No Spoilers in my review
I'll kick this off with something pulled from an email I sent after getting home from the movie last night:
Frankenweenie to me is an amazing film in almost every respect. Nothing clunky about it - it goes down smooth like raspberry ice cream soda. It feels better to me than anything since - well, Nightmare Before Christmas really. I'd call it Burton's magnum opus** (see note below). He seems to have grown out of his youthful angstiness and the rather excessive things the earlier films went overboard with (for instance the musical numbers in Nightmare, which got old quick for me and began to grate on my nerves like overboisterous kids on a sugar binge). It recalls some moments from some of his best films, but in a mellow way that really agrees with me (more so in some repsects than the films it recalls). A touching and endearing story, great characters (though most of the human characters only get backgroundy roles - it's really a love story between a boy and his dog). The black and white pushes it right into perfection for me, especially combined with 3d. I love that it begins with a jerky stopmo film made by Victor (the boy) being projected in the living room for his parents to watch - in 3d no less! I thought for most of the film that it was set in the 1950's - the set designs and ambience are a fond look back at that era that felt like a comfortable easy chair to me. But the real standout is the dog... you'll fall in love with Sparky again and again. I think it might be the coolest stopmo puppet I've ever seen - like evar! Even though the theater I went to had the 3D screwed up for the first 5 minutes and everything was very flat, blurry, and had weird double-images until the dad of the family behind me went and talked to them about it and it went through this weird phase where the right lens of everybody's glasses went dark and had lines flashing down it rapidly for about 20 seconds, and then suddenly everything jumped out in perfectly-registered sweet-as-hell 3D - I say, even though that happened, I was left with a fantastic feeling.
And I didn't really think I was going to like F'nWeenie much! From the trailers the human puppet designs didn't appeal to me and I wanted them to be more stylized like Vincent. But mere seconds into the actual film that didn't matter at all, and in fact I discovered that this is essence of Burton, distilled and mellowed - less aggressive and super-stylized than in the past, but even sweeter and with a heady bouquet.
Anybody else seen it yet? Share your impressions.
** Magnum Opus does not mean his masterpiece - a magnum opus is a piece often included at the beginning of a classical music concerto that contains bits and pieces of all the various themes that will then be presented as full songs. And while it's presented at the beginning of the performance, oviously it was written after all the other songs. What I mean by calling Frankenweenie Burton's magnum opus is that it contains bits and pieces of the themes found throughout his other films - the sweet suburban panorama of Edward Scissorhands, the love of the main character and his dog from Nightmare Before Christmas, the dog is a patchwork creation like Sally, it deals with themes of 50's giant monster on the loose movies in a loving and satirical way. Oh, and there's Winona Ryder and Catherine O'Hara from Beetlejuice. Discussions between Victor and his mom recall Vincent quite nicely.
You're definitely right about the narrative thing. Not sure I agree so much about trope advancement - did ParaNorman say anything that wasn't already said (if in more abbreviated form) at the end of Corpse Bride?
In fact, I'd almost go so far as to say that whole aspect (blurring the lines between bullies and victims) stems from the central zombie trope - which was clearly stated as far back as the end of Night of the Living Dead: "They're us - they're us and we're them". I don't mean to diminish it - yes, it was a trope advancement, but it was also a natural growth stemming from that long-familar zombie trope and entering via the end reveal from Corpse Bride, that the zombies aren't monsters to be feared, they're loved ones and ancestors to be cherished (as primitive civilizations do).
Thematic cohesion - ok yes, ParaNorman was built all around the theme of realizing that anyone can be a bully, even (especially) when they don't think they are, and that bullies need to be treated as people, not evil monsters - but somehow that message seemed too pedantic to me - I felt like it was being shoved down my throat rather than suggested.
Ok, perhaps what Paranorman did wasn't entirely original -- but it still worked with the tropes on a deeper level than Frankenweenie did. The nature of the zombies and their relationship with the town played a key role in Paranorman's story, whereas the specific monsters referenced by Frankenweenie didn't add anything to the story not already explored by the central Weenie. The main characteristic of "Colossus" (not colossal!) had nothing to do with The Mummy, Shelly's attack on the carnival didn't really do anything with the ideas of kaiju movies (or go anywhere with the potential reference to Mary Shelly; not that I know what one could do with that), and I had to just assume that the rat creature was referencing the Wolfman by process of elimination. They were all just "insert monster reference here" characters serving only to pad out the storyline. I enjoyed the references and had fun watching the kids try to figure out how to undo their transformations, but their connection to either the story of this movie or the movies being referenced was pretty tenuous. Even if Laika didn't put any new ideas on the table, they still connected ideas in a more compelling way.
