ABSTRACTIONS

Volume VI- Burton + The CRAFTING OF A GOTHIC MUSE:

Abstractions is an original series by Eric Wilkinson, featuring subliminal connections between films that share a common thread previously unseen or perhaps, unexplored.

The connection between a muse and artist is a complicated one. While they often offer us a rare glimpse into the heart and soul of a creator, they also contain thematic strains for delivering big ideas. In the work of director Tim Burton, the appeal of his unique visual style and aesthetics have captivated audiences for over three decades. Yet when we look below the surface it is in his characters that we find the most definable aspect of his work as a visionary filmmaker. His surrogates mark not only his interests in monsters, makeup, and macabre, but also in identity, alienation, and longing to belong. They are neither all male nor female nor just Johnny Depp.

Cinema is the exploration of the familiar through a veil of that which is unfamiliar. As we root for characters like Edward, Lydia Deetz, Pee-Wee Herman, or Edward Bloom, we gain a sense of the outsider whose life is so disconnected from mainstream society that they’ve found a way to create their own reality within it. Tim Burton’s films have always celebrated themes of alienation and loneliness cast against the longing for understanding. When he’s managed to be the most effective, arguably in the first decade of his career, its come from an willingness to take risks in an increasingly corporatized Hollywood and sticking true to an uncompromising vision, allowing his actors to embody grandiose and unusual characteristics.

As Burton himself says in 1995’s Burton on Burton:

“If you’ve ever had that feeling of loneliness, of being an outsider, it never quite leaves you. You can be happy or successful or whatever, but that thing still stays with you.”

As I’ve become more familiar with Tim’s filmography, I found several deep seeded insecurities of my own plastered on the screen with vibrant, imaginative gothic twists. I guess its become somewhat cliched or perhaps looked down upon to say that Burton’s films helped contribute to my desire to explore film, but its true. In high school as I searched for meaning within a mundane suburban existence, where nearly everything felt planned and preoccupied by adults, I largely expressed myself through discovering voices outside of this sphere of influence. Burton’s films by proxy, particularly his better earlier ones, often encapsulated this exploration of melancholic grace and camp into something definably macabre and heartfelt. I loved witnessing the journeys each character would take in order to come to terms with their isolation and, in seeking out a connection with those who’ve discovered something similar, how to exist on the outside.

For this edition of Abstractions, I decided to ponder over how Burton as a filmmaker has incorporated himself into his many creations and what value he places on the actors who have most profoundly made an impact in ushering in his career. While many are overly familiar with the partnership Johnny Depp has with Burton, I’ve become far more fascinated with how he views women or the elderly, particularly in his middle career. For Burton, his greatest strength can also be his undoing, and I’ll talk also about how his collaborations have led to some career missteps and how he could pull himself back from it. Tim, like any long standing film director, has grown subject to his own peculiarities. Not all of his films work. In fact many are intriguing failures of both style and substance, yet there is still something to be learned from a director whose career skyrocketed early on and has maintained a level of reverence for decades.


Lydia Deetz (Winona Ryder)

Winona Ryder

featured in Beetlejuice (1988), Edward Scissorhands (1990), and Frankenweenie (2012).

Its hard to believe Winona Ryder has only worked with Tim Burton on 3 films over the course of her career. The bonafide “it” girl of his earliest and most fruitful period as a filmmaker, Winona came to represent young girls who weren’t satisfied defining themselves in the context of a John Hughes multi-verse, and instead appeared as an outsider whose roles in Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands broke serious conventions.

As Lydia Deetz, Ryder wanders into the quaint cottage style home of the recently deceased Maitland’s and with a few cutting jabs at her parent’s obliviousness, firmly cements herself into our cinematic zeitgeist. Her moodiness and gothic sensibilities provided her with plenty of personality, yet it was her earnestness and morbid fascinations that truly gave her character.

