Tuesday, 19 January 2010

I'll Follow You Until You Love Me, or at least as long as you do what I WANT.

Fans are a fickle group. They claim to like/love/obsess over their chosen film, musician etc. and yet they're usually the first the criticise when something happens they don't like, almost as though they have an ownership over their fandom of choice. When of course, that's not how it works at all, and not how it should work either. As Julie Gardner (BBC producer) puts it: "I make drama to support each author's vision. It's not a democracy. Whether people like it or not, it's storytelling." Imagine if storytelling was a democracy?! It'd be like one of those ridiculous games that you played as a child, involving a many-folded piece of paper on which each person wrote a line of a story, culminating in a nonsensical adventure featuring Gwendolyn the bear-fighting, world-saving, cross-dressing nun from Liverpool who is a rockstar in her spare time. Of course, I'm not saying that fans should automatically love everything that their idol creates without thought or critique, but the (often unnecessary) backlash is completely over the top. Sure, if you don't like it, great. Move on.

But some people, especially on the Internet, react with such pure, overzealous hate that I'm a little worried. Okay, the latest episode of Eastenders didn't thrill you beyond belief - but who cares enough to whine, whinge and moan about it? And don't even get me started on people who officially make complaints (we're looking at you, Daily Mail readers). They evidently have too much time on their hands and need a hobby. Maybe knitting.

So imagine my non-surprise when reading a rumour on film magazine Empire's website about Tim Burton's latest film project. Apparently, it is to be a Wicked-type tale, featuring Malificent, the evil witch from Disney's 'Sleeping Beauty' who curses the Princess Aurora and tries multiple times to kill her, before turning into an enormous dragon and generally being a bit of a badass. The film will be from her perspective and try to explain why she hates that baby so much. It actually sounds like a really interesting idea; sure, its not Burton-original material but if he makes a brilliant film, does anyone mind?

However, Empire then have the tenacity (read, sarcasm) to suggest that Burton could pull of the mix of fairy tale and gothic, and that perhaps 'his missus, Helena Bonham Carter, could be rather wonderful in the bad title role'. Another Tim Burton film with Helena Bonham Carter, some fans replied. What's next, casting Johnny Depp as Prince Charming? He's not creating an original idea? He's being all QUIRKY AND DARK AND MYSTERIOUS?! YEEGADZ!

I have no problem whatsoever with Burton tackling films in his favourite genre, with his favourite actors and with his favourite material, as long as he makes a good film. Which he generally does. There was a similar reaction when casting for 'Alice in Wonderland' revealed Depp as the Mad Hatter and Bonham Carter as the Red Queen; the same again for Sweeney Todd. Why do these fans care so much that the director is doing this? He's not repeating himself, of that I'm quite sure - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is as far from Sweeney Todd as Avatar is from Winnie the Pooh. The guy likes his gothic movies. Great. He hasn't come up with an original idea in a while. Fantastic. He re-uses actors who have proven themselves in the past and fit the parts. So sue him.

Now, if he cast Bonham Carter and Depp willy nilly through every film in roles they didn't suit, I would understand the reaction. If he tried to remake High School Musical with Depp as Troy Bolton, I'd probably question him too. But they are both two powerful character actors who invest in their roles and always impress - even in Sweeney Todd, where their vocal talents left something to be desired, they both acted beautifully. Sure, Burton could spread the love around, especially in the recession, but why risk valuable studio dollars on unknown or untested talent when he has two movie stars who are going to bring in the punters and act well? He doesn't always use the same actors; in Alice, we see Anne Hathaway, Matt Lucas and newcomer Mia Wasikowska, whilst we hear the vocal talents of Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen and Barbara Windsor, all of whom are, to my knowledge, Burton virgins (He also brings along favourites Timothy Spall and Christopher Lee, but lets keep that quiet in case the fans add that fuel to the fire).

With the advent of the Internet, fanboys and girls have become much more vocal and self-important. They will still go see the films, buy the music and play the games that they claim to love and yet seem to hate, and therefore they are eliminating any real power they have, the power of choice. Tim Burton is still going to produce gothic, trippy, glorious films with his favourite stars and I for one, am extremely happy about that fact.

Edit: Here's another example of stupendous fan hate, following the announcement as Marc Webb (director of (500) Days of Summer, one of my favourite films of 2009) as the director of the rebooted Spiderman franchise: WARNING, MAY CONTAIN ABUSIVE AND UNSAVOURY LANGUAGE

"FUCKING CUNTY BOLLOCKS!!!!!!!!! 500 DAYS OF SUMMER is one of the WORST pieces of celluloid shit I've ever endured! ah, to hell with this."

Well isn't that lovely? Not, 'I don't like his work but I'll give it a go and reserve judgement when I see the film.' No, 'He's only made one film and therefore I can't judge him'. Instead its, HATEHATEHAHTESWEARSWEARSWEAR. Completely rational and sensible.