Sunday, October 7, 2012

Frankenweenie (2012) Review

Frankenweenie poster
Director: Tim Burton
Stars: Winona Ryder, Charlie Tahan, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau
Genre: Family, Horror, Comedy

Tim Burton's remake of his own 1984 short film of the same name. Not only is this film the first completely black and white film to be shot in IMAX 3D, it is also the first stop-motion one.

It's a re-telling of the Frankenstein story, parodying and paying homage to, about a boy whose dog dies and he then brings back to life with electricity. It's really that simple.

The main character, Victor, plays the part of Doctor Frankenstein, his dog plays the role of Frankenstein's monster, the neighbor's dog plays the part of the Bride of Frankenstein, Edgar Gore is kind of like Igor, and the teacher, to me, reminded me of Vincent Price for some reason.

We have some great actors in here lending their voices, most notable being Winona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short, and Martin Landau. Unfortunately all the voices in here felt pretty monotone and flat to me. I can only guess that this was done purposefully, being that usually these actors are very engaging, maybe to add to the atmosphere or something. To me, it didn't work out so well. It makes all the characters seem very boring and lifeless, which works in only a few scenes, but hurts the film overall. Plus, the dull voices fail to engage the viewer and leaves them bored. Even Edgar Gore, who has a fairly unique voice, sounds kind of dull.

All the characters are good enough, the voices make them a bit forgettable. I liked the teacher, and even Victor. The dog, Sparky, was very lovable, a welcomed improvement from the original short. At parts I even got a little teary eyed, but I have a pretty big soft spot for boy and dog stories.

The film is in black and white, which compliments the atmosphere wonderfully. I couldn't see this film working in color, not as well at least. The film does manage to have a great Gothic theme, and I times evokes feelings of hate, sympathy, sadness, love, hope, hopelessness, etc. So, in that respect, it does a great job. I must also compliment the subtle 3D used rather than gimmicky 3D.

The Frankenstein family in Frankenweenie

To me, the original short had a better atmosphere. It fused the Gothic world and the suburban world perfectly. While this remake really doesn't do that as well, though it does to an extent. The first short has a very suburban '70s feels to it, and one that made us all feel at home, but it also had a dark and Gothic theme alongside it.

The stop-motion is superb, on par with if not surpassing the stop-motion from this year's earlier ParaNorman. It really is very visually pleasing.

Towards the end of the film things get a bit action packed, with giant sea-monkeys and a kaiju sized turtle that looks an awful lot like Gamera.

The Vincent Price-like teacher of Frankenweenie

I won't spoil anything, but I was disappointed by the ending. Not that I didn't know how it would end, being that I watched the original short. It's just the ending worked better in the short because it presented a different moral, the moral of acceptance and not fearing the unknown. In here, due to the rest of the film, the moral comes out a bit different and the moral presented in the short is not as prominent here. Instead it just feels like a typical happy family ending with no substance. Which leads me to say that this remake should have focused a bit more on the townspeople's fear of Sparky. After all, that is the tale of Frankenstein, is it not? And though I am somewhat saddened to say it, I think (SPOILER) Sparky should have died in the end of this one. It would have been a much more powerful ending, and it would have worked on many more moral viewpoints.

Oh, and at one point in the film the family is watching Chistopher Lee's Dracula. Kind of funny that they went with a Hammer Horror film rather than a Universal Monsters one, being that this film is based on Universal's Frankenstein.

Another still from Frankenweenie

This is one of Tim Burton's better recent films, not his best work, but much better than, let's say, Alice in Wonderland. It's the type of film we've come to expect from Burton. It's a fun film, worth watching. It's hard for me to imagine someone genuinely hating this. A somewhat unnecessary remake, but an enjoyable one. Great for the family.

3/5 stars
Pros:
+Good atmosphere
+Visually superb
+Manages to evoke numerous emotions
Cons:
-Dull voice acting
-Boring ending
-Somewhat unnecessary remake
-Doesn't do anything highly original

Purchase Frankenweenie on Amazon: Blu-Ray - DVD 
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