Career Peak – The point in an actor, actress or director’s career when they have given their best performance, reaching a point they will probably never match again!
The idea is to examine a person’s film or television career and decide when their career peak was; the moment that they gave their best performance or produced their best work. This could be with their first movie; it could also be yet to come. It’s designed to spark friendly debate too so if you don’t agree (or do, which would also be good) then feel free to add your suggestions below.
After watching Big Eyes and thinking about how little it felt like a stylised, visually striking Tim Burton movie, I began to reflect on the iconic director’s past movies and decided that he would be perfect for the first directors Career Peak.
A lot of people can list Tim Burton movies and for many at least one of his films will be in their favourite movies list but it has been a little while since a movie has really caught people’s imagination like his early work and there is almost a cliché to what to expect from a Tim Burton movie.
Tim Burton – Career Peak: Edward Scissorhands
Tim Burton made his name early with some very unique movies. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure catapulted him into the mainstream but both Beetlejuice and Batman solidified his reputation as a creative, unique director. Batman particularly, as it was a marketing phenomenon but also had a very unique look, with the dark, gothic Gotham in contrast with the colourful but sadistic Joker played by Jack Nicholson.
You mention Tim Burton though, and his particular pallet of white’s, greys and that gothic feel, and most people will instantly think of Edward Scissorhands. The dark, twisted but sweet love story starring Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder, erupted into the world as an instant classic, not just for it’s look but the black comedy tale that was at it’s core.
From there Burton managed to craft a very good career of many unique films but never really strayed from the same style that made his name. Batman Returns had a lot more in common with Edward Scissorhands than the original Batman, not just in colour but also with the idea of Danny Devito’s Penguin; a monster with a heart.
The Nightmare before Christmas, Corpse Bride, Dark Shadows and even his failed remake of The Planet of the Apes, all take some element of that first, very impressive movie where Depp had scissors for hands.
Burton also uses the same core creative team that he developed on that film. Danny Elfman returns for many of Burton’s movies, creating a usually haunting but fantastic score that compliments the usually dark, twisted tale that Burton has weaved.
Johnny Depp has become a staple of Burton’s career too. After Scissorhands came Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow, Corpse Bride and unfortunately, two instances of what felt like miscasting. Burton’s take on both Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland star Depp in two of the most famous roles; Willy Wonka and the Mad Hatter respectively. It begins to sum-up Burton’s career slightly, using the familiar rather than taking other chances or producing movies which become forgettable.
Burton’s more recent work has been less than impressive. Dark Shadows felt familiar but didn’t inspire while Big Eyes felt too safe and less like a daring Burton movie. His latest work is as producer on the Alice in Wonderland sequel and the rumours of a Beetlejuice sequel still keep the director in the movie-world news.
There isn’t necessarily the need for the director to produce anything new and exciting though. Every now and again something different is produced, like Big Fish or Frankenweekie, but then Burton falls back to what feels comfortable, Depp in heavy make-up and cold, stark, white and black palette. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it – or expect anything like the success of your earlier work.
Overall, Tim Burton has never bettered Edward Scissorhands and it seems to have haunted the rest of his career. From familiar casting, the same composer to score his films and the same stylistic palette, Burton produces similar but lesser movies than his early classic. Unfortunately, when he moves away from this, it never feels like it works either.