There sure is a lot to love in my picks for the top three films of Tim Burton. Now we’ve come to the opposite end of the spectrum, Tim Burton’s clunkers that left a bad taste in my mouth.
My pick for the third worst film by Tim Burton is 2010’s live action Disney remake Alice in Wonderland. I remember being very excited to watch this given Burton’s rich imagination and the cast involved. There’s two main problems that plague this film and that’s a weak script and some off putting garish character appearances. The script this film runs on is riddled with awkward moments and strange unfunny attempts at comedy. In addition to that, the look of Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter and Helena Bonham Carter as The Queen of Hearts are both cringeworthy. I wish this film had been more like the 2015 Cinderella adaptation, less awkward strained “comedy” and more Disney magic. In my opinion, if you do a live action Disney adaptation, it should ALWAYS have heavy doses of that wonderful fairytale magic that the studio is famous for. This film is completely devoid of any wonder or joy, which is hard to believe since the original 1951 cartoon was chock full of it.
The Tim Burton film I’ve chosen for my second worst pick is Dark Shadows. My immense dislike for this film is similar to my dislike for Alice in Wonderland. This film simply has an exceedingly weak script that’s neither interesting or funny. The jokes they attempt here are pretty lame and none of them even made me chuckle, which is a considerable problem for a film trying to sell itself as a dark COMEDY. I could look past the stale comedy if the storyline was entertaining and intriguing but unfortunately it isn’t. As much as this all star cast wants this to work, it just doesn’t. Sure, there are some captivating visual treats here and there but they aren’t enough to withstand the surprisingly disappointing nature of the writing. It really is a shame because this had a hefty amount of potential. I’m a fan of the majority of the talent involved here but it just goes to show you that if the script drops the ball, you’re most likely sunk.
And so we find ourselves at the Grand (or not so grand) Reveal! My pick for Tim Burton’s worst film is 1996’s Mars Attacks!. Watching this satirical science fiction romp was honestly one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had watching a film. A film of this nature is supposed to have the laughs coming frequently and I didn’t find myself laughing at anything. It was sort of bizarre because I know people that thought this film was so funny and kept wondering if I was seeing the same film they did. All the jokes, both physical and dialogue driven, just came off as dull and without any real humor. Confused and shocked are the two feelings I experienced whilst watching Mars Attacks!. I couldn’t believe that a cast of this caliber and a director with such a fine repertoire could be responsible for such an exceedingly poor film.
Tim Burton is one of the most talented and successful film directors in Hollywood. He’s a fine example for any young filmmaker to look up to. Yes, he’s responsible for several stinkers but hey every one of them can’t be gems I guess. Here’s to hoping that his future projects look a lot more like Sleepy Hollow and less like Mars Attacks!.
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