Viking Night: Edward Scissorhands
By Bruce Hall
April 24, 2012
Tim Burton has been devoted to film since he was a child, which makes it little wonder that a childlike sensibility inhabits the majority of his work, even when it isn't necessarily meant to. We stick to the habits that work. So, when you've been doing something since before you even started liking girls, part of you is bound to remain a child forever. You're also bound to be a little different from everyone else. After all, the only people carrying around film cameras when they were kids are guys like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Also, most of the guys who shoot X-rated films. Either way, you're part of what one might call "the mainstream.”
But if you're good at what you do, eventually you reach the point where you're skilled enough to "tell stories with film,” rather than just "put stories on film.” People like this almost always go self-retrospective at some point - through the eyes of one of their characters, of course. Spielberg is obsessed with divorce, and Lucas is devoted to bad character names and putting at least one racist character in every film. And some guys just get it all out there, like Tim Burton. If it weren't for Paul Reubens, a man whose second biggest claim to fame would be way too easy a shot to take, Burton may never have gotten his big break.
And if it weren't for a famished looking Michael Keaton successfully passing himself off as a billionaire master of kung fu, Burton may never have been given carte blanche on some of the best films ever made. But this isn't an article about Tim Burton. This is an article about Edward Scissorhands, who is only based on Tim Burton. And the suburban neighborhood where Edward finds himself is full of catty housewives with flammable hairdos and ugly pastel houses - presumably not unlike the neighborhood where Burton grew up.
But let's get back to Edward. He's a tall, ghostly pale kid with freaky black hair and spindly hands (real subtle, Burton) that also happen to double as scissors. This is because his creator (Vincent Price), who was kind of a Steampunk Gepetto, dropped dead before finishing him. One wonders whether Steampunk Gepetto might have had time to make a pair of real hands for his boy if only he hadn't wasted all of it making big scary scissor hands instead. But they serve a purpose, and it all makes sense in the end.
Edward (Johnny Depp) spends many years living alone in Steampunk Gepetto's old house until one day when he's visited by an Avon saleswoman who just today saw the Addams Family house on top of yonder hill for the very first time. She finds Edward in the attic - not insane and feral after years of darkness and isolation, but cheerful and gentle. He looks more like The Cure's Robert Smith than he does Tim Burton - all pouty innocence and desperation, despite the cool Hellraiser outfit and Freddy Krueger hands.