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?