I feel like I have to state again that I really enjoyed Frankenweenie! I don't want to come off as overly critical. Just trying to understand and communicate the reasons I liked Paranorman even more.
I haven't seen Frankenweenie, and probably won't for a while, but I think one thing paranorman has over it - as someone mentioned above - is the design.
One thing the dweeb who wrote that article did get close to getting right (purely by accident, I'm sure), is the degree to which Tim Burton's odd aesthetic is starting to get a little tiresome.
I also want to say that I really enjoyed ParaNorman too - though I seem to be quite critical of it. I totally agree that the monsters in FW didn't connect to the story - the last 10 or 15 minutes of the movie was pretty much just random monster fun. And that part I didn't care for so much. What I really liked about it (as I said in my initial review) was a certain pleasant feeling it gave me - like sitting in a favorite easy chair, kicking off your shoes, and settling in to watch a great movie. In contrast, ParaNorman was a wild roller-coaster ride - hyperkinetic (especially the end!). But that's what makes them impossible to compare for me - they're so completely different.
I liked the character designs for some of ParaNorman's characters, but what pushed Frankenweenie over it for me in that department is that they didn't seem to be trying to make the puppets feel realistic and alive - they were puppets. That's probably just me though - I tend not to like puppets that try too hard to imitate living breathing people.
Also - nice opaque skin!!!
Also - nice opaque skin!!!
Well that settles it...I'M GOING!
As soon as it opens in Australia. Won't be long, a couple of weeks, but I'll have a long wait before I can compare it with ParaNorman. So I will see Frankenweenie first, maybe that's a good thing.
I loved it, Egor and Wierd Girl are my favorite.
I saw Frankenweenie at the Imax in 3D and I'm afraid I didn't like it as much as Paranorman. For kids I thought it might be too intense as there was a few times I jumped and some of the 'things' that went on would be a little intense for kids. Models were fantastic as they held up quite well on the Imax screen especially in closeups. Also, thought the 3D wasn't as good as Paranorman. Still glad I saw it. Paid $16.50.
For kids I thought it might be too intense as there was a few times I jumped and some of the 'things' that went on would be a little intense for kids.
Your negatives would be my positives. Though I cannot submit an opinion as I have not yet seen it.
I agree with Beyond Craft; those intense parts were some of the best! And that's not just from an adult perspective. Ideas of what's child-appropriate have shifted quite a bit recently -- just look at what constituted kids' fare just a couple decades ago. The Goonies stars foul-mouthed kids who face graphic death at numerous occasions; Labyrinth is centered around child abduction, immensely creepy puppet monsters, and should probably give David Bowie's crotch its own line in the credits; just about every Disney movie (Disney, which for decades has been considered the gold standard of mass-market animated kids' entertainment) had some sort of graphic violence -- like impaling the villain in the gut with a jagged piece of ship, a viscious wolf attack leaving bloody wounds, a shadowy death by throat-tearing-hyenas... heck, The Brave Little Toaster, in its entirety, is still terrifying. There was nothing in Frankenweenie nearly as graphic as any of that. But we used to think kids could handle it just fine -- correction, as kids we did handle it just fine. (All the above examples were from my own childhood, though I realize I'm probably on the younger end of the demographic here).
I can't really speak for cultural attitudes outside the US, but here in the States we've adopted an attitude of over-protection -- we are highly intolerant of risk, especially when it comes to children. This attitude has bled into the media we produce for them -- and as Hollywood is still a major source of motion picture entertainment internationally, that attitude is being pushed out to other cultures. Me, I don't think that's a positive direction to be moving. We don't give kids as much credit as we were given at their age. Why not?
There were two very young kids sitting behind me - one was maybe 4 and the other 6 or so - there were points where I was expecting some crying or freaking out, but they handled it just fine.
In fact when Sparky got hit by the car (come on - we've all seen the original.. ) the kid just in front of me looked at his mom and said "is he dead?" She just said "yeah" and they both went back to raptly watching the movie. There were no kiddie hysterics at all the night I was there.
And yet you can also have this for The Odd Life of Timothy Green:
Pfft. Kids these days. Show 'em Old Yeller and really traumatize them.