Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Oscars 2013: Frankenweenie

Frankenweenie (U.S., 2012) directed by Tim Burton,
Nominated for One Oscar
Best Animated Feature Film 

What a strange and brilliant creature Tim Burton is. The coupling of the dark but campy imagery in his animation and an inherent understanding of one's childhood fears and anxieties often disarm the film goer.

The story of Victor's efforts to resuscitate his beloved dog Sparky after a car accident by giving him jolts of electricity is both poignant and bizarre - two qualities that might describe Burton's artistic efforts in general. Victor, a scientific grade school prodigy, literally raises Sparky from the dead through an ingenious experiment. I came upon this historical fact by chance in a recent review of a book about Mary Shelley, the creator of the novel Frankenstein:

In a classic late-18th-century experiment, the Italian physiologist Luigi Galvani hung dead frogs from his balcony during a thunderstorm. The animals were impaled on metal hooks intended to attract an electric charge as the storm flashed its way across town. In response to a lightning strike or a boom of thunder, 'their legs twitched in a way that made them seem as if they were ready to hop off the balcony and into the streets below.'

There are the requisite villains - a sour-faced neighbor who is also the mayor (voiced by Martin Short who also voices the role of the father), treacherously jealous schoolmates who envy Victor's brilliance and try and steal his experiment for a school science fair; sheep-like townspeople who will quickly pick up a torch and a pitchfork to chase away an "alien" presence in their midst. Of course, this is a great spoof of the Frankenstein mythology and it almost succeeds. 

But I find the animation, in general, curiously lacks emotion with the characters having limited expressions and movements (perhaps this was consciously done by Burton). All the female romantic leads in his work seem to resemble Burton's celebrated actress wife Helena Bonham Carter (and sometimes Winona Ryder, another Burton favourite), with their jet black hair, enormous eyes, weird intensity and pale faces. 

I won't say I wasn't taken with the irrepressible joy of Victor and Sparky but you do wish that Burton might perk up at times and that not every story should have such a bleak perspective on human nature.  
The love interest

No comments: