When a young boy loses his canine best friends, he goes to edge of science to bring him back to life!Tim Burton
, an inventive, highly visual filmmaker who has in recent years become a parody of his own macabre style. The nightmarish fantasies of everything from Edward Scissorhands
to Sleepy Hollow
dragged the chills of classic horror stories into the latter half of the 20th century, creating a new generation of filmmaker weaned on gothic-lite.
But familiarity soon become his biggest weakness, the recurring colour palates, movie scores (courtesy of Danny Elfman
) and crazed angles in his sets and props. Add in the ridiculous over reliance on star Johnny Depp
and life partner Helena Bonham Carter
and it seemed there was no hope left for an original production from Burton.
And that statement still stands as Frankenweenie
is far from new – first being made as a black and white, live action short way back in 1984. Burton’s
employers at the time, Disney
, were loathe to release the short because the dark tone clashed with their own image, leading to the young filmmaker parting ways with the company. Fitting then that it’s Disney
behind this big budget remake.
2012’s stop motion take on the material follows the original for a good portion of its running time, building up the relationship between young Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan
) and his dog Sparky before the inevitable accident and subsequent revival.
It’s a neat idea for a film – mixing a sweet tale of the love between a child and his best friend with Burton’s
penchant for gothic excess, while also folding in some useful life lessons about loss and a backhander or two aimed at the closed off views of small town America.Burton
gets his references in thick and fast, from the plot which borrows liberally from Frankenstein
to visual nods for Christopher Lee’sDracula
, the movie at times becomes a litany of meta moments which never quite stop the momentum of the film.
The obvious stand out in Frankenweenie
is the superb stop motion animation, filmed at Three Mills Studio
in London – where Fantastic Mr. Fox
also came to life. In a year which has already seen the release of two other fabulous stop-mo flicks – The Pirates!
holds its own with some of the most fluid animation I’ve seen to date, featuring complex character animations and a wonderfully evocative animal in the form of Sparky – perhaps the most fully realised dog yet seen in the medium.Frankenweenie
style in a way which seems more fitting than some of this over the top live action efforts, but the film is far from perfect. The black and white visuals are certainly striking, forcing the eye to focus more on depth and texture in the wonderfully designed worlds. But the palate can become a bit oppressive at times, particularly next to the vivid delights of most other animation.
And those monotones sadly also translate to the tone of the piece. There are few emotional high points in Frankenweenie
and even they rarely reach the peaks you might expect. The characters are often equally dull, apart from a delightful turn from Martin Landau
as a passionate teacher, and the story meanders to a finale which lumps in some monster to pad out the running time.
Without a doubt, Frankenweenie
is Tim Burton’s
best film in almost a decade, giving him the chance to tell a story that has been percolating in his brain since the early 80s. But while the central emotional connection is strong, the film loses confidence in its second half to its detriment. There are some scary moments for youngsters too.