                                    LYDIA                  
It says that live people ignore the strange and
unusual... I, myself, am strange
and unusual.
Beetlejuice, Shooting Script, 1988

Burton explores suburbia again in Edward Scissorhands by inserting his own childhood experience onto the makeshift cookie cutter pastels of the Boggs family’s Burbank neighborhood. A complete 180 degree turn from her role in Beetlejuice, Ryder’s portrayal of Kim, the popular blonde cheerleader whose atypical life is disrupted by the arrival of Edward’s presence, redefined the film’s contextual motivations and gave it a degree of classicalism. A sort of Frankenstein meets Romeo and Juliet if you will. As we learn more about Edward’s miraculous origins and his longing for completion, we also discover Kim’s desire to embrace her true self and to escape the shadows of her families expectations. Both in essence reflect Burton, who uses the film as a purging of old burdens and an acceptance of his own pathway as a director.

Sprinkling whimsy into a dark suburban fairy tale, allowed Burton to make a very personal film that reflects his own misgivings on society and the reactions many have towards those who are different. By reuniting with Ryder, Burton embraced his leading ladies natural abilities and entrusted her with anchoring the more fantastical elements of his story. The subversion of what we knew of Ryder from Beetlejuice into what we see onscreen in Edward was an early indication of Burton’s talent as a director and with Johnny Depp’s ground breaking performance as Edward, the film has been elevated to a near cult like status that few would have guessed at in the early 90’s.

For Ryder and Burton, this partnership produced two of the best films in their filmographies and successfully portrayed young women with layers of depth, a love for the arts, and a heart for the downtroden.

Winona Ryder was to Tim Burton, a youthful expression of outsiderhood, a starry eyed inquisitor, and a reflection of culture at the time.

Michelle Pfeiffer

featured in Batman Returns (1992) and Dark Shadows (2012)

My earliest exposure to Burton’s work was 1992’s woefully underappreciated Batman Returns. I still remember my parents taking me to the Century Stadium 14 dome theater in Sacramento and how magical it felt to sit in those stadium style seats. I vividly recall the packs of trading cards, branded Sun Chips, and Batman themed walkie talkies that came soon after, but mostly, I remember the looming shadows of Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny DeVito, and Michael Keaton cast along that theater floor in the summer of ‘92.

Danny DeVito’s performance as Oswald Copplepot/The Penguin was the fuel of nightmares for a 5-year old kid still learning to separate movies from reality. I learned pretty quickly that this kind of reaction was intentional and that I was supposed to feel repulsed by the Penguin until I could fully grasp the sorrowful reality of his existence. He was indeed repulsive and vile and teetering on the edge of a warped psychosis imbued by lustful desire, yet he was still human. “The Cat, The Bat, and The Penguin” was the film’s tagline and it filters into what I believe to be one of Burton’s most ingenious takes on identity and artistic surrogacy.

Michelle Pfeiffer’s Selina Kyle/Catwoman was a delightful, scathing glimpse into the struggles of working women and a feminist triumph that’s unleashed through unmitigated transformation. While overtly sexualized, Selina’s vengeful journey into darkness is in direct contrast to her former life as an unassuming pawn for the men around her to use and abuse. Returns manages to convey its cautionary vision of what abuse and neglect does to an individual while still managing to unveil something distinct about Burton’s views on men and women.

Not usually considered progressive, Tim Burton’s exploration of duality and psychosis in Batman Returns is both nuanced and revealing of the director’s purest self diagnosis. While vastly different from its predecessor, leaning heavily on the fact that it doesn’t really want to be a Batman film at all, Returns is a reflection of the splintering of our internal and external selves, and no character is a greater examination of this fact than Pfeiffer’s Selina.

