Tim Burton is a prolific film director, with titles that extend to by hcj


									Paige Munson                                                                                 1

To see additional information about this subject matter see the following sites:
Tim Burton
Edward Scissorhands
Mars Attacks!

                   Examining Tim Burton as a Director Through the Films
                          Edward Scissorhands and Mars Attacks!

       Tim Burton is a prolific film director, with job titles that extend to film producer, story

creator, writer, and animator. Currently 50 years old, Burton grew up in a suburb in California1.

Once involved in the movie-making industry, Burton has creatied films and continues presently.

Burton started to gain acclaim during the 1980s when he directed films such as Pee-wee’s Big

Adventure and Beetlejuice2. From there, he was responsible for movies such as Batman, Batman

Returns, Sleepy Hollow, Big Fish, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Charlie and the Chocolate

Factory, and Corpse Bride. Burton is responsible for many classic films of the past few decades,

with his auteur always present in his films which are diverse in subject matter and style. His works

greatly portray American ways of life with a twist.

       Edward Scissorhands (1990) and Mars Attacks! (1996) are two movies that Burton

directed. Each one of these movies demonstrate Burton’s aesthetic of being quirky and sometimes

dark, yet demonstrate his ability to be diverse as an artist in subject matter and specific details of

films. There are common qualities in both of these films; they deal with a supernatural entity that

differs the human race in some aspect, have very famous actors in many roles (some of which

Burton favors), and show Burton’s style of movie-making seen through artistic details ranging
Paige Munson                                                                                 2

from visual to aural elements.

           Edward Scissorhands is a film that was directed, produced, and co-written by Tim Burton.

Edward Scissorhands is a story focused on an outcast (Edward) who is brought into a town by a

local wife, mother, and Avon Sales Representative named Peg. She is part of a town where

neighborhood gossip is rampant, the lawns are always green, and everyone considers it safe. It is

called upon to represent any American suburb and conveys a feeling of the 1950s era.

           When Peg has had an unsuccessful day selling any products, she ventures to the old

abandoned house on the hill that overlooks her small little town. The dark, gothic inspired mansion

is a stark contrast to the suburb below. When she enters the gates, she finds an unusual collection

of trimmed hedges resembling figurines or various objects. The viewer learns through flashbacks

that an odd inventor used to live in the house, and one day made a man, in every way seemly

human except for the fact that he had scissors for hands. The inventor had made human hands for

Edward, but died before he could complete the transformation, which left Edward with scissors for

hands and alone in the house. This is the situation in which Peg finds Edward and thus decides to

bring him to live with her.

           This is when the struggle between two different perceptions of the world collide. Edward,

who has lived in isolation for a major part of his life, is confronted with the way of life in the

suburbs. While initially Edward is able to find a niche through landscaping the neighborhood and

cutting hair of both women and dogs, he achieves local popularity and renown but only

temporarily. The new environment proves to be harsh on Edward and numerous

misunderstandings ultimately lead to a violent confrontation between him and fellow neighbors.

Edward and the people of the suburb are able to return to their “usual” lives. Unfortunately, this

Paige Munson                                                                                  3

ending leaves the viewer with a bittersweet feeling since Edward earned a place in our hearts.

       Like in Edward Scissorhands, there is a struggle between two different worlds in Mars

Attacks! In this case, however, the outsiders are Martians who are trying to invade Earth. The film

is based on several mini-plots that all connect to the major plot of the invasion. All of the storylines

display various ways of life in different parts of America. These range from the US President, to a

mid-western family living in a trailer. Each character demonstrates the different reactions to the

situation of aliens invading and maliciously attacking the humans. Eventually the son of the trailer

park family finds a solution to the dilemma of the aliens in his grandmother’s music. As it turns out,

the music makes the aliens’ helmets explode (the glass breaks) and results in their death.

Ultimately all the aliens are killed and the world is able to continue, but with much of it destroyed.

       As demonstrated through the plots, these two movies tackle two colliding worlds of the

“normal” American and an outsider. Also in both cases, the belonging is unable to find success in

fitting in as in Edward’s case, or taking over the world, as in the case of Mars Attacks! While

Edward and the aliens represent opposite ideals and values and the movies are based on different

subject matter, they are able to connect on the theme of an outsider coming into the inside world of

the typical American. In this way, they demonstrate that many times our typical ways of life or our

handling of things can be very consequential and harmful.

