Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Return of the Burt: a Bull Terrier's Tale

I was never a big fan of '80s Tim Burton. Much like the rest of that decade, his movies had a lot going for them, but ultimately they were too awkwardly-made and too much on the bad side of creepy for me to truly enjoy. '90s Tim Burton was a completely different creature: his movies were so rich and joyful and lovingly crafted that they defined an entire generation of avid moviegoers. Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns, Selick's The Nightmare Before Christmas, Ed Wood, Mars Attacks! and Sleepy Hollow were all regarded as cinematic masterpieces by anyone with fully functioning ocular organs (yes, even Mars Attacks. shut up, aliens are cool!), but then something truly terrible had happened. 2001 saw the rise of '00 Tim Burton, who was a big scary money-making machine which produced a string of big-screen artistic disasters and made us all suspect that some time around the turn of the century Mr. Burton had sold his tortured soul to the studios for a buttload of cash (I'm blaming '00 Tim Burton for Alice in Wonderland too, even though it was released in early 2010). Then came Dark Shadows, which wasn't a perfect film, but it did get me to reconsider my view of Burton's transformation. Finally, yesterday I got to attend an accidentally-private screening of '10s Tim Burton's stop-motion animated remake of his 1984 Frankenweenie, and boy, was I glad to behold his glorious return to the realm of heartwarming black-and-white creepiness. I absolutely loved everything about this version of Frankenweenie, and I have no doubt that this is the best possible way of telling this story of one boy's unbound love for his tragically deceased puppy. Welcome back, Timmy. I hope you'll decide to stick around for at least another eight years.

Reanimated bull terriers are ADORABLE.

A note on the animation: in the age of computer animation, the only merit of stop-motion animation is its hand-made quality. Corpse Bride, Burton's 2005 film, did not possess that quality, which is one of the reasons I disliked it so much. A stop-motion animated film that looks and feels as smooth and perfect as a computer animated film is a complete waste of quite a bit of time, money and talent (and the godawful songs didn't help either). The good news is that Frankenweenie looks a lot more like The Nightmare Before Christmas than Corpse Bride. Don't get me wrong, the animation is still very fluid and you can definitely notice the use of modern animation techniques, but the animation style, the gorgeous character design (especially Martin Landau's Mr. Rzykruski) and the textures of both sets and characters are much more reminiscent of crude pencil sketches than of computer models. And that's a good thing.

Can you guess how many beauty marks I felt compelled to remove from this image? The winner gets a free butt mole!

And a note on the 3D: for some reason, Frankenweenie is only released in Israel in eye-popping 2D. As that is how it was originally shot (the 3D version is one of those crappy conversion things), that is also a good thing, and I'd like to thank whoever made that decision.

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