Her theatrical vivacious performance is still endearing to this day and helped define the character’s more ravenous qualities for decades in the comics world. That transformation from belittled, under-loved secretary to the wide-eyed, pervasive, and domineering Catwoman, is a reflection of the extremes women are often forced to take in order to free themselves from the ways in which society has diminished their input. This is a creature risen from the grave and meant to scale the rooftops alonside the equally tormented Bruce Wayne not because she had to but because it liberated her from the confines of her daily life.

Batman Returns is a cautionary tale in the end, as all three leads struggle to find happiness in a world that can neither accept them for who they are or what they’ve come to represent.

                             ALFRED
Ms. Kyle. Mr. Wayne told me to
tell you that --

SELINA
Mr. Wayne. Bruce.
Yes ... Would you tell him for me
that I've been going through a lot
of changes and ... no, don't say
that. Just ... this is not a
rejection, my abruptly leaving,
it's ... In fact, tell him he makes
me feel the way I hope I really
am ... no ...
(laughing)
If you whip up a sonnet,
something -- a dirty limerick ...

ALFRED
(smiles, assures her)
One has just sprung to mind.
Batman Returns, Shooting Script, 1992

Pfeiffer has only worked with Burton on one other occasion, as the matriarch of a cursed family in 2012’s abysmal Dark Shadows. Burton’s impact as a filmmaker had greatly diminished at this point, coming off of several missed opportunities helmed by Johnny Depp and lapsing into rather lazy attempts at storytelling. While Johnny Depp galavanted across the screen making outdated jokes and flailing about in romantic bemusement, Pfeiffer’s Elizabeth Collins Stoddard stands unamused and commandeering. Her ability to conduct the family business, maintain relationships in the community, and remain the voice of reason despite the families crumbling image is a feat unto itself and one of the film’s very few bright spots.

Pfeiffer is to Burton as an ideal model of female empowerment cast against the disconnected males of her two features. She represents Burton’s willingness to allow actresses to take charge of their time on screen and alongside Winona Ryder and Eva Green, is the closest he’s come to making a definitive statement about women’s roles in cinema.

Michelle Pfeiffer was to Tim Burton a slightly progressive push towards female empowerment, a figure of desire, and a character actress with layered performances.

Michael Keaton

featured in Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989), and Batman Returns (1992)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a huge Michael Keaton fan.

His slightly manic performances often tread the line between drama and comedy in a fashion thats unlike most of the actors of his generation. After a string of wildly successful films with Tim Burton, Keaton would essentially gravitate towards independent features before dropping off the map for an extended period and, in the last 2–3 years, return as the Oscar/Globes darling he has become today.

Before all the celebration however, he was a stand up comedian with a penchant for pushing the envelope in comedy and a risky endeavor for Warner Bros. as they pursued a big budget adaptation of Batman in 1989. What’s fascinating to revisit in both of Tim Burton’s Batman films, and 1988’s Beetlejuice, is this concept of masculinity that at the time was being reshaped as a courtship between inner turmoil and external personification.

In 1988’s Beetlejuice, Michael Keaton’s hammy, ad-libbed performance nearly devours the film almost immediately, yet in doing so created a larger than life specter whose prominence in popular culture is still undeniably strong. The “ghost with the most” is an emotionally stunted frat boy and a provocative nuisance, whose zany quips and innuendo would essentially drive others to insanity. No other actor, save for perhaps Johnny Depp in Ed Wood or Paul Reubens in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure has been as gleeful in a Tim Burton film as Keaton’s Betelgeuse, and for that the film retains much of its shape and allure. Keaton explores the space of the living as an exile from the world of the dead, and embodies a kind of trickster mythology which both tempts and disgusts Lydia and Maitlands.

                                JUNO
The whorehouse was my idea. I
want Betelgeuse out of the
picture! We've got some serious
talking to do.

BARBARA
About what?

JUNO
You people have really screwed
up! I received word that you
allowed yourselves to be
photographed. And you let
Betelgeuse out and didn't put him
back, and you let Otho get ahold
of the handbook.

ADAM
Handbook? When...?

