Monday, 17 November 2014

Film Review - Edward Scissorhands (Tim Burton, 1990)

Fig 1. Edward Scissorhands Poster

Edward is a young boy who has no knowledge of the world past his front gate, when he is taken in by a family in the town below. Before you even see Edward, the difference in environments is made very clear from the wide-shots showing the sunny suburb set against a house on a tall, dark hilltop (see fig 2).

Fig 2. Suburb Shot

After Edward is taken in, he falls in love with their daughter. He is an immediate hit with the neighbours as his skills in hedge trimming and hair styling are widely sought after. When he is tricked to help break into someone's house however, things begin to spiral out of control and as it all goes from bad to worse, he is forced to flee back up to the house he descended from.

Jo Berry, an interviewer from, had this to say about the film ''Edward Scissorhands certainly has its flaws, dwelling too long on Edward's talent for scissorwork and leaving a number of characters too thinly sketched for comfort. It remains, however, an ambitious and quite beautifully conceived fairy tale.'' (Berry, s.d.) The film does dwell perhaps a little too long on showing the sheer scale of Edwards technical genius to the viewer. Other than that however, there are very few real problems with this film. Audiences can forgive the impossibly large hedge sculptures in the neighbors front gardens, which arose from small bushes (see fig 2 & 3).

Fig 3. Hedge Sculpture

There is perhaps one small issue in terms of the development of Edward's character. Closer to the end, his character becomes stale and more generalized. Roger Ebert picks up on this in his review of the film ''Until then he's been a gentle, goofy soul, a quixotic outsider. Then Burton and his writer, Caroline Thompson, go on autopilot and paste in a standard Hollywood ending.'' (Ebert, 1990). There is more mystery in the film until the last quarter, as more and more is realized of Edward's character through flashbacks throughout the film. Close to the end it is almost as if they ran out of magic dust and had to resort to using the regular stuff with a predictable ending. One clear example of how his character suddenly changes is when he suddenly becomes frustrated and enraged by the people who don't understand or don't care. Edward has a small meltdown and damages a lot of things in the family house. Slightly later on he rampages through the suburb, severely injuring many of the hedge sculptures he created. To some extent the excess of rage doesn't fit his character, it needed to be portrayed but not to such lengths that the audience might lose touch with his character.

''Like a great chef concocting an exquisite peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich, Mr. Burton invests awe-inspiring ingenuity into the process of reinventing something very small.'' (Maslin, 1990). This quote from captures the way that Tim Burton made the film. While the plot follows a fairly obvious string of events (which is not unlike beauty and the beast), the production, set and costume design were very clearly of big importance. It is similar to beauty and the beast for a very obvious reason, Edward (the beast) is an outsider, and falls in love with beauty (Kim, the daughter). Many awkward meetings follow and after daring conclusions, beauty falls in love with the beast. In fact, the design along with a great performance from Johnny Depp could well be why this film stands out as one of Burton's greatest.

Illustration List

Burton, T (1990) Figure 1. Edward Scissorhands Poster. (Accessed on 11/11/14)

Burton, T (1990) Figure 2. Suburb Shot. (Accessed on 16/11/14)

Burton, T (1990) Figure 3. Hedge Sculpture. (Accessed on 17/11/14)


Berry, J (s.d.) (Accessed on 17/11/14)

Maslin, J (1990) (Accessed on 17/11/14)

Ebert, R (1990) (Accessed on 18/11/14)

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