Hear Me Out: Big Fish Is Tim Burton's Best Movie
Thereís never been a scientific study done to determine Tim Burtonís most beloved movie, but Iím pretty comfortable in saying itís Edward Scissorhands. For most people, that seems to be the film that best portrays Burton in all his Burton-ish wonder. If you were to put that one aside however, youíd probably hear a pretty diverse group of opinions. A lot of people really into film would say Ed Wood. Weirdos would say Beetlejuice or Mars Attacks. Those more into the macabre would extol the virtues of Corpse Bride or Sweeney Todd. Youíd get a wide range of answers, but one film you wouldnít hear selected very often is Big Fish, which makes no sense to me considering I think itís overtly Burtonís best work. Hear me outÖ
The directorís primary skill is creating alternate worlds and strange places. He has an incredible gift of perfectly matching tone and scenery. Everything about the locations he transports audiences to are vivid and full of wonder, even if theyíre dreary and desolate. More than anything else, those picturesque backdrops are the reason why heís famous, and in no film is he able to create more places of wonder than in Big Fish.
In each of Edward Bloomís stories, Burton finds fertile ground to play and create magical and unforgettable pictures. Thereís the circus, stuffed to the brim with giants, midgets, clowns, wild animals, racing motorcycles, popcorn-filled freeze frames and even a werewolf. Thereís the town of Spectre, boasting the greenest grass Iíve ever seen and the most unnervingly happy residents anyone has ever spoken to. Thereís Auburn University, lined with beautiful white sorority buildings and more daffodils than one could ever count. And most importantly, thereís the real world.
The real world isnít often a place to be cherished in Tim Burton films, and the characters who most resemble us arenít often the ones we remember. Normalcy just isnít really his style, but in Big Fish, thereís just as much beauty to be found in Edward Bloomís bedridden storyteller as there is in the giant catfish he spends his hours trying to catch. I wouldnít dare tell you humanity doesnít lie at the heart of even the strangest Burton creations, but here, there is reality and a familiarity to Will, Josephine, Sandra and even Edward himself.
I think thatís why I fell in love with Big Fish so much the first time I saw it. Thereís a wonderful balance to the movie thanks to clever pacing. Just as weíre beginning to forget the trappings of the real world amidst a journey behind enemy lines in World War II, weíre thrust back into a dying manís bedroom. Just as we begin to grow irritated with Edwardís bloviating, weíre allowed to see him act out another one of his enchanting yarns. Big Fish is remarkably organized and careful, and those arenít necessarily qualities found in the rest of the directorís catalog.
Tim Burton has made a lot of wonderful movies, but none offer as many smiles, heartbreaks and beautiful pictures as Big Fish. It starts with an amusing anecdote learned in adolescence and ends with a dying man being sent off in the most fitting way possible. In between, weíre given one hell of a story, told in a way only Burton could possibly hope to capture. Big Fish is Tim Burtonís best movie, and if you donít believe me, you should watch it again.
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