JUNO
(continuing tirade)
Never trust the living! We cannot
have a routine haunting like yours
provide incontrovertible visual
proof of existence beyond death.

ADAM
Well, we didn't know --
Beetlejuice, Shooting Script, 1988

In both Batman and Batman Returns, Keaton explored the duality of Bruce Wayne’s tormented soul as he fought to protect Gotham from a pantheon of colorful villains. Bruce/Batman is essentially a “Janus Mask” of a superhero, never able to fully accept either part of his persona, yet in Burton’s films this didactic impotence comes to life more clearly than perhaps any other Batman iteration. You heard me right. Keaton’s Batman is the closest examination of the character’s psyche and personality coming to grips with his single form. Tim Burton wisely allows Keaton to mean mug long enough to create space for emotion and then kicks him into gear as the film’s altercations set the tone for how far the character must go to protect both his city and his identity.

A little madness goes a long way, and in all three Keaton/Burton collaborations we find something truly special in how these men view themselves and one another. The complex balance between caricature and character is always a difficult one to land, but even with Beetlejuice, the motivation Betelgeuse has for wanting to be freed from his curse has roots in a selfish desire to run amock without restraint. Masculinity can often be reconciled from this, as we’ve often seen in teen comedies, but here, Burton unapologetically paints a picture of his lead antagonist as a creature of habit whose unwilling to change despite his predicament.

Keaton and Burton have yet to definitively say whether or not they will be reuniting in the long dormant Beetlejuice 2, but should that never happen, I do wonder what a more modern collaboration between Keaton and Burton would look like. Keaton, and by proxy young Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder, represent A LOT about the early success and definitive value of Tim Burton’s brand and just the fact that so many of these actors were a risk for the studio at the time and Tim defended them, makes me believe that a recommitment to his creative vision would do him good.

Michael Keaton to Tim Burton was a risky career move, an exploration of comedy, and an unexpected bright spot.

Helena Bonham Carter

featured in Planet of the Apes (2001), Big Fish (2003), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Corpse Bride (2005), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), Alice in Wonderland (2010), and Dark Shadows (2012)

If Johnny Depp became the male surrogate for Burton’s exploration of outsider culture then Helena Bonham Carter has most certainly been his Aphrodite. Representing an affectionate force behind the somewhat stilted males of Depp’s armchair oddities, Carter propelled herself into Burton’s world starting with 2001’s much maligned Planet of the Apes and began a personal and professional relationship with the director is only rivaled in Depp.

What I find so fascinating about Carter’s partnership with Burton however, is that despite their close knit relationship, its hard to get a sense for what their connection is aside from that attraction towards the unsual. Carter’s characters tend to either fall on either side of the moral fence, though I believe she’s most recognized as Mrs. Lovett from 2007’s Sweeney Todd, the Corpse Bride from 2005’s feature of the same name, and 2003’s Big Fish, wherein she plays a dual role heavily representing the film’s theme of interpreting one’s own narrative.

In Big Fish, Burton found an untapped intentionality that to this day has come to represent his potential as a filmmaker more than perhaps any other film. Carter plays the Swamp Witch, a figure from lead Edward’s past, and Jenny, a young girl he left behind who grew into a loving admirer of Edward’s and a missed opportunity for another life. Carter plays both with a kind of larger than life presence that works best when she’s allowed to portray how that emotion effects the timeline of Edward’s story and how Edward’s son, Will (Billy Crudup) comes to find out the truth. Stories have power and the way in which we remember the past gives meaning to our legacy. Burton in many ways allowed himself to be captivated by John August’s masterful screenplay and by Daniel Wallace’s source material in a way that allows Big Fish to feel less like a “Tim Burton Film” and more like a great film that happens to be made by Tim Burton.

