In the last 40 years, the singular, dark imagination of Tim Burton has changed popular culture. His dreams and nightmares have filled our mental landscapes with stripy sandworms, headless horsemen and jabbering Martians.
At his best Burton reimagined the memento mori for the modern era, making art that asks the big questions about life and death and the meaning of it all. In 1990 he birthed the greatest film of all time (Edward Scissorhands, since you ask). Now, “from the imagination of Tim Burton” (and more quietly Smallville showrunners Alfred Gough and Miles Millar), comes the Netflix take on the Addams Family, Wednesday.
How do we not already have a Burton take on Charles Addams’s cartoons, you may be asking. Creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky, altogether ooky, the Addams Family is surely prime Burton real estate. And, right enough, there was a close call back in the early ’90s. Burton had been slated to direct the movie version starring Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd, and a young Christina Ricci as Wednesday. Too busy filming Batman Returns, Burton had to pass that time.
In an era when streaming platforms seem willing to sign blank cheques for big brand directors to do whatever the hell they like, the idea has – somewhat inevitably – come back around.
For the most part separating the sullen daughter from her statuesque mother, romantic father and delinquent brother, Wednesday finds the pigtailed goth icon – now a 15-year-old – deposited into a boarding school for outcasts. Nevermore Academy is populated by gorgons, sirens, vampires, werewolves and other sundry supernatural entities. Weird they may all be, but they’re still teens – and steeped in the pecking orders, rivalries and bullies you’d expect / remember.
Elsewhere, there’s also a monster for Wednesday to track down, an ongoing cold war with the “normies” in the local town to navigate, family mysteries to unravel and over-keen boys to handle.