Don’t mind me. Just putting a personal demon to rest.
People often forget that there are two Willy Wonka films. For good reason, mind you. The Tim Burton remake, as we discussed last week, is a crime against the human race. Especially when you compare it to the original, which is a classic in every sense of the word.
Still, I tried to be fair last week. For the sake of the review, I looked at the film as its own thing. Yes, it still failed. But I was as fair as possible.
Now I’m gonna do the opposite. I’m gonna compare both movies side-by-side so you can understand just how dramatic Tim Burton’s crime was. I’ll be analyzing several things, from general writing changes to specific scenes, in order to prove my point.
Not that I need to.
When it comes to telling a story, one of the most important things you need to nail is how you introduce your main character. This is a crucial step in helping the audience understand, relate to, sympathize, and root for your protagonist. Screw this up, and your character, and your story, are in trouble.
The original movie absolutely nailed it. After the opening song, ‘Candyman’, we cut to Charlie staring enviously through the window. This immediately, without so much as a word, communicates to us that he feels like an outsider. He either can’t or won’t participate for whatever reason, likely the poverty that would be established in the next scene.
Speaking of which, that scene further establishes him perfectly. He brings out the loaf of bread he bought with his first pay to make everyone happy, then explains how he got it to his worried mother. This tells us all we need to know about Charlie: he’s honest, hard-working, and considerate. All without any explanation. Just by showing us.
Now, let’s look at how Tim Burton introduces his version of Charlie Bucket. What clever visual tricks does he employ to get the job done? The answer is: none. He just has a narrator monologue over a shot of him, telling us about what kind of kid he is. Because, as we all know, telling is so much more interesting than showing!
This failure permanently hurt the movie. It’s so much harder to root for Charlie because all we have to go off of is the narrator’s monologue. Not that it matters! Charlie never does anything through the movie! His struggle feels completely artificial, like he’s just waiting for the Golden Ticket to come to him! Compare that to the original, where Charlie is clearly trying everything he can to find one and failing, which breaks his heart.
But Charlie isn’t the character that got it the worst. Oh dear God, no! We all know who got the worst of it!
*Deep breath* Okay. Here we go.
Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka was absolutely perfect. He managed to make the character effortlessly likable and mysterious. Everything he said was full of either wonder and magic or pure sarcasm. You never knew where the kids stood with him. Hell, thanks to the boat scene, you didn’t even know if he was a good person or not!
But then you’ve got Johnny Depp. His portrayal could be best described as ‘childish serial killer’. For some reason, they tried to really lean hard on making their version of Wonka as unlikable and creepy as possible. Plus, he was a total asshole!
Just look at the ending. In the original, Wonka was open to Charlie and his family moving into the factory. It was an act of pure kindness. But in the Tim Burton version, Wonka refuses Charlie’s family that kindness. Why? Cause he’s a dickhead with daddy issues!
Oh yeah. They also gave him a backstory. Because god knows that Willy Wonka needed one of those!
In the original film, Grandpa Joe is one of the most important and realistic characters in the whole film. He has a deep love for Charlie, supporting him at every turn in any way he can. However, he also had a distinct greed behind him, albeit a selfless one, if that makes sense. He wants Charlie to be able to be a kid, to have fun and live a happy, comfortable life.
It’s that exact greed that brings us to one of the most important scenes in the movie: the fizzy lifting drinks. This scene demonstrates that Charlie isn’t an entirely pure boy, as he can still be corrupted from outside sources. In a way, Grandpa Joe is like the little devil on Charlie’s shoulder, encouraging him to get what he wants and do what he wants, regardless of the consequences.
His character can best be summarized by this one line:
What’s it matter where he got it? Point is, he got it!
Now, let’s look at Grandpa Joe in the Tim Burton remake. He’s a sweet old man who worked at Wonka’s factory back in the day. And… yeah, that’s it. That’s the character. Does his having worked at the factory ever mean anything in the story? Nope. In fact, once he arrives at the factory, he basically stops being a character entirely! Charlie may as well have brought his mom or dad!
It certainly doesn’t help that there is no fizzy lifting drink scene, or any scene fulfilling its purpose. Not only does that remove any agency Charlie had in the factory, but it also removed all of Granda Joe’s significance in the entire story!
Think of it like this. 1971 Grandpa Joe is willing to scream at the most successful man in the world for his grandson’s sake. Would 2005 Grandpa Joe do anything like that? The answer is a resounding “No.”
One of the most fun and important aspects of the original film is the mania behind the golden tickets. The entire first half is dedicated entirely to this insanity! Watching everyone go nuts over these golden tickets not only did a great job of making the movie fun to watch, but it did a great job of racking up the drama; how could Charlie possibly find a ticket when the whole world is doing so in a mad craze?
But in the Tim Burton movie, we barely got any of that. It was just a quick montage, followed by a rapid introduction of the other kids. In total, it only lasts a clean half-hour, as compared to the first film, in which it lasted roughly fifty minutes. All the carefully, hilariously crafted tension is just… gone. Poof.
Also, it’s not funny. Like, at all. I think that it tried to be! But they didn’t succeed. At all.
I could keep going. But if I did, this article would be so long the government would bind it and put it on the shelf right next to ‘Mein Kampf’ and other works of evil out of sheer fright.
Literally everything in that Tim Burton remake butchers the original. All the kids are made cartoonishly insufferable as to the simple but realistic portrayals in the original. The scene where Charlie finds his golden ticket goes from one of the most exciting moments in the film to just another check box to be marked off. Even the opening credits have been completely butchered, though I already discussed that in last week’s review.
As much as I want to keep going, I think I can finally leave it be. The reality of how pointless this has all been is finally starting to set in. It’s been fifteen years since that awful remake and I’m pretty sure I’m the only guy left in the world who still even remembers it exists. And now, with this, I can finally put this demon of mine to rest.
What an odd demon it was.