                          JENNY (cont’d)
And as brightly as the sun would shine when he was with me, every time he left it disappeared. I wanted to be as important to him as you were, and I was never going to be. I was make-believe and his other life, you, were real.
Big Fish, Final Revised Draft, 2003

For Carter in Sweeney Todd, the ambiguity of her actions and the eventual reveal of her true character, is at the core of the film’s thematic dance, and Carter gleefully embodies its twisting morale compass with ease. What I liked about Carter’s relationship to this character is that it somewhat comments on the strained connection between a solitary force like Sweeney (or Burton if we are going to psycho analyze here) and the outside world, represented by Lovett and the poor districts of Victorian era London. Carter’s longing for Sweeney’s hand is deceitful and wrong headed, considering all that he hopes to accomplish, but in the end it is her mistake to make and the film never shies away from its climactic collision course.

In the Corpse Bride, Burton introduces the character of The Bride in a striking reference to gothic folk tale imagery. Her hand, embracing the night sky with decrepit fingers, comes to life as Victor (Johnny Depp) unintentionally proposes to her while wandering the woods after a disastrous rehearsal dinner. Carter’s Bride emerges from the ground and from this moment on, the macabre narrative swirls around her vocal performance as we gain an ephemeral understanding of her tragedy and what must be done to make things right. Carter’s involvement here is perhaps her least engineered role, and it comes from a place of honesty that would prove to be difficult to find in some of her other roles during her time with Burton.

While Carter and Burton have officially split, their output as a couple will undoubtedly continue to follow the director into the next phase of his career.

Helena Bonham Carter to Tim Burton was an opportunity to explore the woes of adult romance, an opposite to stilted men, and a morally divided figure to stir the potion.

Christopher Lee

featured in Sleepy Hollow (1998), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Corpse Bride (2005), Alice in Wonderland (2010), Dark Shadows (2012), and Frankenweenie (2012)

Sir Christopher Lee passed away last year at the age of 93 and the world was forever changed. The iconic British actor heralded one of the longest running genre filmmaking careers in history and helped usher in countless movements across a 60 year career. His work with Burton, while limited to the final 20 years of his life, offered Lee a chance to evoke some of his earlier, Hammer Horror roles in a new context and gave Burton a chance to work with yet another icon from his youth.

While none of Lee’s roles are particularly large, his screen presence offered legitimacy to even the lowest points in Burton’s career. His booming voice ushered in fierce opposition to Alice in Wonderland’s heroine was an element of surprise in an otherwise dull, lifeless picture. The grim autocrat in 1998’s Sleepy Hollow, 2005’s Corpse Bride, and 2005’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory gave those film’s dramatic tension and pushed Johnny Depp’s characters to the brink of emotional turmoil, not unlike that of Lee’s depiction of Dracula.

For Burton, the opportunity to work with Lee on so many films most certainly left an impact on him. His framing around the actor is more pronounced than it is for other supporting players, and the air of respect he holds for him carries over into how the film hangs its hat on Lee’s decisions onscreen.

Christopher Lee to Tim Burton was a reminder of the past, and an authoritative and exquisite voice.

Lisa Marie

featured in Ed Wood (1994), Mars Attacks (1997), Sleepy Hollow (1998), and Planet of the Apes (2001)

Lisa Marie’s nearly silent performance in Mars Attacks will undoubtedly go down as one of Burton’s scariest creations, though my favorite role of hers has to be Vampira from 1994’s Ed Wood. With Vampire, Marie deploys a kind of languishing horror host whose fledgling career puts her in direct contact with Ed Wood (Johny Depp) and his friends. Throughout the film she appears as an oddity in a more conservative vision of Hollywood than we are used to seeing and with that, a chance for Burton to sell the concept that Ed’s production unit lived on the fringe of what was considered normal in the film industry.

