Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride is an animated film with both a romantic and gothic theme. It’s not the typical glitzy computer-generated animation of today. Instead, it is done in stop motion, taking photos of small puppets and moving them half a millimeter at a time to create movement.
The story revolves around Victor Van Dort and Victoria Everglott who are arranged to get married. When Victor flubs the wedding rehearsal, he flees into the woods and accidentally slips the ring onto a dead finger.
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In an era of glitzy computer-generated animation, Corpse Bride stands as a more traditional fairy tale. Its premise is not for the faint of heart. The nervous Victor Van Dort (Johnny Depp) gets thrown into an arranged marriage to Victoria Everglot (Emily Watson). His family hopes that this marriage will improve their social standing, while hers is a mere step above poverty and needs an infusion of new wealth.
Despite the morbidity of this story, there is much in Corpse Bride to delight the eye. From the characters’ spindly physical geometry to the stunning landscapes of both the living and dead worlds, every meticulous frame is a work of art.
Burton dips daintily into the dark side but always returns to sunny sensibilities. The gomovies film is filled with witty dialogue, strong characterizations, and a simple story. This is a delightfully twisted animated romance that also breathes new life into the age-old process of stop motion animation.
While there is some darkness to Corpse Bride, it is primarily a film about love and forgiveness. It is also about the power of words. Johnny Depp voices the character of Victor Van Dort, a shy, nervous man forced to marry Victoria Everglot by her money-hungry parents. During rehearsals for the wedding Victor accidentally places the engagement ring on a tree branch. This leads to him unwittingly being sent down into the land of the dead.
In the land of the dead, a wise, old corpse named Elder Goodrict offers advice and mixes potions that allow the undead passage to the land of the living. He also performs weddings.
The stop-motion animation is a wonder to behold, especially considering how long the film took to make. Every inch of the puppets’ spindly limbs and exaggerated facial features is carefully thought through and rendered. In our computer-dominated world of animated movies, it is refreshing to see a movie that uses traditional methods.
The film’s score is a treat, largely because it contains many elements familiar from previous work by composer Danny Elfman. Much like the Oompa Loompa songs in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Elfman’s soundtrack is characterized by minor keys and subtle bridges with strong strings and horns.
Combined with the gothic-inspired, neo-Victorian visuals and an empathetic Victor, these features give Corpse Bride the charm of a classic fairy tale. Despite the mystical undertones, the film’s positive message of love overcomes any ambiguity about good and evil. This, of course, is augmented by the movie’s climax, which is nothing short of wondrous. The only negative, and it is slight, is that the movie lingers too long in the land of the dead. During these scenes, the soundtrack can become a distraction. At these times, the music’s jaunty style can make it difficult to hear the dialogue. This is especially problematic during some of the frenetic moments in which the world of the dead is created.
In this day and age of glitzy computer-generated animation, Corpse Bride is a welcome breath of fresh air. The film is hand-crafted using stop-motion technique, in which puppets are moved one half-millimeter at a time to achieve an expressiveness that goes beyond the limits of CGI.
The results are astounding. From the skeletal limbs to the rotting faces of the dead, the visuals of the film are both morbid and whimsical. The characters are genuinely well-designed and the performers (Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter & Emily Watson) do an excellent job of portraying them.
Although the film isn’t without its flaws, it’s still a very enjoyable fantasy film that deserves to be seen by all. This isn’t fluffy cotton candy, but it is a good, dark story that should appeal to adults and children alike. I give it a high recommendation. A must-see for fans of Tim Burton and Danny Elfman.