Burton is one of those directors who just seems better at his job than he really is. He’s always been able to create stunning and imaginative worlds, and he’s able to get good performances out of his actors. But his scripts (he has written about half of his movies) tend to lack subtlety. Also, it’s hard to find a movie of his that doesn’t star Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder, or Johnny Depp (especially Depp). I like Depp just as much as anyone, but I wonder if using him for nearly every major movie of his has limited their potential.
Mars Attacks!: Man, this could have been so good. Lampooning alien invasion flicks with a monster cast (Nicholson, Close, Bening, Fox, Devito, Brosnan, Portman) should have made this a slam dunk, but there’s not much here that’s actually funny. Amusing at times, and maddeningly flat most of the time, coming off too much like the films it’s supposed to be lampooning.
Batman Returns: Been a long time since I’ve seen this, but I remember feeling quite underwhelmed by Devito’s Penguin and Pfeiffer’s CatWoman.
Batman: It’s impossible to compare this to Christopher Nolan’s movies as they shoot for completely different styles. While Nolan’s movies go for the more modern “realistic” superhero, Burton was obviously going for a comic book feel. He does this mostly well. Nicholson’s Joker is really good. Keaton is solid as well. Unfortunately, I’m not a huge fan of comic books so that likely affected my enjoyment.
Beetle Juice: Ghosts hire an exorcist to rid their home of the new alive tenants. Not terribly funny these days, but I still enjoy watching it thanks to the imaginative world Burton creates and a very enthusiastic performance by Keaton. Alec Baldwin is good as usual and Geena Davis and Winona Ryder hold their own.
Edward Scissorhands: An isolated scientist creates Edward (Johnny Depp) and gives him scissors for hands until he can finish the real hands. Unfortunately, he dies before he can do so, and the naive Edward rolls into town. His brief celebrity ends quickly as the prejudiced town members turn against him. Great performance by Depp, but like Pleasantville, it’s easy to choke on all the allegory being shoved down one’s throat.
Other Tim Burton Movies You May Have Seen
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Alice in Wonderland
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Planet of the Apes (2001)
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure