Sunday, July 17, 2022

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride

Movie Name:
Tim Burton's Corpse Bride
Year of Release: 2005
Director: Tim Burton, Mike Johnson
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Emily Watson, Richard E. Grant, Tracey Ullman, Joanna Lumley, Christopher Lee, Paul Whitehouse, Albert Finney, Michael Gough, Jane Horrocks, Enn Reitel, Deep Roy, Danny Elfman
Genre: Animation, Musical, Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8
Watch it on Amazon Prime

Synopsis and Review:
Coming off the well received "Big Fish", director Tim Burton premiered two films in 2005, firstly the re-imagining of Roald Dahl's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", followed by "Corpse Bride", which he co-directed with Mike Johnson, while also authoring some of the characters of the narrative, leaving the screenplay itself in the capable hands of writer/screenwriter John August (whom with he also worked on "Big Fish", the aforementioned "Charlie...", and he would later work with again on "Frankenweenie" and "Dark Shadows"). The film which takes place in a Victorian town, follows the story of Victor, a young man still living at home with his family. His family has made its money in the fish industry, and he is betrothed to a young woman whom he has not met, by the name of Victoria. She is the only daughter of an aristocratic yet impoverished family, who considers this marriage like a transaction which will allow them to keep their mansion and their reputation. Victor is tremendously nervous with the whole situation, and when he accidentally meets Victoria before the wedding rehearsal, they both are drawn to each other, but Victor's nerves make him fail miserably during the rehearsal. Fleeing the scene, he goes to the woods, where he recites his vows out loud, and places the ring on what he thinks to be a tree. Turns out, it's actually the finger of a dead bride by the name of Emily. She rises from her grave, and announces herself as Victor's wife and brings him to the land of the dead. While there Victor learns of Emily's story, while also understanding the actual value of what he has in the land of the living.
While possibly not as immediately associated with Tim Burton's directorial career as "The Nightmare Before Christmas" (or even "Frankenweenie"), though of course "Nightmare..." was actually directed by Henry Selick, "Corpse Bride" is nonetheless very much a film tied to his universe, with plenty of Gothic elements and a story that at first glance sounds romantic, but as the layers get peeled off, is at its core a very dark tale. The central characters of the narrative are also very much drawn from his typical universe, including the hapless central hero who finds himself in a situation that he's not comfortable with, and that he desperately needs to understand and come to terms with. There's also the additional central character who has been wronged, who has her own agenda, and wants nothing more than to find closure in her existence (these characters arcs for instance, have ties with some of the characters from "Edward Scissorhands", "Batman Returns" and even "Sleepy Hollow"). It's a film that touches on topics such as wronged lovers, violent deaths, arranged marriages, topics that could be somewhat grotesquely characterized in less capable hands, but that Tim Burton elevates and brings a touch of whimsicality, humor, and irreverence, in the process also embedding an energy and exuberance to the land of the dead, which rivals the dour grayness of the land of the living (something Pixar also used in their 2017 release, "Coco" from directors Adrian Molina and Lee Unkrich). Stylistically and aesthetically it's a stunning feature, with fantastic voice work from the entire cast, with special highlight going to Helena Bonham Carter who makes the bride a mix of hopeful, naive but also embittered for all that she has gone through. The score from Danny Elfman is wonderful, as is the cinematography from Pete Kozachik. A wonderful feature always worth revisiting.