2005 was definitely a big year for Tim Burton. He had the mega successful Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and ended the year with this film, Corpse Bride. Neither Charlie or Corpse deserved to be placed on the top of Burton’s best work list, but both are filled with typical Burton qualities from his funny jokes to interesting visuals.
Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride is similar to The Nightmare Before Christmas via Burton’s usual trademarks. Corpse Bride features…Burton’s land of the dead from his very funny Beetle Juice, the dark tone of the film from Sleepy Hollow and the usual score by Danny Elfman. Oh and one more usual Burton quality. Johnny Deep adds in his voice portraying Victor.
While you will find all of these aforementioned qualities, the one thing you won’t find much in Corpse Bride is a whole lot of plot. But where the plot tends to fail a bit, the gorgeous visuals make up. Corpse Bride is not really a horror tale I must tell you, but rather a lovely tale of love being lost. The film is about two animated figures named Victor Van Dort (voiced by Johnny Depp) and Emily the Corpse Bride (voiced by Helena Bonham Carter). The world they live in is a world of drab with little to no vibrant color minus the muted grays and purples. The world of dead, however, seems to be a Hawaii type place as it is a place where almost anyone wants to be. It is lively, cheerful and brighter. When Victor goes there, he meets his dog he had as a child, thus proving that all those who die do indeed go to the same place you go when you die.
As the movie opens, we see a marriage being arranged between Victor’s parents and the Everglots. Nell and William Van Dort (Tracey Ullman and Paul Whitehouse) are extremely wealthy. Victoria (voiced by Emily Watson) has two parents Maudeline and Finie, both of whom are extremely poor. A marriage would provide them a future and, more importantly, a place in class. Naturally, like all arranged marriages, Victor and Victoria have never met. The characters met and, surprisingly, love each other.
Enter the marriage scene. Victor is one of those that are so shy, he can’t even blurt out the vows he is suppose to say. Victor runs out of the church to practice his written vows. He even practices placing the ring on a twig, which happens to be the desiccated finer of Emily, the Corpse Bride. Now, according to the rules of the netherworld, Victor has just agreed to marry Emily and soon finds himself dancing at a wedding celebration full of the usual singing skeletons. This is where the movie beings to shine.
Emily is made to be a character of horror in our mind, but she comes off as a more a character that we feel for. See Emily was never given the chance at happiness that most are given. Emily was murdered on the eve of her wedding and wants to be a good wife for Victor. I must mention that, while most movies are computer-generated nowadays, Corpse Bride excels on a high level at creating effortlessly gorgeous images.
After I saw this film, I realized that Tim Burton seems to have a gift for creating ‘dark’ looking films. He brought us Sleepy Hollow, which is still of the most visually amazing films I have ever seen. Burton has a way that makes each frame of his films look excellent. He fills each frame with every little touch, whether it be a little doll, or a full blown character. Burton likes subjects like dreary settings, moonlight nights and trees creating shadows in the background. Corpse Bride, despite the lack of a really amazing plot, is so visually brilliant that the visuals take the film just that one step further.
Corpse Bride is presented in an equally lovely 1:85:1 that just about matches imagery we see on today’s 16X9 widescreen TV shows we watch. One may think the very first scene composed mostly of drudgery and a lack of color, will be the whole film’s palette. Luckily, as soon as the film enters the land of the dead, the contrast becomes almost funny. The transfer is near top notch that is completed with excellent use of detailing every little scene.
The audio we are given is nothing to write home about. However, the audio does just what we would expect it to do. Since this is a very heavy visual film, we don’t expect to receive a lot of response from the surround sound speakers, but the front speakers provide a good tone of bass and treble, all of which come off as very clear, clean and well balanced. Just a notch below the video in my book.
This is what I am talking about. Tons of goodies here! Instead of speaking about each featurette, I am going to list all of the featurettes and talk about them as a whole
- Inside the Two Worlds, Danny Elfman Interprets the Two Worlds, The Animators: The Breath of Life, Tim Burton: Dark vs. Light, Voices from the Underworld, Making Puppets Tick, and The Voices Behind The Voice: All of the featurettes dive so deep into the film, that any fan of the film should be satisfied with this. We hear from just about every person involved in the film from Director Tim Burton to actor Christopher Lee. The actual programs take a look into the design of the Land of the Dead and the Land of the Living. We learn mostly about Burton’s interest in the story and stop-motion as well as how he basically controlled the production of the film. We also learn about the cast, characters and the performances. The best feature here is the feature entitled The Voices Behind the Voice were we get to see the actors speak their lines next to the scene of their character performing the line. More animated films should feature this! All of the features are very well made and extremely informative!
- Pre-Production Galleries: This feature provides us with a ton of filmed elements instead of the usual still elements that we click to go through. A nice touch! We also see a presentation of some storyboard/film comparisons that depict a lot of live-action test footage. Not as good as the huge documentary type collection above, but still informative.
- Music-Only Track: As this feature reads, we get Danny Elfman’s score presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. While I did not find his music as enthralling as some of his other work, this is a real treat for fans of the film’s music. The only real negative here is that even the singing scenes don’t feature the songs. This is literally an audio only track.
Despite the presence of a huge plot, Corpse Bride is just as good as Burton’s recent films mainly because Burton succeeds in presenting a visually beautiful film. The DVD offers top-notch picture and almost as good audio with excellent features. Fans of Burton will be at their local DVD store the first opportunity to grab this film. Others should probably rent this film if they don’t real enjoy Burton as much as I do.
Special Features List
- Inside The Two Worlds
- Danny Elfman Interprets The Two Worlds
- The Animators:The Breath of Life
- Tim Burton: Dark Vs. Light
- Voices From The Underworld
- Making Puppets Tick
- The Voices Behind The Voice
- The Corpse Bride Pre-Production Galleries
- Music-Only Track