Wednesday, August 03, 2005

My Beef Is With Burton--Step Aside, Willy.

I saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and it pissed me off. The problem is that I also loved it. So, naturally, I started wondering how the hell I could love a movie and hate it at the same time.
It works like this: when I see the movie (3 times, now) I love the damned thing, but when afterwards, when I start thinking about the flick, that's when I start to lose all faith, not in the movie, but in its creator, the wily filmmaker Tim Wonka--er, Burton. But I'll get to that later.

One of the biggest things I encounter is the public's need to compare this production with the 1971 release, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. As my roommate Robert so artfully said about the two films, "Apples and oranges, man." And I would agree. While that may just sound like someone desiring to shirk the comparison, someone who doesn't want to accept that a new film was made, I think to argue which film is better would lead into a never-ending battle akin to those about abortion and gay-marriage--both sides defiantly know that their stance is the right one.

One of the most common arguments I hear in favor for Burton's escapade is the whiny, "It's closer to the book." How? Because it changed the title back to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Weird, because Roald Dahl actually wrote the screenplay for the first one (admittedly, he initially wasn't happy with the final product, but grew to accept it). It's true that the new film sticks decidedly to many details of the book, but the focus of the movie is entirely away from the book and into the mind of Tim Burton and the apparent psychological issues he needs to address.

The fact that the centerpiece for the story revolves upon Wonka's strained and troubled relationship with his father draws away any validity that the movie is "closer to the book" than its predecessor because Wilbur Wonka, D.D.S. is a figment of Burton's and his screenwriter's imagination. Not to say that this was a bad idea, far from it, but don't ignore that this flick isn't any truer a representation of Dahl's book than the 1971 production. In fact, I'm convinced that, in their own ways, both films are remarkably close to the book. As I watched the new movie I was startled at how often I was able to predict dialogue, referencing the scene to the same in the first movie. Since Burton openly stated that he did not use the 1971 version as a guide, I can only assume that the line was taken from the book. And these strange premonitions happened often as I watched Depp cavort around pale-faced and giddy.

The subject of the two films are actually inverted from their titles; that is, WWATCF focuses upon Charlie Bucket's morally strong character, while CATCF is an investigation of Willy Wonka's personal problems. As I thought about the new movie, I noticed that the deal with Wonka's father is not necessarily strange to Burton's movies and have become a central concern in his recent movies. Think about it, both this film and his previous jaunt, Big Fish, focus upon a son's broken relationship with his father. And in previous films the idea takes a supporting role, but the idea of a lost parent and the left behind child happens to pop up a lot (Edward Scissorhands, Batman, Ed Wood [Wood and his relationship with Bela Lugosi] come to mind). My initial reaction upon this realization was along the lines of, "Aw, dude--c'mon and get over it!" though part of me went wildly uproarious: "I'm onto you now, Burton."

But when I calmed, I realized that it doesn't really matter if Burton shoves this "Does my father love me?" crap at us all the time, because it is something he does rather well. A lot of writers/artists have a repeating theme within their works, most of whom I respect, and I won't try to slap them down because of it.

It's a good flick, a very good flick and everybody should check it out if they haven't already.

EDIT: I really like Tim Burton's movies or else I wouldn't dive in so deeply.

16 comments:

The Phoenix said...

You really are brilliant you know that? I'll be back...often...

Eben said...

I have to defend Burton...
Where is the Dad angst in Beetlejuice?
Or in Mars Attacks?
Or in Pee-Wee's big adventure?
The Batman is a big stretch. Being a batman afficianado (yes if there was a magazine I would subscripe) really there is far more parental angst in the new one than the one where Bruce Waynes dad is just appears in flashbacks.

Obviously I'll concede Big Fish.

While it is a cheap easy, even whorrish, way for the exploration of a remarkable character in Willy Wonka, clearly the movie does fall more around the Bucket family.
Johnny Depp is just entracing you to focus on his character (as he should)

Edward Scissorhands isn't about dad angst, its about finding yourself and where you belong and that love can be blind to what would otherwise be a major problem in the bedroom. There is a dad angst sub-plot, but it is not the main theme of the movie...

Maybe I just like Tim Burton and feel there are hundreds of other directors that deserve your venom more than he does.

But the venomwas a good read, and congrats on getting a mystery reader :)

Eben said...

I need to start proofreading...

I love subscriping and entracing...

entracing is the long lost art of retracing something you traced...

and i can't come up with anything good for what a subscripe is...

I'll let andrew make the impending navy submarine joke.

DCVB said...

I tried to make it clear by the end that any venom I may have been spewing was actually all misguided. I don't disrespect Burton (despite the title of the post), but in fact I am trying to figure him out as an artist.

It's sophmoric of me, I know, to find what I [originally] view as being a flaw or as a cheap recurring theme and poke at it, throw it onto the ground hoping for it to become infested with some sort of viral parasite when it turns out I really appreciate what the man is doing with his films, that it's something I would like to be doing.

It's kind of along the lines of, "Ha! He's hiding the rabbit under the table, it's so obvious!" but secretly wanting to be the magician. In the end, I respect Burton's decisions, but think maybe his tact is becoming a bit more obvious as the years pass.

But, I'm afraid I still have a point of contention with you, Eben, concerning your comment, "the movie does fall more around the Bucket family." I honestly don't think that's the case.

