By Thomas Griffiths (Cardiff)
Tim Burton. In my opinion, one of the greatest directors, if not the greatest director, of his generation, even in comparison to the emotionally powerful Steven Spielberg and the futuristically-inspiring James Cameron. And this review focuses on what is, in my opinion, his absolutely best film that he has made to this day: Edward Scissorhands. This film was both written, produced and directed by Tim Burton, and stars Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianne Wiest and Anthony Michael Hall. It is a total love-letter to the historically-famous story of Frankenstein, and it is very obvious that there is inspiration for this film that derives from the character and story of Frankenstein, but otherwise it is a complete and utter original story.
It starts in a house in the middle of a huge snowfall, and an old woman is sitting by the window with a little girl in bed, and the girl asks how it snows, and she tells the story that unfolds in the film. This film is about this man who was artificially built by an inventor in an ancient mansion, and he was in the climax of his completion when the inventor, his ‘father’, suffered a brutal heart attack and died…just before he could attach hands to Edward’s wrists. Now, it must be understood that this inventor was a pure father to Edward, the only other being that he knew and was capable of loving, and without this man Edward was confused and alone and frightened of the world outside. Now, that’s important because it starts with a woman Peg Boggs, played by Dianne Wiest, visits the mansion and encounters Edward, before taking him in as her own.
I’ll say this from the off: Johnny Depp is incredible in this movie as Edward Scissorhands. Everybody’s all over this guy nowadays because he was Captain Jack Sparrow, and they believe that the pirate was his most definitive character, but I honestly think that this is his best-acted character so far. Johnny Depp is legendary in this film, which is surprising because Edward probably says the least out of most of the characters in this movie, but the sheer mannerisms, and the walking, and the way he handles his scissorhands, it looks so authentic, so precise, and you can tell that he was really, really focused on this role. Any other actor I can think of, I seriously cannot imagine playing this character the way Depp did – and both Gary Oldman and Tom Cruise were offered this role, by the way.
This film is directed to perfection by Tim Burton. It looks like a play, really, like a really complex, really deep-venturing play. Another thing about this movie is…well…it’s so beautiful. It is such a well-shot movie, and I’m referring to the camera set-ups, the set-pieces, the arrangement of close-ups and the way the camera rotates around what’s happening, it makes this look so beautiful. Tim Burton must also be acclaimed for the script, because the script is fantastic – it’s extremely realistic, and it’s also very memorable and says a lot about the characters and the situations that are faced throughout the course of the story.
We are also introduced to the character of Kim, played by Winona Ryder, and she is fantastic in this movie. Her character is very complex, and very interesting, and she stands very clearly apart from the rest of the village almost as much as Edward, the difference being she is a girl and she isn’t considered dangerous on account of being physically frightening. She is, eventually, the only person in the town who stands by Edward, and also climactically falls in love with him. The irony here is that they get off to a really rocky start, and she does give him the cold shoulder. However, the love story between the two of them is actually very well-done.
There are moments in this movie that are really creative and also really funny, and one of them is where Edward uses his scissorhands to give women hairstyles, and also to trim hedges and later ice sculptures into extraordinary statues. In any other film, they would be considered ridiculous, and people would look at them in the script and say ‘This looks like crud!’ If they saw them play out in this film, they’d realize that it’s not crud, because it fits in. There are so many ways in which the scissorhands are exploited or used to comedic effect – they are used to create paper-chains, and even to break into a house by picking locks, and the overall message is how people react to seeing something strange and extraordinary – some people run and hide, and some people exploit it, and some people enjoy it.
One of the greatest scenes in this movie is the scene where we see Kim, one night, walks in on Edward, in the garden, carving an ice sculpture, creating a shower of snow all over them. He is completely unaware of her presence, of her approach. And then, in the snow, she just…starts dancing in it. She starts, slowly, gracefully, dancing to it. It’s one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever seen in a movie – the camera work is terrific, following Kim’s dance from such a great angle, showing the true beauty of the scene. And, oh my God, the musical score in this scene, and the entire movie, is absolutely amazing, to this day, it just sounds and feels so damn powerful. Danny Elfman, who also excellently did great music for the first two Spider-Man films, just excels himself here. And then, of course, it is interrupted by Kim’s psychopathic boyfriend Jim, and Edward reacts in shock by accidentally scarring Kim, and Jim bullies Edward into leaving.
The most powerful element of this scene is something which is portrayed at the climax of this movie – Edward could have cut Jim to pieces right where he stood when Jim confronted him after the Ice Dance, but he didn’t – because he’s confused and frightened and doesn’t know how to react to this. He’s a completely peaceful person, and doesn’t truly understand violence. However, this changes at the climax of the film, where Edward is ousted by the townspeople and he flees to the mansion, to his home where he thinks he will feel safe, and Kim runs after him to comfort him. See, Edward believes he’s done too much damage than he can control, and he’s terrified, and so is Kim, because she is the only one who understands Edward properly. And then Jim arrives and an almost uncharacteristically brutal fight breaks out where Jim absolutely pounds on Edward, beating the hell out of him, but he doesn’t fight back. However, this fight takes an almost terrifying turn when Jim furiously attacks Kim when she tries to protect Edward, and Edward suddenly rounds on Jim with complete rage in his eyes and he actually stabs Jim, pushing him out of the window of the mansion. When people saw this in cinemas, some of them actually shivered, because the look on Edward’s face when he pushes Jim out while stabbing him, its’ the one and only time he looks truly dangerous – and he’s provoked by his loved one being attacked by a violent man.
When Kim fakes Edward’s death and leaves the mansion, bidding Edward goodbye, we cut back to the scene with the old woman and the girl, and the old woman is revealed to be Kim, having aged heavily since last seeing Edward. She explains that the reason he is behind it snowing, is due to the fact that he keeps making ice sculptures and the resulting snow, pushed down from the mansion upon the whole town, engulfs the town, making it beautiful. We later learn that Edward is still alive, and he is completely unchanged since we last saw him, he hasn’t aged at all, because he is artificial. This is the most powerful scene in the entire movie because of so many incredibly clever things: Firstly, the idea that Edward, who is described in the movie at one point as highly imaginative, is carving all of these ice sculptures and it creates the snow that descends on the town. There’s also a shot where we see that one of the ice sculptures is of Kim herself, showing that Edward, deep down, still loves her after all these years, and he doesn’t even know if she’s still alive, but she does because it’s snowing. Kim closes by saying to the little girl ‘Sometimes you can still catch me dancing in it’. They didn’t need that. They didn’t, they could have ended the movie there…but they did it! That’s what makes this movie so ingenious, it does so many unpredictable beautiful things, and it’s unbelievable that they work.
This movie is one of my all-time favourite movies ever, easily the best movie written and directed by Tim Burton, my favourite director. It succeeds everywhere it can succeed as a movie – compelling story, powerful script, beautiful set-pieces, incredible acting, and fantastic direction by Tim Burton. The concept and the way that concept is handled is pure genius.
I’m scoring it a definite 10/10