Monday, November 21, 2011

Who Is Your Favorite Titular Tim Burton Character?

I don’t usually pay much mind to IMDb’s daily poll, but today’s question is a damn fine one.

Tim Burton has 14 feature film credits to his name, 10 of which contain the name of the film’s main character in its title. (Actually 11, if you count the apes in Planet of the Apes, but really, who cares about Planet of the Apes?)

So, of all these titular characters, which is your favorite? Picking a character, in my mind, is chiefly based on how the actor plays him or her. Next, I incorporate how that character is written, the dialogue they’re given, and so on.

Here are your choices, chronologically:

Pee-Wee Herman (Paul Reubens) in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure

Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton) in Beetle Juice

Batman (Michael Keaton) in Batman and/or Batman Returns

Edward Scissorhands (Johnny Depp) in Edward Scissorhands

Edward D. Wood, Jr. (Johnny Depp) in Ed Wood

Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore) in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter) in Corpse Bride

Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp) in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Alice (Mia Wasikowska) in Alice in Wonderland

For my money, Burton hasn’t made a good film since Sleepy Hollow (which was no masterpiece), so that eliminates Charlie, the Bride, Sweeney Todd and Alice. I love the disturbed energy exuded by Reubens’ Pee-Wee and Depp’s Ed Wood, and Edward Scissorhands will always hold a personal, nostalgic place in my heart, but for me, it’s all about Michael Keaton’s fantastically manic Beetle Juice.

A character like Beetle Juice is an actor’s dream, but it’s also a big risk. The only way to play a role like this is to let it fly off the fucking rails. Go all out, no holds barred. However, it’s important to only push it as far as the material will allow.  Go too far, and you’re the joke. A movie like Beettlejuice longs for your laughter, but there’s a difference between laughing at a film, and laughing at a film. Keaton finds that balance, and excels thrillingly in executing it.
According to IMDb, Keaton is only in Beettlejuice for 17 and a half minutes. Incredible.  It’s the skill of great writing, and even craftier acting, to make yourself that memorable in such a short period of screentime. Beetle Juice is larger than life, hyperbolically insane in all the best ways. It is a great, criminally overlooked performance, one that has me gasping for breath every time.

Now I want to hear from you, my beloved readers. Who is your favorite titular Tim Burton character? 


  1. Scissorhands but followed closely by BeetleJuice! Totally agree, Burton's completely lost it! Thought Sweeney Todd was ok but not since Sleepy Hollow have I really enjoyed one of his films.

  2. For me, from the ones you posted, it's Edward. He is so charming and innocent and remains the most impressive work by Depp. I love Burton, I think his last masterpiece is Sweeney Todd. I hope he will get back on his feet soon.

  3. Haven't seen very many Burton films at all and don't really want to. However, I've loved BEETLEJUICE since I first saw it as a kid, so that would have to be my pick.

  4. @Pete, ah Scissorhands is a close second for me. And yeah, too bad about Burton. I find his stuff so dull now. Where's the passion?

    @Anna, can't argue with that, where was the Oscar nom?

    @Sati, nice choice. I dunno, Sweeney Todd didn't do it for me at all. Song, kill, throw down hole, crack head, song, kill, throw down hole, crack head, repeat x10

    @Tyler, Beetlejuice was one of my favorites as a kid. Love it.

  5. Pee Wee. But man do I hate Tim Burton.

  6. @Evan, it's cool, he uhh... probably hates you too :)

    @Robert, Scissorhands, for the lead...

    Edward Scissorhands - 3
    Beetle Juice - 2
    Ed Wood - 1
    Pee-Way - 1

  7. Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice. With Pee-Wee as a damn close second.

  8. This is easy...Beetlejuice!

  9. I think Beetlejuice takes the cake. Nice.

  10. What about Tim Burton in Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas?

    He gets my vote.

  11. @Tom, ah but Burton didn't direct that one ;-)

  12. Okay, fine. Tim Burton in Tim Burton's Corpse Bride then. (Even though I haven't even seen that one.)

  13. Beetlejuice obviously