       One of the ways Burton is able to successfully create movies is through the actors and

characters they portray. Burton uses the characters to demonstrate the humor in typical American

ways of life. Both films use the “normal” American ways of life to demonstrate the negativity of it,

or to make fun of it. In Edward Scissorhands, the suburban neighborhood demonstrates the naïve

aspects of Peg and her good nature. Other characters exemplify the sex-deprived housewife, who

is constantly after Edward through the entire movie. Characters like the teenagers show the typical
Paige Munson                                                                                4

way of life for kids, which involves going to the mall and being social with one another. Mars

Attacks! uses the various characters to demonstrate different American values and turns them into

satirical outlines of different types of people in America. The US president is concerned only with

image and diplomacy, while the reporters are geared towards being the best at their job. Other

characters, such as the Las Vegas couple, outline greed, entrepreneurship, and alcoholism. The

family that lives in the trailer park, with the exception of their son Richie (who they greatly

disdain) exemplifies stereotypes of the mid-western American who are characterized as archaic,

stupid and simple.

       Of course the success of the character’s portrayal greatly depends on the actors that are

chosen to play them. Tim Burton is known to work with actors of great caliber, also certain ones on

a regular basis. Johnny Depp, who plays the main role of Edward in Edward Scissorhands (the first

occasion that the two collaborated together), is one of Tim Burton’s favorite actors and has chosen

him for the main role in numerous films. Many would argue that Johnny Depp is one the best

modern-day actors, which demonstrates the prominence of Tim Burton’s films in America.

Edward Scissorhands also contained Winona Rider, who Burton had worked with in Beetlejuice,

and who continues to be a successful actress. Mars Attacks! has a star-studded cast that includes

Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Pierce Brosnan, Annette Bening, Pat Grier, Natalie Portman, Sarah

Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox, Martin Short, and many others. Obviously, all of those actors are

extremely talented and are much acclaimed in their profession.

       Tim Burton’s aesthetic calls upon visual elements that create a satirical feeling. These two

movies are quite different, but portray some of the same use of camera angles and shots. Edward

Scissorhands demonstrates a movie that seems pretty simple visually yet tells the story with the

types of images that Burton uses and creates. For example, Burton gives the audience a crucial
Paige Munson                                                                               5

look at the type of neighborhood Peg lives in by showing a strip with almost identical houses lined

across the screen, painted in various bright colors. In another scene when Peg ventures into the

castle, the camera looks up to the house to give the view as if they were in Peg’s shoes. Burton also

frames scenes so that when presented, they appear humorous. There are many examples of this in

Edward Scissorhands, but one example is the scene when the neighbors attack Peg at her doorstep

and ask for a barbeque.

       Mars Attacks! demonstrates many visual elements characteristic of Burton as well. Some

of the same camera angles are used to give the viewer of the movie the same outlook as someone at

the actual scene in the movie. This is clearly demonstrated through the scene when the aliens first

arrive to Earth in Nevada. Additionally, Mars Attacks! displays one of Tim Burton’s visual styles

through the use of animation. The aliens are animated and the film contains many special effects.

This is important because many of Tim Burton’s films use digital animation. Most famously is the

film The Nightmare Before Christmas and others like Corpse Bride and Charlie and the Chocolate

Factory. The animation allows for the aliens to be somewhat comical despite the fact that they are

wreaking havoc across the world.

       In both Mars Attacks! and Edward Scissorhands the music conveys an eerie tone at times

and employs the same general tones and timbre. This is probably most likely due to the fact that

Danny Elfman created music in both films. When watching Edward Scissorhand,one notices the

orchestral music that pervades the entire film. One obtains the same feeling when watching Mars

Attacks! For example, the heavy use of music involving strings and harps give the music a classical

tone, but one that comes across as creepy. This type of music was mainly used as background

music and most likely something the viewer would not consciousness take note of. Interestingly,

and most likely a coincidence, but both Edward Scissorhands and Mars Attacks! feature “It’s Not
Paige Munson                                                                               6

Unusual” by Tom Jones. In each film the song is provided for comedic relief, which it does quite

successfully. All in all the music goes towards creating the same type of general aesthetic satire

and dark humor as well as creating an eerie or bizarre view of the world.

       In conclusion, Tim Burton is a famous film marking in America, especially in the current

time period. While he has been responsible for numerous films in the past almost 30 years, the

films Mars Attacks! and Edward Scissorhands are both movies that show many of the elements

Burton calls upon when making films. These include an inclusion of the fantastical, excellent

actors, and certain visual and musical elements that add to the sense of spook and mystery.

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