First Night: Frankenweenie, The Odeon, Leicester Square, London Film Festival

3.00

Burton dazzles as always but fails to breathe life into his latest creation

Nothing much changes in the world of Tim Burton. With Frankenweenie he presents yet another gothic tale set in a suburban American town in which quirky characters traverse the line between life and death to the familiar strains of a Danny Elfman score. It's a formula that works for the director, and if it ain't broke why fix it?

Given his gothic sensibilities it was only a matter of time before Burton, inset, turned his hand to one of the genre's classic texts and now he has reconfigured Mary Shelley's Frankenstein as a children's animation. The director came up with the idea in 1984, getting as far as making drawings of his imagined characters before budgetary constraints forced him to turn his musings into a live-action short. Having since made two other Academy Award- nominated, stop-motion feature films, A Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride, he finally gets to fulfil his dream and, shot in black and white, it looks fabulous.

The vagaries of time have made his spin on the tale even more pertinent. In making a dog rather than a human his subject, Burton gives a contemporary twist to the story and weaves in elements of the cloning debate. The parents of Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan) are worried that their son has no friends except his dog and want to encourage him to take an interest in things other than science. When Victor's father (Martin Short) persuades him to try his hand at baseball, his life is changed for ever when his dog Sparky is killed chasing the ball.

Fortunately his school's new science teacher, an eccentric Eastern European called Mr Rzykruski (Martin Landau), gives a brilliant lecture about lightning and how electricity can be used to reanimate dead objects. Mr Rzykruski is Burton's best character for many a movie; his discussions with Victor about the moral conundrums faced by scientists are pure Albert Einstein, and his musings on the lack of desire shown by American kids to become scientists are ever quotable: "In my country even my plumber wins Nobel Prize."

References to horror films populate the movie, right down to Shelley appearing as the name on a tombstone. As with Pixar, a failure to get the references will not diminish enjoyment. Yet Frankenweenie also suffers from Burton's pitfalls. The characters are stereotypes that stick to their guns and have small arcs; fat and ugly characters are typically up to no good; and it's long since entered the public consciousness that geeks are cool. Burton seems stuck fighting a battle that has already been won and it's getting a tad predictable. It would be nice to see the director take himself outside his comfort zone. As Mr Rzykruski posits: 'It's OK to fail.'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum