Tea & Fury: Tim Burton and the Facade of Outcasts

When I first heard about Tim Burton’s comments  on diversity in film on the website Bustle, to say I was a little angry might have been putting it lightly. Because as I stewed over his words something I like to call, Tea and Fury was born (see podcast above.).

The reason I am angry at Tim Burton all boils down to his falseness.  He has, for years, branded himself as an outcast, as an outsider,  as someone that mainstream didn’t get. But his words couldn’t be anymore  oblivious, mainstream Hollywood if he tried.

Is this the man who I have been a fan of for most of my life?

He was a person who made movies about the odd characters, how it was fine to be odd, to be different, to be the outcast.  You didn’t need to change yourself because the truth was everyone was probably also odd.

But his comments make me wonder if he was nothing more than a facade.  Maybe at one point he was truly the outsider, but now he is nothing more than a mass marketed shoe who is playing it different but is just as mainstream.

This sucked because I was excited to watch the movie.

Those ideas and beliefs had an obvious  effect on his work, the insensitivity had an effect.  Especially in a movie, that’s about peculiar children.  Burton is the storyteller,  and how he sets the movie up will either tell their story or not. Like the character Fiona, who is able to make plants grow but she was deemed a witch and chased out of her own village because she grew them food during a famine.  Then there’s Bronwyn, who is incredibly strong but killed her abusive father at five-years-old because she didn’t know her own strength.

These events shape the characters and ultimately impacts how the actors would convey them.  This is why the children live with Miss Peregrine in the time bubble, it’s their only sanctuary, but in a way also their cage.   But would Burton be sensitive enough to convey these ideas and lead the production to show the plight of these kids, an important part of the story.  Or would he gloss over it and focus on showing off their powers.

In the end, I did watch the movie  because the story still interested me.  I wanted to give the movie a chance regardless of the director.  If I was wrong in my assessment then I would be pleasantly surprised, but if I was right there would have validity in my critique.  In the end, I was right – which is bittersweet.

The movie is one note, but interesting enough to trick you into thinking it was “okay”. It was pretty to watch.  The cinematography worked for the story. Eva Green’s character was not a large part but she was able to breathe some life into Miss Peregrine to create an interesting character.  But that was about it.

All of the other characters felt paper thin, especially the children of the movie.  We don’t really learn anything about them outside of their powers.  They were like paper dolls, set there to be looked at but are not really alive.

The movie was basically  all show with no substance.  There was no story.

The movie didn’t have anything about the history of the children and how they came to live with Miss Peregrine.  Specifically the female lead, Emma, whose powers were changed from fire to air for the movie.

After watching the movie and researching her character, I also deemed it a bad character choice. It destroyed all of her rich history and how she became who she is in the book.  That’s all missing in the movie.  She is nothing more than a pretty female lead.

Barron, the antagonist of the movie, played by Samuel L. Jackson wants immortality and he and his fellow monsters hunt the children for their powers.  But as a villain, he pales in comparison to the combination of characters he represents in the book.  But this is Burton’s idea of creating a compelling new character.

The movie doesn’t treat Jacob the male lead any better.   Jacob was ridiculed for believing in his grandfather’s stories of the peculiar children for such a long time.  In the movie, his is given very generic scenes of being a misfit, whether it’s not behaving like his classmates at school or not liking to be around his relatives.  There is nothing personal about these scenes.  Nothing about these scenes shows how special Jacob is, we don’t really learn anything about his character.  It’s like  the visual version of telling instead of showing how different Jacob is compared to the people around him.

Then, when Jacob discovers that he is also peculiar and that the peculiar children are real, the movie fails to show how it would feel to be sixteen years old that discovers all the tales your grandfather told you were true.  Jacob has no emotion, whether it is the strange mix of betrayal and elation of knowing his younger self-was right or the relief of knowing your grandfather wasn’t crazy, nothing.  Instead, his character is just as paper thin as the rest of them.

Maybe it has nothing to do with Burton and that an adaption of the book was just too hard.  But the thing is Burton certainly didn’t help the film by just going for the spectacle instead of the story.

If there’s any insight I would give from watching the movie, it would be this: Just read the book, the movie is not worth the ticket price.

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