Edward Scissorhands

Movie Information

In Brief: The first collaboration between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp made Depp a bonafide movie star and established Burton as one of the movies' great fantasists. It's a magical film of many delights and layers that remains as fresh today as it did in 1990 when it first appeared. (It also remains Burton's favorite, as well as composer Danny Elfman's favorite of his scores.) The modern fairy tale classic is back on the big screen — on which Burton's stunning imagery can be fully appreciated — for one show only on Wednesday, Oct. 23, at 7:30 p.m. at The Carolina.
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianne Weist, Alan Arkin, Vincent Price
Rated: PG

It’s hard for me to realize that Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands is 23 years old. It’s harder still to realize that it’s been just about that long since I’ve seen it on the big screen — maybe because I saw it numerous times when it was first released, having immediately fallen in love with it. It was what completely sold me on the idea that Burton was one of the best filmmakers we had. I’d followed his career from the first (Burton is perhaps unique as a filmmaker whose works I encountered in the order they were released) with great interest — originally because of Danny Elfman. I’d become a fan of Elfman as the guiding force behind the band Oingo Boingo in the mid-1980s. In fact, I’d met Elfman after a concert in 1985 (at which time he was in talks to score Anthony Perkins’ Psycho III — a gig that ultimately went to Carter Burwell). It was the fact that he scored Pee-wee’s Big Adventure that same year that caused me to see it.

It was Edward Scissorhands, though, that set me on the path that would lead me to write a book about Burton and his films in 1998. (Sobering to consider that he’s subsequently made more films than were covered in that book.) The film was — and is — something so completely different that it was startling. Oh, it fit in with Burton’s earlier films, but it took everything to new heights and was so completely personal that it took us all by surprise — especially since it came out at a time when personal films were not the norm in Hollywood. For that matter, the very fact that anyone could get away with making a movie about an artificially created man, Edward (Johnny Depp in the role that made him a movie star), that was inexplicably crafted from a heart-shaped cookie was hard to imagine. It was a flight of fantasy that was amazingly just allowed to be.

The last time I wrote about the film I said (in part): Gloriously romantic and endlessly inventive, the film presented one of the most on-target depictions of childhood and adolescence ever committed to film, and a uniquely perceptive portrait of suburbia as a place at once absurd and strangely appealing. Looked at dispassionately today, it’s easy to see certain weaknesses in the approach that might not have been obvious in 1990. Burton’s depiction of the homecoming-queen cheerleader (Ryder) as a person who’d dump her jock boyfriend — if only she saw how sensitive and fine the lonely outsider geek is — seems a little too much like facile, wish-fulfillment fantasy. But the overall film is so charming, unique and unabashedly romantic that it seems pointless to quibble. Anyone who can resist Ryder’s “Ice Dance” or the film’s final scenes must be made of stone.

That’s still pretty much where I am on Edward Scissorhands, but I’ve come to realize how much of the film resonates with me in ways that go beyond that. Lines like Edward’s simple, uncomprehending, “He didn’t get up,” in reference to his creator (Vincent Price in perhaps his best performance) are hard to forget. The moment where Kim (Winona Ryder) asks him to hold her and Edward — realizing how dangerous his hands are — says, “I can’t” is even more indelible. Somehow Burton tapped into something that was at once personal and yet completely universal in a way that he’d never quite equal (though he’s come close). Edward Scissorhands may not be the best film he’s made, but it’s the most special. It’s unique — and no one can be more jazzed about seeing it once more on the Big Screen than I am.

The Asheville Film Society’s Big Screen Budget Series will show Edward Scissorhands Wed., Oct. 23, at 7:30 p.m. in one of the downstairs theaters at The Carolina Asheville. Admission is $5 for AFS members and $7 for the general public.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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19 thoughts on “Edward Scissorhands

  1. Jeremy Dylan

    Edward Scissorhands may not be the best film he’s made

    What would be your pick for that? I’d lean toward SWEENEY TODD.

  2. Steven

    My favorite remains [i]Big Fish[/i]

    My least favorite is [i]Alice in Wonderland[/i], by a very, very large margin.

  3. Dionysis

    “My least favorite is Alice in Wonderland, by a very, very large margin.”

