I thought I'd like to review something festive, or at least topical. Then I realised that I couldn't get hold off such gems as The Snowman, Muppet Christmas Carol or Nightmare before Christmas in time to write this! Neither do I possess two of the three Christmas stocking-fillers: Spiderman and Attack of the Clones, while the third I reviewed last time round! So then I thought of films that made me feel Christmassy - Harry Potter sprang to mind, but I just re-read the books and didn't want to spoil that happy feeling, so I thought again. So here we go - snowy 20th Century Fox Logo, Christmas ending, fairytale etc. Edward Scissorhands.
I know it's a cliché to talk about Edward Scissorhands as an urban or modern fairytale - but really it is a story that has to begin 'Once Upon a Time, a Long Time Ago'. Edward is created by the Inventor - Vincent Price - but the maker dies before he is able to replace his creation's scissors with hands. This 'monster' is discovered by an Avon saleslady and taken back to live in Suburbia with her.
Cue Edward's discovery of the modern world, which is frankly a scary scary place, full of pastel bungalows, neat lawns and tidy people who have to know everything about everybody. Johnny Depp is absolutely perfect as Edward, a perpetual look of confusion and timidity in his eyes. It is easy to see how he became a teen idol - yet he (like a good few others) is a much better actor than the label would suggest.
As befits a fairytale we have our heroes - Peg the friendly Avon lady and her daughter Kim (Winona Ryder gone blonde) whom Edward immediately adores - and our villain - Kim's spoilt boyfriend Jim. The rest of the townsfolk react to Edward first with curiosity and affection, and then distaste and fear as he is led into trouble. They are in fact normal in the extreme - well meaning for the most part, and follow each others lead in reacting to the stranger.
Ryder has never really been better (although on occasion that seems not to be saying much) than as she is in this, drawn to Edward in a way she can't understand, and the scene in which she dances in the snow Edward creates from his ice sculpture is magical. Vincent Price has a wonderful turn as the inventor, and Alan Arkin is superb as Peg's husband Bill - well meaning, but with complete misunderstanding. Dianne Wiest as Peg is touching - her eagerness to help Edward to a normal life, and her gradual realisation that perhaps it is not meant to be.
In many ways it is the music that makes this film - Danny Elfman's score is utterly magical, soaring and touching, it pulls every chord that a fairytale should. In his commentary Tim Burton talks about silent movies a bit - and his fascination with them comes across in the way he focusses on the eyes of his actors and lets the music echo the emotions he wants to convey.
The film has its flaws - Jim is too cardboard a villain and it is hard to see why Kim would have liked him in the first place. Esmerelda, the prophetess of doom who warns against Edward seems only to serve to illuminate the changing attitude of the town towards him: she is an outcast during his popularity, but becomes a part of the group as they turn on him.
The ending too is a little 'cutesy' - and Granny Winona is very unnerving indeed - but the image of Edward replicating in sculpture those things he loves, because he cannot hold them for fear of hurting them is enduring. It is, in fact, the fairy tale with a twist: the hero wins his heroine, but there is no happily ever after.
The main basis for buying the DVD of this film is that it looks fantastic - every image crystal clear and sparkling. There are two commentaries - one by director Tim Burton, and one by the composer Danny Elfman - in addition to a brief featurette, interviews, trailers and conceptual art.
It would perhaps have been better for the two to have combined for a joint commentary, so that they could have talked about their collaboration that has extended beyond this film. Neither talks throughout the whole film which leads to some large gaps in which the viewer slips back into the film and forgets what they were listening too. This inevitably makes it disorientating when Burton or Elfman pop up and start commenting again. It is possibly more disconcerting on Elfman's commentary track, which accompanies a 'music only' version of the film, so when he isn't talking, and there isn't any music you just have an unnerving dead silence.
Elfman talks about the music as it occurs in the film - he scored it sequentially - briefly but with style, though I wish he had been a little more forthcoming. Burton appears unsure of what to talk about - perhaps another reason to have given him Elfman or Depp to bounce off. What he does say is fascinating however - be it on the way he wanted to set up the film in the credits, the silent movie star qualities of Ryder and Depp, or his delight that the studio allowed him to keep his bittersweet ending without a fight. Both tracks are well worth a listen too - especially Elfman's for the showcasing of the score (can you tell yet I love it?)
The rest of the extras are fairly standard: soundbite interviews with the main actors and crew, which were obviously filmed on set (Ryder and Wiest are in full costume). There are two trailers - the first emphasising Edward and the fantasy element, the other focusing on Suburbia's reaction to him. The Spanish TV spots are really quite random - the film clips are subtitled into Spanish, but I don't understand what the 'Trailer Guy' is saying! The conceptual art is fun - but as there aren't any comments alongside the pictures any non-artist (like, oh say, me) doesn't really understand the progression of them. The featurette is really just a 5-minute promo for the film - a collection of images from the film, filming and some soundbites - and doesn't really offer much about the making of the movie.
The DVD is a couple of years old now - and this is how they used to make them - with just a few extras and the emphasis on the film. Now there is more emphasis on recording the filming and including all sorts of goodies to tempt viewers to buy the DVD. This may be what tempts film fans into DVDs in the first place - it did me, but now I'm not too fussed if there aren't huge quantities - if they're good quality stuff they're fine - but I just love to see my films looking this good!