The plight of the Bucket family is never the driving issue through the movie. As the kids are taken through the factory we are never given any indication that Charlie feels distracted because his horrible living situation is always on his mind. They are only there, I believe, to serve two purposes:

1. To establish Charlie as being morally superior to his pre-pubescent rivals.

2. To show Willy that he's really missing out on.

The Buckets are really only bookends to Burton's tall tale. Even the ending, which shows their ramshackle house transplanted inside the garden emphasizes that now Willy Wonka is happy because he has learned to love like Charlie, and not that Charlie is a better person because of his visit to the Wonka Factory.

The whole movie is all about Willy Wonka. I firmly stand by that notion. If we must come to fisticuffs, Mister Burgoon, so be it.

DCVB said...

Oh, and thank you, The Phoenix, for your kind comments.

Eben said...

I hope I didn't come of being a harsh critic of the Boast...
I enjoy these reads very much, I just struggle with why are we focusing on Tim Burton with movies like Stealth in the theaters... (granted I haven't seen Stealth, nobody has)...
BUT you are being a POOPHEAD...

DCVB said...

I figure I am a person who wouldn't respond to such a pointed comment such as the one Mr. Burgoon just made, but I feel everybody's opinion made on this completely free forum of ideas deserves as much attention as the next.

Eben-I do not feel as if you have attacked me or my Boasts. I have quite enjoyed your responses on this topic. I do, however, feel you're being a STUPID-FACE and if you make fun of me anymore I am SO telling on you.

As for the focus upon Tim Burton, I regard this post as being more of an analysis of his film with comedic tendencies brought in the guise of "critical attacks". It's me trying to be funny.

I take the time to "analyze" Burton because he's worth doing it to, not Rob Cohen, director of the classics Stealth, The Fast and the Furious, and xXx. I hope to spark discussion and I yearn for varying points of view on a topic, and, I feel it's safe to say, nobody would really benefit (in true dulce et utile form) from an all out bashing for Mr. Cohen because no one would disagree.

I do not withdraw my inclusion of Batman from the list, though, considering I present the idea in the following:

"...in previous films the idea takes a supporting role, but the idea of a lost parent and the left behind child happens to pop up a lot ..."

I should clarify that maybe the presence of this oft repeated "idea" are present in Burton's films, it is something that is very common in storytelling.

It is not unique to Burton or to any other filmmaker/writer/artist/musician/etc. It's only really brought to the fore in his last two films, and will be interesting to see how he develops this classic device in the future.

Eben said...

If Tim Burton had invented Batman, I may agree. This "parental tragedy and angst" had already been a part of the Batman mythos.
Could Burton have been attracted to the project solely because of batman's tortured creation? I think thats a possibilty, but I think it is far larger than "oooh, what an attractive sub-plot"

He also didn't write the Batman movie... nor did he write Batman returns in which the first born of Gotham City nobilty is stole away by the evil Danny Devito...

Eben said...

I almost forgot!
GO EAT AN EARWAX SANDWICH, CACA-FACE!

DCVB said...

No, he didn't write Batman (or invent the death of the young Wayne's parents, either) or its first sequel. He hasn't been the writer on many (most?) of his films, but he does have a pretty firm hand on the stickshift of his artistic hotrod...um...that is, I think even though he's not credited as being a writer, I think there is enough stylistic cohesiveness between his films that it's pretty obvious he does play a pretty pivotal role in the story creation of his films.

Would you, STINK-BUTT-HEAD-FACE, like to disagree with that?! You can't! You know why?! Because it's pure conjecture on my part! HA! Oh, wait...dang.

The Phoenix said...

If you two don't knock it off I swear I'm turning this car right around!

If anyone wants my opinion CATCF left me feeling both confused and a little dirty...mostly because I had in my youth read the book. I found myself wondering what the hell was going on at several occasions, yet still enjoying it. It was like I was being manipulated into odd emotional states by Mr. Burton.
But, if anyone doubts Burtons role in influencing the scripts he directs, one only need reference Kevin Smith's telling of "The Superman Incident."

DCVB said...

"The Superman Incident" is quite a funny tale from the An Evening With Kevin Smith DVD, and Burton is painted as being a bit of a jerk and becomes easy to antagonize. It makes me wonder, however, how much of that story, which is told so comically, may have been trumped up a little in order to enhance the comedic value.

Smith is a pretty straight-forward guy, though, and his portrayal of Burton is based purely on Smith's own limited knowledge of how Burton is as a person.

My roommate had received recently an issue of Entertainment Weekly, I believe it was, that displayed Depp on the cover dressed in full Wonka attire. Inside there was also a mini-interview with Burton who says that he was enraged with the first film. I don't know if he's just saying that to further shoo away comparisons between his film and Mel Stuart's, or if it's actually true.

But it made me wonder, since Burton wants this film to be known as being completely independent of the first film, an interpretation of the book instead of a remake, why must he have to go into his personal feelings about the original at all? He's artsy enough to dodge those questions and get away with it, integrity intact.

I'm sure some the animosity that was [mostly] in jest in my original post stems from the fact that I think Burton, as a person, may be a jerk (I stress the "may", for I don't know him), but more than makes up for it by being an amazing artist.

Also, I should say that I am partially bonded with the first film since childhood, since my mother middle-named me after Charlie, hence the "C" in the DCVB. There, it's out...I'm a fraud with no legitimate argument. I'm so ashamed.

andy said...

Fraud.

DCVB said...

Ouch. Was that just because I haven't commented on your most recent music post on your website? I'll get to it, I promise!

KMFK said...

Dude you guys actuall read the book? Why would you when theres the movie. Jeez. But your right Burton has some problems. Remaking an already classic movie? Asshole. What happened to the creativity of making a somewhat original movie. I'm getting tired of remakes. Anyways forget about Burton, its all about Wes Anderson.

DCVB said...

Actually, it's all about Terry Gilliam.