Friday, November 20, 2015

Edward Scissorhands Review (Classic Write-Up)

In the year 2015, Edward Scissorhands serves as some kind of bizzaro gaze into another life, another world, another time and place where the pairing of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton would produce anticipation, not dread. And while it's true that Burton and Depp would collaborate for further successful projects after this 1990 feature (as recently as 2007, their Sweeney Todd effort was an excellent movie), it seems the duo have decided to cease working together for the time being after back-to-back critical duds Alice In Wonderland and Dark Shadows (the latter film being a huge box office bomb likely resulting in the split more than anything else).

While I'm not exactly heartbroken we won't get anymore cinematic cataclysms like Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, watching Edward Scissorhands for the first time made me legitimately sad to see how far the two have fallen in recent years, because, man oh man, does Edward Scissorhands serve as a shining example of what happens when both Depp and Burton are on their A-game. In contrast to the majority of the characters Depp would play under the directorial watch of Burton that, since they starred in movies that came out after the first Pirates Of The Caribbean film, were typically little more than Jack Sparrow clones, Edward Scissorhands is a far more placid creature, an obvious way to juxtapose that meek personality with the sharp and potentially harmful objects he has for hands.

Depp plays Edward like a wounded animal for much of the time, eliciting audience sympathy from the simplest facial expression conveying discomfort. In his journey to adjust to conventional society, Burton places the film in an unknown time period, one where, according to one piece of throwaway piece of dialogue, VCR's exist, but also one that strongly recalls the 50's and 60's in design aesthetic. Considering the latter decade is where Burton spent the majority of his childhood,  as well as the fact that Edward is intentionally supposed to represent his own personal social isolation as a lad, it seems clear that the various sets and production designs taking inspiration from this specific time period is no coincidence.

The character archetypes that surround Edward in this strange and new environment seem more skewed from the 50's, especially in some of the tinier dialogue exchanges (notice how Edwards "parents" in this world blame his misbehavior on television programs, going as far as to "damn them all"), but all of those interpretations work in tandem, instead of overwhelm, the general premise of the feature. That plot is executed as a classical fairy tale, complete with all the subtle beauty and inescapable darkness that came with the classic versions of the likes of Hansel & Gretel.

Edward Scissorhands feels like a movie that Tim Burton poured himself and all his passions (classic stories like fairy tales, Vincent Price, unique creature designs) into, which is a completely different beast than, say, his 2012 feature Dark Shadows, which was one-joke premise that got run more than into the ground. Are there foibles to be found? Oh sure, especially in the boyfriend of Edwards romantic interest, Kim (Winona Rider), a fellow named Jim (Antony Michael Hall), who struck me as both Biff 2.0 and not at all in home with the overall tone of the film. But like the subtle themes of this tale, a flaw like that doesn't suffocate the numerous virtues one can find in this earlier Burton effort that manages to be one of the most emotionally powerful and thoughtful creations to ever emerge from the filmmakers mind.

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