    There are a couple of his films I’ve not seen, or have not seen in their entirety, but among those I have (the majority), I also would rate Alice…as my least favorite. The whole thing left me cold, and while I tend to like Johnny Depp, and was fine with the young lead, Mia Wasikowska, I thought Anne Hathaway was miscast, and since I really don’t care for her to begin with, it made the film even less appealing to me. I sure would not care to see it again, but I’ll re-watch Ed Wood most anytime.

  4. Ken Hanke

    I don’t much care for Alice in Wonderland, though there are interesting things about it — and one intriguing thematic element, if you’re looking at the films as a body of work. That said, it took me two years to get around to seeing it a second time. (Naturally, it’s the most financially successful of his movies.) I am not anxious to give it a third look. Now, having said that, I am compelled to ask if Planet of the Apes is being factored into this “least favorite” accolade?

  5. Dionysis

    “I am compelled to ask if Planet of the Apes is being factored into this “least favorite” accolade?”

    I had forgotten about that movie. I guess I would have to say that the difference between the two would be miniscule, in terms of which was the worst, so they effectively tie for most disliked Burton film.

  6. Steven

    I found [i]Planet of the Apes[/i] to be forgettable and harmless. It’s certainly towards the bottom of his cannon, but I felt that [i]Alice[/i] was Burton offering nothing new. It felt like he just layered a thick coat of his style over such a worn-out story. At least [i]Planet[/i] was interesting – well, for me it was.

  7. Ken Hanke

    Planet I find interesting as a piece of Burton’s filmography as a case of him trying to make a more “normal” movie in terms of plot. (It left me feeling much like Ken Russell’s TV film Dog Boys, which he told me he did to “prove he could make something that had nothing to do with art.” My response was, “Now you have and you’ve gotten it out of your system. Don’t do it again.”) I do find it telling that the film is still thematically of a piece with his other films.

    While I don’t much care for Alice, I don’t find it in the least a worn-out story with nothing new. It is a pretty thorough revisionist take on the book(s) and it offers one very significant change in that the “nerd” character remains an insufferable bore. In most Burton films, he’d end up revealed as better than we thought and Alice would seem him anew. My problem is that the movie just doesn’t work all that well, except in bits and peaces.

  8. DrSerizawa

    Burton’s depiction of the homecoming-queen cheerleader (Ryder) as a person who’d dump her jock boyfriend

  9. Ken Hanke

    None of that matters. This is a wonderful movie. I haven’t seen it in years. It’s time again.

    Yes, exactly. Its lack of realism is to be expected since it’s a romantic fantasy.

    It’s hard to pick a favorite Burton movie really. I loved Nightmare Before Xmas and Mars Attacks as well. Though MA is obviously not in the same league.

    I need to watch Mars Attacks! again, but I just loaned my super-duper Burton boxed set (of WB titles anyway) to Young Edwin, so that’ll wait a while.

  10. Edwin Arnaudin

    Rumors aside that I’m bound by the Ed Code to act thusly, Ed Wood and Edward Scissorhands are my top two favorite Burton films, in that order. Big Fish, Sweeney Todd, and Frankenweenie comprise the next tier.

    The main goal of borrowing the WB boxed set is to revisit the Batman films, which I haven’t seen since elementary school and therefore feel like I truly haven’t seen at all. I’m also keen to revisit Mars Attacks! and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, but I may watch them all again. I fondly remember seeing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Hollywood and my companion and I immediately afterward each buying a large chocolate bar at whatever grocery store used to be where the Hendersonville Rd. Earth Fare is now (Food Lion?). That film hit home the simple fun of candy…and therefore forced my hand.

    As for Planet of the Apes, I mostly enjoyed it at the time. I felt like Burton was at the height of his powers and could do whatever he wanted and I’d want to see it, so a reimagining was fine by me. (I actually really like the ending.)

    Alice is my least favorite of his, though his Cheshire Cat is extraordinary.

    Looks like Burton is playing with new and exciting toys in his next film: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1126590/?ref_=nm_flmg_dr_1

  11. Jeremy Dylan

    It’s hard for me to realize that Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands is 23 years old.

    I know how it feels.

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