The dark essentials to Tim Burton

Delve into the history of Tim Burton before the release of his newest film.


Jose Flores/ THE CHIMES

Kyle Kohner, Writer

Tim Burton radiates as a cornerstone of macabre filmmaking, captivating audiences throughout the last 35 years. Truthfully, Burton has not made a good film in 10 plus years but his recent cold streak should not veer audiences away from his upcoming film, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” which will release on Sept. 30. Through recent trailers, the upcoming film seems to balance focus between chiaroscuro visuals and quirky characters that made Burton’s films so memorable. In anticipation for the upcoming film, this collection of great films, besides “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” sheds light on Burton’s ingenious ways.

A Visual Amalgamation

After Disney fired Burton after he directed the overtly dark short “Frankenweenie” in 1984, Burton rebelled against the billion-dollar corporation with his first full length cult classic, “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.”  Audiences not only fell in love with Paul Reuben‘s Pee-wee Herman character, but also became enamored with Burton’s visual amalgamation of cryptic stop-motion and live-action.

Three years after his debut, the macabre master released a Halloween-time mainstay, “Beetlejuice,” which defined him as the duke of dark and funny. After introducing his innovative use of stop-motion in “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” Burton kicked it up a notch and made “Beetlejuice” a tossup between stop motion and live action. The film catapulted Michael Keaton into stardom with his quirky role as Betelgeuse.

A Darker Angle

With his early career epitomized, Warner Bros. presented Burton the challenge of taking an even darker angle with the Caped Crusader in his 1989 rendition of “Batman.” Without a doubt his best work stemming from pre-existing source material, Burton successfully separated the character of Batman and his evil counterparts from the cheesiness of the “Superman” franchise. Burton cloaked the Batman franchise with a sadistic tone prevalent in the horror and thriller movies of the time. The 1989 “Batman” introduced fans to a twisted, sinister and happily murderous Joker. Jack Nicholson portrays the crooked smiling villain exceptionally, leaving future actors to draw upon him for inspiration. Burton’s Batman may not be the best, but it laid the foundation of Christopher Nolan’s viscerally brooding trilogy.

“Mars Attacks!” exudes the negative idiosyncrasies of alien movies, yet prevails as another cult classic. Memories of the grotesque brain-bulging martians will forever remain with children who first watched it. It defined the B-movie genre despite its star-studded cast featuring the one and only Jack Nicholson. Ultimately, “Mars Attacks” represents Burton’s most ambitious yet eccentric film to enjoy.

After almost defaming himself with 2001’s desperate “Planet of the Apes,” Burton rebounded in 2003 with the release of “Big Fish.” Put simply, “Big Fish” is a marvelous adaptation of Daniel Wallace’s novel. Ewan McGregor’s narration adds a charming touch and provides him one of the best performances of his career. Moody southern gothic undertones protrude despite the fairytale ambience, putting Tim Burton’s shrouded stamp on the film. With an intricate storyline saturated with motifs about growing up and coming to terms with death, this film encapsulates the surreal visual characteristics Burton has mastered.

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