Friday, 26 October 2012

Frankenweenie


Rating: ★½

If you thought stop motion animation was dead you were wrong. Tim Burton has put it back together piece by piece to create the brilliant Frankenweenie.

Grave robbing in Biology class
Frankenweenie is a retelling of the Frankenstein story but instead of a crazed scientist bringing a corpse back to life, this time its a shy school boy called Victor bringing his pet dog Sparky back to life. All hell breaks loss when the other kids in Victor's class find out about his dog and try to do their own pet experiments.

Secondary school can be horrific 
Throughout the film I noticed references to many classic horror films. Obviously Frankenstein was the main influence but the other creatures created by Victor's classmates reminded me of the monsters from The Creature From The Black Lagoon, The Mummy, Gremlins, Godzilla and The Wolf Man. Frankenweenie has very cleverly combined themes and conventions of 1930s horror for adults and film buffs to enjoy.  I'm not sure if children will understand the references, but they don't really have to.

It is alive!
I can completely understand why Tim Burton wanted to make Frankenweenie in black and white, it is more in keeping with the retro horror style and The Artist was such a success it's no wonder Disney agreed with the idea but I think it was a mistake. Mostly because this is a kids film and kids can be very fickle. When I was a kid there were three kinds of film I would never watch: films with subtitles, silent films and films without colour. Frankenweenie has a lot of hilarious comic characters to entertain a young audience but if they won't come to see the film in the first place then it just goes to waste. I think this film could have done with a little colour. I certainly don't think it would have detracted from the film's style. The use of colour in Nightmare Before Christmas is very atmospheric and would have worked just as well in Frankenweenie.

Yes master
The excellent cast of memorable characters were definitely the highlight of the film. Edgar was a hilariously spineless equivalent to Egore. He is especially funny in the scene when he tries to bring his dead goldfish back to life. Another character, who was so funny the audience burst into laughter ever time she came on scene, was simply called Weird Girl. Her massive staring eyes and bizzare cat make her the perfect comic character. What I like most about the characters in Victor's class is that they remind me of my class mates. They're all a little strange too.

Doctor Frankenboring
The one character I was a little disappointed with was Victor himself. He was very sweet but rather plain and boring. His face was designed in a way that made him seem a bit expressionless and... well ugly. I definitely prefer Norman (in ParaNorman) to Victor. If I was to compare the two stop motion films that came out this Halloween though, overall I think Frankenweenie had better characters and was more funny but ParaNoman had a more original plot and a more powerful message.

I have to warn you not to watch Tim Burton's original 1980's Frankenweenie short because even thought it is very good, it is very similar to the film. I made the mistake of watching it before I saw the film and it did spoil a lot of the surprises in the story for me.

I love to see Tim Burton making stop motion films again because it has become a bit of a forgotten art form in recent years thanks to the amount of computer animated films being produced. Tim's imagination is unlike any other and that's why he makes such wonderfully unique films. I also love to see Disney being so daring, very few animation studios would be willing to take a risk producing a black-and-white film for children. I think it's a prime example of original Halloween family entertainment and I thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, I would say it was spook-tacular!

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