I Weep For Cinema

Dumbo (2019) AKA Focus On The Characters!!!

I have already talked about how much the live action remakes suck because they can never live up to their animated counterparts, but there is another reason why they can’t even be “good” movies on their own, and I’m going to use the new Dumbo as an example.

The original 1941 Dumbo focus on an elephant who can fly. Sure it also focused on him being befriended by a mouse named Timothy who helps him gain confidence in his appearance and also save his mom from being locked up and also helps the circus out as well. 


Now, I haven’t even watched the new Dumbo movie, and I probably never will, but, I did scrub through it and just look at it, because I was curious since I haven’t even seen one frame of the movie and it IS directed of Tim Burton.  He has lost a lot of his appeal over the years, with all the crap he has put out in the last decade or so, but even then…. He was my favorite director when I was younger, one who I looked up to and made me want to be a Director as well. He has made some of my favorite movies of all time come to life. Batman, Pee-Wee, Nightmare Before Christmas… just to name a few.


So, the issue here isn’t that Dumbo was remade into a live action movie, it’s that it focuses on everything AROUND Dumbo instead of ON Dumbo. He isn’t even the main character in his own movie! Instead what we get is a focus on Colin Ferrel and the circus. 90% of the movie doesn’t even feature the famous flying packyderm. Who thought that we needed a kids movie about a circus performer who went off to war and got his arm blown off and a circus who is going to get turned into something else by the bank that wants to pull funding?! WHO ASKED FOR THIS?!?!


Honestly, the way the film looks could have been a great weird Burton movie about a circus, if they just left Dumbo out of it. But even looking at it, it looks like leftover stock footage from Big Fish (Which I absolutely adore that movie) The few moments of scrubbing through really do envoke the weird Burton of old, with the stylized shots and extravagant costumes and hair styles. But again, it’s all been done before, by the same people. We already saw Danny DeVito run a circus, we already have seen Michael Keton be a charming semi-good semi-bad guy, we have already seen Burton do his take on a circus environment and the freakshow, we have already heard Elfman’s soundtrack of a twisted carnival… It’s all been done before and without having to dumb it down for children.


I love Tim Burton and Elfman and DeVito and most of the rest of the cast of this movie, but knowing that it’s a Dumbo movie, and putting Dumbo on the backburner and focusing on anything but him is the issue. No one wants or needs a remake that isn’t even remaking the movie. Don’t change the entire plot and focus of the movie if you are remaking it. I believe remakes should change parts of a movie so it’s not a shot for shot exact replica, we already had that with the 1998 Psycho movie. Instead change small parts to make it your own but keep the things that people loved about it. People love Dumbo for Dumbo, not for the struggling circus owner or the war vet who got his arm blown off. 


The other thing is the Burton formula. It worked and has been going for decades, but at this point (which is long past) it needs to be put to rest for a long long while. Every Burton directed movie features the same key players and style and soundtrack. And again, as much as I love everything with this formula, it’s gotten old and predictable. One of the reasons that formula worked in the first place is because of the unpredictability of it. Every Burton movie was new and excited, filled with creepy awe and wonder, where things that shouldn’t exist did and you weren’t sure what was going on or going to happen. Now everything is more like a paint by the numbers set, with good looking visual flair, but no substance to back it up. 


I’d love to see Burton either take a break and come back with something entirely new when we have all forgotten about all the awful reinterpretations of his, or see him branch out into a genre entirely new and different for him. I’d take a bad romantic comedy directed by him over another Disney remake at this point. Just to shake it up, to allow him to be himself again. He was the werido director that made things no one else was making at the time. Heck he got fired from Disney originally because he made movies that were “too scary” for children. Brink back that insane person! I don’t think I ever need another Burton/Elfman remake movie at this point. Not because they are bad (and they are) but because it isn’t even remotely interesting at this point. It’s been done so many times we all know exactly what it will look like (if they don’t fundamentally change the movie like they did with Dumbo)


Imagine the new Disney remake of Robin Hood, announced to be directed by Tim Burton, featuring Danny Elfman’s iconic sound and starring Johnny Depp as Robin Hood, Maid Marian played by Helena Bohnom Carter, with Christopher Walken as Prince John (Ok that last part sounds rad), but you already have a good idea of what exactly that movie will look, feel and sound like. I want something new, something different and something unknown. Give me that instead of anything Burton has done with Disney in the last two decades. 


So in conclusion, Dumbo is a movie of contrasts. Thank you.