What’s fascinating in hindsight is that Lisa Marie’s impact on Burton’s 1990’s films is ultimately more satisfying than his work with Helena Bonham Carter. I believe this is largely due to the way Burton conveys her in a kind of subdued respect or wonder. Her participation feels both organic and necessary for Burton in a manner which starts off the same with Carter but soon languished into over indulgence. I also found her role as Ichabod’s mother in Sleepy Hollow to be a tragic reminder of intolerance as a symbolic nightmare which propels the character forward on his quest to relinquish Sleepy Hollow’s curse.

While I’m certain both Marie and Burton are happier apart than they were together, her brief partnership with him remains one of the more fascinating Hollywood romances in recent history and a reminder of some of the elements that appear to have been lost for Burton along the way, namely that alluring visual motif which he uses to sell his outsiders predicament.

Lisa Marie to Tim Burton was a fascination, a visual motif, and a thing of wonder.

Eva Green

featured in Dark Shadows (2012) and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)

Eva Green feels tailor made to work in Tim Burton’s sandbox. Her striking features, spidery fingers, and unmistakable gaze are trademarks of an emerging star whose presence is immediately felt onscreen even in some of her smaller roles.

Dark Shadows represents a missed opportunity for Burton. Weighed down by a rather juvenile script by Seth Grahmme Green, its exploration of the iconic daytime soap relies far too much on Johnny Depp’s campy performance as Barnabas Collins, and nearly forgets to involve much of the supporting cast save for plot conventions set to move the stories progress further. Among this cast, only Michelle Pfeiffer and Eva Green’s Angelique Bouchard truly escape with some dignity, and it is Bouchard’s presence that remains one of the few iconic images from the film. Most of the credit here belongs to Green, whose said in interviews how she’d wanted to work with Burton for nearly her whole life and finally got the chance in 2012. Burton’s appeal to Green is equally apparent throughout the film, as his camera clings to her like saran wrap and allows her character’s venomous perfume to seep into the woodwork in rather striking fashion.

Her overtly demonic sensuality is meant to provide a Barnabas with a kind of tempestuous alternative to his newfound freedom, in that the spell she would cast on him could ensure an eternity of destruction and passionate love making. What Green eventually unveils in her role, drawn one would guess from the source material but perhaps just from her own abilities as an actress, is a fragility and a remorseful hatred for the Collins family that fuels her generations long revenge scheme. Green even manages to sell some of the more obviously silly sequences with Depp’s bombastic Barnabas Collins, though it cuts the line on a few occassions.

What I believe Burton learned from this film is that while his desire to explore the Dark Shadows universe was perhaps at one point justified his execution and reliance on his history with Depp ultiamtely sunk the project. I’m reaching here, but considering Depp and Burton have worked together on nearly every project between 2005 and 2012, its hard not to assume that this is the film that killed that momentum.

Burton would followup Dark Shadows with two features heralding female leads, one of which reunites him with Eva Green. Out for release on September 30th, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, follows a sort of school for unusual children led by Green’s mysterious raven haired Alma Peregrine. Despite not having seen the film and only hearing murmurs of its supposedly good quality, we will have to see if Burton has the talent to truly embody Green’s profound abilities or if another Dark Shadows is at bay.

Eva Green to Tim Burton is an opportunity, an opportunity to create dynamic female characters who can lead the charge in genre filmmaking.

Vincent Price

featured in Vincent (1982) and Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Moreso than Christopher Lee, Vincent Price represents the connection Burton has made between his childhood love for B-movies and his own blossoming career. When still an unhappy animator at Disney, Burton convinced his hero to voice the narrator in a short film, Vincent, inspired by the actor’s career and the works of Edgar Allan Poe. This blossomed into a lasting friendship, of which sadly only led to one additional role, as the Inventor in Edward Scissorhands. Price’s influence on Burton however was insurmountable.

Providing legitimacy and a clearly inspired voice, Price gave Burton the confidence to continue searching for his unique perspective on moviemaking. Treating Price like the star he was and offering him a role when all studios had essentially moved on from the aging star, was not unlike the plot of Burton’s later film, Ed Wood, and the friendship shared between them gave Burton a kind of source material thats ultimately priceless.

