I’ve never shared the growing annoyance of certain parts of the critical classes with the way Tim Burton’s personal obsessions took over his films, despite some moments in his later films where even I wanted to grab the guy by his shoulders and tell him to just calm the fuck down for scene or two.
But if you’ve suffered from that particular illness worse than I did, it
might just be worth it to return to Burton for this one. Turns out replacing
Johnny Depp with house favourites Eva Green and/or Samuel L. Jackson has calmed
Burton down enough to put a bit more effort into shaping the film into an actual
narrative instead of a series of moments of whacky strangeness. The book this is
based on and Jane Goldman’s script might have helped there, too.
There are of course still a lot of Burton’s visual trademarks on display, his
patented eye for the lightly macabre, and so on and so forth. But even here, the
director seems to attempt to get out of his standard approach, using actual
locations beside the still excellently artificial sets, and managing to fuse the
expected Tim Burton-ness with the demands of the family adventure world he is
All this adds up to a film I’d have a hard time finding reasons to dislike:
the cast – including young (but not as young as their characters) leads Asa
Butterfield and Ella Purnell and a horde of well-loved faces – is in fine form,
the plot is fun for the whole family (unless one’s family is really boring,
obviously), the film’s very nice to look at, and there’s nary a scene that
doesn’t contain at least one charming, imaginative detail.