It’s amazing how resilient the movies are. After a summer of Star Wars, Fantastic 4, War of the Worlds and all the other semi-disappointments, I was pretty much ready to write off 2005.
Of course, I’d forgotten that my favorite movies from 2004 (Sky Captain, Team America and The Incredibles) were all released in the fall. And it looks like this year will probably be the same. For the start, I give you Corpse Bride, easily the best movie I’ve seen this year.
It has a unique look, great characters, funny bits and touching moments—everything the summer stuff lacked. (Except maybe the “unique look” part.) Danny Elfman’s songs didn’t do much for me, but I thought the same of his Nightmare Before Christmas stuff at first, so these will probably grow on me like those did. (There are a lot fewer of them this time around.)
One of the problems with anything done with painstaking labor, like stop-motion animation, is that I think it’s easy for the creators to obsess over the work and forget that they’re not illustrating a technique, but using a technique to tell a story. Two examples come to mind, where technique overwhelmed everything else: Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and James and the Giant Peach. Both movies were great to look at and had some clever ideas, but they ultimately rang hollow because there was nothing to them other than a well-polished surface. (I’m aware that Tim Burton co-produced James, but my understanding is that he did so in title only.)
Thankfully, that doesn’t happen here. While many of Tim Burton’s live-action films seem to suffer from scripts that seem, well, unpolished or incomplete, this film (along with Nightmare) has a beginning, a middle and an end, all in the right place. (I would suspect that’s co-scenarist Caroline Thompson’s influence.) Perhaps he should stick to animation, every now and then tossing out an Edward Scissorhands for live-action fans.
There’s a lot to talk about when discussing this film. The one thing I do want to mention is how they made the Bride quite beautiful, in both looks and spirit. Sure, she’s initially a shock, but in instants you get used to her and feel for her situation.
Lucky for you, I’m done talking about it, and I’ll just urge you to go see it.