                                 INVENTOR
Is it good form to accept a second cup? "Now,
should the napkin be entirely unfolded." Oh
should the center crease. Be allowed to remain?
It is so easy to commit embarrassing
blunders. "But etiquette humiliation and
discomfort. Mmm yes, boring. Let us switch to,
Um... To some poetry, Hmm?" "There was an old
man from the cape." "Who made himself there,
but they keep such a beautiful shape." That's
right. Go ahead, smile. It's funny. That's
right.
Edward Scissorhands, Shooting Draft, 1990

Vincent Price to Tim Burton is a figure of fascination, wonder, and inspiration.

Johnny Depp

featured in Edward Scissorhands (1990), Ed Wood (1994), Sleepy Hollow (1997), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Corpse Bride (2005), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), Alice in Wonderland (2010), and Dark Shadows (2012)

Johnny Depp has become as synonymous with Tim Burton as Christopher Lee was to Hammer Horror. Each found success in the other but at a certain juncture, also found that a lasting relationship could not survive the creative process when prosperity whittled down to derision.

To have your name and screen presence become synonymous with playing outsiders and lunatics must be rewarding in its own special way. For Johnny Depp, the 8 leading roles he’s played for Tim Burton have both enhanced and detracted from the director’s vision and style.

Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, Sweeney Todd, and The Corpse Bride, offer up inspired glimpse into Depp’s chameleonic abilities and elevate the material to create something truly magical. The special qualities of each of these films is empowered by Tim’s support and respect for his leading man and for the ways in which he supplies Johnny with his own sensibilities. Depp and Burton are at their most successful as a duo when they rely on a sense of urgency and autheniticy. In Ed Wood, this comes across as gleeful optimism in the face of maligned criticism. In Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod Crane’s devotion to science and facts amidst the supernatural and the superstituous, is both comically pleasing and naive. In Edward Scissorhands, Depp deploys the gaze of a lost puppy with such eager fascination that nearly every step and every word feels like we are seeing it for the first time, as its happening, rather than produced.

These are truly the gems of both Johnny Depp and Tim Burton’s career together and they should stand as reminders of what they can accomplish as a unit should they ever work together again. I think a lesson for both men that they’ve yet to truly embrace is that smaller is oftentimes better and steering clear of bid budget franchise films would do both a world of good.

                                ED
Absolutely! It's just the beginning.
I promise this: If we stick together,
one day I'll make every single one
of you famous.
Ed Wood, Shooting Script, 1994

The line get drawn at the moment when this embrace becomes all too consuming, which lead to a string of less than stellar performances, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland, and Dark Shadows. Each of these films take Depp’s keen methodology and strain it to its logical conclusions. There is an androgyny within many of Depp’s latter creations that make him difficult to identify with and draw away from what made their collaborations earlier feel more refined. Now looking at Depp in the light of these decisions, its become harder to take him seriously as an actor and nearly every performance he’s had since 2012 has been weighed down by his bizarre decision to distance himself from reality.

What Johnny Depp shows us about Tim Burton is that he is a filmmaker who knows how to take risks but has grown comfortable with hitting the same mark time and again. As a filmmaker, Burton’s greatest undoing is in thinking that he’s still on the outside looking in, when quite possibly it seems to be the other way around when working with Depp directly. Perhaps this will change given the right amount of time. Burton’s commitment towards telling stories with other actors at the helm seems to indicate his rededication to the craft and a sign of potential rebirth, but it could also mean that any collaboration between Depp and Burton moving forward may unfortunately carry too much weight to be considered anything but a career killer.

Johnny Depp to Tim Burton is a personal reflection, an endearing surrogate, and an unfortunate crutch.

Originally posted on: http://www.themiddleaisle.tumblr.com/ by Eric Wilkinson | @ericwilkinson87 on Twitter

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