starring Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O'Dowd, Samuel L. Jackson
screenplay by Jane Goldman, based upon the novel by Ransom Riggs
directed by Tim Burton
by Walter Chaw The right material and collaborator can bring out the best in Tim Burton, but it's mostly a one-way street. Before it soured, his work with Johnny Depp compelled because of the pathos Depp imported into projects like Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood. When Burton lands the right material, as he did with Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, he's capable of masterpieces. I would argue that his most personal picture by far, the only one that plumbs the exquisite gulfs of loneliness and disconnection suggested by his other pieces, is Batman Returns. There's a scene in it where Bruce Wayne drinks soup, recoils that it's cold, then digs in again without hesitation when told by his long-term keeper that it's supposed to be. Bruce is a broken clockwork and wholly dependent; it's a fascinating read of the Batman character. Burton's Catwoman is the purest representation of the gender injustice that results in her mania and rise to power. The film is a spiritual predecessor to Burton's poetry collection The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories, the contents of which speak of misbegotten births, misunderstood childhoods, and unimaginable betrayals that lead to lonesome deaths. These themes are always on the periphery of Burton's films. I wonder if as he's gotten more monolithic whether they don't become commensurately more difficult to tease out.