Burton is the most clear-cut example of the movie brat made by an age of horror, fantasy, animation, and effects. There is not really a hint of the straight world in his films, and those who miss such things should face the possibility that Burton (and his contemporaries) have never noticed such a thing. In other words, photography for him is only a way of making effects. He does not understand that it was ever reckoned as a way of recording nature. Everything in a Burton film expresses the distorted feelings of a resolute, inescapable loneliness—his world is constitutionally warped and explosive.
The picture business has elected to regard Burton as a genius who brings children and teenagers into the movie theatres. Yet his two biggest pictures, the Batman pair, are strangely dark and slyly adult. They are not content with the comic books or the TV Batman of the 1960s. They can be read as very disturbing films—or might be, if they were better organized. For Burton’s unquestioned visual genius has not vet mastered or found a way of doing without narrative. Batman Returns, especially, is an unlikely chaos of fascinating characters jostling and trying to make themselves heard in an incoherent story.
Not many futures are as eagerly awaited. The tragedy of Edward Scissorhands seems not just Burton's best work so far, but the film most suited to his inclinations.
He did produce the very elegant Nightmare Before Christmas (93, Henry Selick), while Ed Wood was a rare and charmingly kind treatment of Hollywood low life. But the mix of visual extremism and deadpan attitude has not thrived—as witness the calamity of Mars Attacks!, the cliché prettiness of Sleepy Hollow, and the violent confusion of Planet of the Apes, which was so much less witty than the original series.
In 2001 he helmed the remake of Planet of the Apes, starring Mark Wahlberg.
He directed Big Fish in 2003, a life-affirming story about fathers and sons; starring Albert Finney and Ewan McGregor.
He helmed the animated feature Corpse Bride in 2005 starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter; received an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature.
Also in 2005 he reteamed with Johnny Depp (as Willy Wonka) to remake Roald Dahl's classic tale Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
In 2007 he helmed Sweeney Todd the feature adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Broadway musical; reteamed with longtime collaborator Johnny Depp who played the title role.
In 2010 he directed the fantasy adventure film, Alice in Wonderland, an extension of the Lewis Carroll novels Alice s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.
There is a way in which Tim Burton’s life so far has been the opposite of the kind of story he wants to tell. For he keeps returning to the theme of a displaced or misshapen child who must try to make a way in a hostile world. Vincent, his first short (done when he was an animator at Disney, with narration by Vincent Price), set out to show' the nightmarish inner life of an outwardly ordinary child; Pee-Wee is a classic dysfunctional child who goes around looking like an adult; Beetlejuice is a rogue sprite, a kind of Peter Pan whose shadow took a course in special effects; Edward Scissorhands is a classic inventor’s mistake; and then there is Batman, which in Burton’s two pictures has become a comic-book world for foundlings and repressed personalities, with the Penguin as a babe so hideous he is put in a closed basket and sent to the sew'ers—Moses in Harrv Lime Land.
Meanwhile, Burton has gone from working-class Burbank and a childhood spent watching Vincent Price in Roger Cor- man movies, to teenage years on Super 8, to Disney and the California Institute of Arts ... to amazing stories, untold fame, and residuals enough to fill the banks of Gotham.