Monday, November 5, 2012

FRANKENWEENIE - Should have remained as a short!

With cinemas this week still riding high on the Skyfall express train we decided to double back a few weeks and see Frankenweenie: the black and white animated tale from Tim Burton about a boy who brings his dog back to life a la Frankenstein. It was a film I had followed loosely in its build up but one I felt went fairly unnoticed when it entered the cinemas a few weeks ago. The name Tim Burton used to attract millions almost instantaneously. Some of his older films were seen with such class and an unusual degree of pedigree that only a man with his imagination and his creativity could conjure up. Unfortunately, and especially in my eyes, Burton's films have taken an alarming turn for the worse over the last decade and we are now seeing films that don't seem as outstanding. You've only got to look at his earlier film of the year Dark Shadows to see what I mean. Could Frankenweenie be his saving grace? If he had remade it as another short this time with animation than yes but sadly as a feature film it runs out of steam in the middle act and actually becomes boring.

The opening scene is interesting, and one I rather liked. Victor Frankenstein sits his parent down to watch a film he and his dog, Sparky, have shot in their back garden. It was a neat opening and really showed this child is clever and imaginative. It doesn't however show he is a scientist which is one of my grumbles but anyway. He then goes to school and we meet all his classmates who are all highly competitive and Victor's Father wants him to be too so he makes him play baseball the following weekend. During that game however Sparky breaks free and is killed by a car. Victor is hysterical, he has just lost his only friend. In school later in the week, Victor's science teacher tells his class about electricity bringing the muscles to life in dead animals so Victor goes home and attempts this on his own dead animal, Sparky. During a mega storm and within the world's largest attic Victor manages to bring his dog back to life. Now he must keep Sparky's resurrection a secret otherwise he may start something that there is no stopping. Of course Sparky's presence doesn't go unnoticed and before long Victor's highly competitive classmates are attempting their own electrical resurrections with much bigger consequences.

The film is fairly simple, which is actually the way the original short film was told. It isn't one that is overly complicated but it does feel like it just isn't enough to sustain a feature running time. Towards the end of the second act especially I found myself rather bored and then during the third act I found it a little silly. It was good fun in the opening half, especially the first act which really set the whole film up. Unfortunately once he brings the dog back to life, the part most people are waiting for, it fails to ever really go anywhere and feels like it should have remained a short and that should have been the nice happy ending. Instead we get a dragged out middle act that is more about style than substance. The heart from the first act just disappeared and it really seemed to lose its way.

The animation is great though. The black and white stop motion really added a gloomy feel and from the minute the titles rolled it was blatant this was a Tim Burton picture. The issue with it though is that the entire film remained dull. When the story was meant to be happy the darkness of the scene would hold you back from cracking that smile. The dull colours, which actually looked impressive, ironically made the film, story, and characters dull to watch. The film definitely has its moments and does illustrate some nice ideas. The invisible fish and the invention of the giant sea monkeys were two of my favourites, but despite these the film really failed to ever grip me and pull me along for the journey. It actually caused me to glaze over and not really be taking it in.

Style over substance is what seems to be the problem here. Burton's films have always looked amazing but his stories have always been off-key. The awesome look and feel of his films used to be able to cause an audience to forget about the outrageous plot holes but now it feels like Burton is starting to become lazy in his films and he really just wants to create something that looks good. That is the case I get with Frankenweenie. It starts off well and with a lot of heart but by the end it really has run out of steam and all the emotion has disappeared. It is like an animated B-Movie by the end. From a strong start we get a weak film and I think my girlfriend summed it up perfectly when she said, 'perhaps Tim Burton got bored by the end too', because I certainly did.

Pros: Looks amazing and starts off strongly.

Cons: Runs out of steam in the middle act and fails to recover.

4 / 10

Top 10 of 2012 so far:

1. The Dark Knight Rises     10 / 10 
2. Skyfall     8.5 / 10
3. The Hunger Games     8 / 10
4. Snow White And The Huntsman     8 / 10
5. Avengers Assemble     7.5 / 10
6. Looper     7.5 / 10
7. Ted     7.5 / 10
8. 21 Jump Street     7.5 / 10
9. Lawless     7 / 10
10. The Expendables 2     7 / 10

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