I have seen Charlie & The Chocolate Factory last night and though I usually don't care very much in giving my opinion, the journey M. Burton and his team made me cross deserves an homage. Especially with all that criticism rising around the film before it has been released.
I have been a Tim Burton fan for more than a decade now; I grew up with his films. But what I have been through yesterday his really unique. I actually never thought he would offer us such a film one day. Fans of his first period, with all the lonely and desperate characters won't like it for sure. Since Mars Attacks !, and more specifically since Big Fish, Burton decided to tell things differently. His vision of the world slightly changed in every of his films : now, the rejected freak comes down to the world and stays. A world that remains frightening and weird even thought we call it "reality" but a world worth living in. And that's what Charlie & The Chocolate Factory is all about
It all begins with a main title sequence that may be one of the main weaknesses of the film. The sequence is very entertaining and visually ambitious but they decided to go with CGI and it looks like it was a decision they made in last minute. Since the film was proudly made with "real" sets, "real" Oompas Loompas, "real" squirrels, the main title looks inappropriate. It's not that important but it's a Tim Burton film and we know how much he usually works on his main title. Hopefully, Danny Elfman is there with a crazy mix of the Edward Scissorhands and Spider-Man (the music when the title of the film appears gave me shivers), a true musical roller-coaster that gives a hint on what his score will sound like through the film.
After that, it's just emotions. All kinds of them: laughs (many the audience laughed almost every thirty seconds), tears of joy (we all know Charlie's gonna find that ticket but when he does, you just can't refrain your heart to beat faster), mercy (the way Burton depicts the social misery of the Bucket's family is really touching), amazement (the Wonka Factory and its many rooms is true wonder, one the most achieved design Burton ever offered us) and many mores. Very much like the book, even though it seems simple and childish, you would like to stop for a second to collect those feelings and try to analyze them but you don't have the time. It just never stops (I realize it might be a flaw for some people in fact). Burton never has been so generous in terms of human warmness.
Johnny Depp proposes another inventive and completely wacky interpretation here. I won't compare with Gene Wilder since I don't know the first film very well (pretty unknown flick here in Europe) and those comparisons should stop anyway. Depp makes of Wonka a tormented and unadapted character who doesn't know much about common courtesy and doesn't really care anyway. He built up his own universe in response to his authoritarian father and he's pretty proud of it. He just doesn't want those "weird" (a word he likes you've all seen the TV spots) and boring parents with their despicable children to ruin what is life is based on. Yet
So Depp's Wonka is actually very moving and pathetic in his attempts to entertain his visitors. As Burton does everything he can to make you hate Augustus, Vercua, Violet and Mike at the moment you first see them, you get instantly closer to Wonka when you noticed he feels the same. In addition to that, John August's vision of Wonka's past (including an always perfect cameo by Christopher Lee) offers the character a real depth you didn't expect.
Danny Elfman is also one of the main attractions of the film. While his score is already classic Burton/Elfman work with some interesting experiments (the main themes are splendid), the songs he wrote for the Oompas Loompas are just so funny. Hugh laughs in the audience for some musical choices. Those songs don't intend to stay with you for months (it would have been hard as they're based on Dahl's lyrics that doesn't allow Broadway impulses), they're just off-beat numbers playing with many references in so many styles. Oingo Boingo fans have to buy the soundtrack when it'll come out, it'll bring them back 15 years ago.
What can I tell you more ? McDowell's sets are amazing, Pescucci's work is impressive as well as Rousselot's beautiful cinematography. Some Oscar Nominations should fall here.
As for the ending, without revealing it, August's additions are really touching and fit perfectly to Burton's new approach. Even though the final shot tempers the "family" theme that he developed through the film (it's still Burton, not Disney), Burton makes you feel good because he feels good (and what I'm writing here will ring a bell when you'll see the movie). I don't know for you but after so many distressed and pessimistic films, it really moved to see that he found a certain peace. Charlie and The Chocolate Factory is a step forward in the direction he gave to his career with Big Fish. He lost his father, he became one, he's getting older and all those questions and doubts are expressed in many important and very complex images and scenes he imagined for the film. That's why I could call this film the "Edward Scissorhands" of his new period. Those films are very different but gave me both some very essential emotions.
Thank you, M.Burton. Thank you very much