Visited the Tim Burton retrospective/art exhibition at ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) in Melbourne t’other day. I like his films. But more importantly I like the look of his films, which turns out, do truly reflect the look of his art. For someone who trained at Disney, he’s not very Disneybland.
He has a definite love-hate relationship with Astroturf. Except for in Sleepy Hollow, but I think if the film needed it, he would’ve found a way to sneak it in. Anyhoo, his aesthetic is clearly a reaction against the cooky-cutter, tract home suburban life Edward Scissorhands captured so well. If about anything, that film was about how fairytales and perhaps artists/storytellers can’t survive in such environments.
I love how visually rich his art and films are. He visits dark places and reveals whimsy and hope in gory arabesque hyper-realities (like the wonderful Vincent) Which is why, when walking through the exhibition, I wondered what other worlds would look like if Burton took his vision to them.
I keep wondering why he hasn’t done more science-fiction. Picture how much more architecturally stimulating Christopher Nolan’s Inception would’ve been with a touch of Burtonesquery.
Imagine what he could do if free to invent a SF world entirely, instead of twisting historical-fictional settings (Sleepy Hollow, Alice in Wonderland) or the contemporary-ish world (Beetlejuice). Specifically, I wondered how he could re-imagine Dr Who. Instead of Whovian characters acting odd and out of place in normal worlds, a Burton Whoscape (if you will) would thrust oddness at the characters, via the Tardis, and these main characters, so familiar and capable, would be tested in new ways. I admit the Dreamlord episode (Amy’s Choice) had a touch of the weirds, but the worlds in which the dreams took place were mostly not odd at all: Leadworth plus monsters, Tardis minus heat. They were plausible. Imagine The Doctor, Amy and Rory arriving in Burtonworld which was Odd and Dark and Real. There are budget concerns though, poor GFC’d BBC.
Perhaps other SF worlds would be more amenable, Farscape had a touch of the Burtons because of its use of colour and, let’s face it, puppets. I’d like Star Trek a whole lot more if it reflected how really weird deep space is.
Maybe Burton and Joss Whedon should collaborate somehow. I’d read/watch whatever they’d put together. That would be funny and sympathetic and gloomy and hyper-real. Or Neil Gaiman and Burton.
Of course this is all carpet-pie in the lime-green sky kinda of thinking. Why are (some) humans attracted to the weird? Why does Edgar Allan Poe still seem relevant and Dr Seuss and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Roald Dahl? Oh for stories dark and fearsome and funny and beautiful all at once.
I think this is why I find Twilight so unappealing. Amid the angsty love story, there’s no laughter. For all the sparkly vamps and ripped wolfy bods, there’s no gritty fearsome. It’s all too pretty. A girl willing to die for her ancient ‘boy’ lover should be gory and scary as Poe. But is it?
Aside: Helena Bonham Carter would make a very cool, world-weary wacky Romana. You know, just thinking.