Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, despite (or maybe because of) its seemingly macabre packaging, seemed to me a good movie to watch–and I confess myself very much satisfied. The mind behind flamboyant fantasies like Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Alice in Wonderland as well as dark films like Edward Scissorhands and Sweeney Todd (sorry, but I am not a fan of his Batman films), Tim Burton in Corpse Bride pulled off another wonderful visual treat, as well as an endearing (if not melancholic) love story based on promises and trust.
Set in an unnamed Victorian village, the movie begins with the arranged marriage between the affluent middle-class Van Dorts and the Everglots, a bankrupt aristocratic family. Victor and Victoria (a nice play on names–voiced by Johnny Depp and Emily Watson, respectively), the groom and bride, develop an attraction for each other in spite of the supposed strictly businesslike relationship. However, as Victor practices his wedding vows in the woods, he unwittingly gives the ring–and his vows–to the Corpse Bride, Emily (Helena Bonham Carter), who immediately whisks her new husband off to the Underworld.
Although one may accuse Burton of playing his old cards Depp and Carter, no one, I believe, can say that the director/producer made the wrong shots. From the music to the visuals (notice how the denizens of the Underworld are much more colorful and vibrant than their pale living counterparts), the film’s play on the idea of life and death (dead love, dead heart, dead promises, and so on) enhances the story.
I liked the quaint piano scenes between Victor and Victoria as well as Victor and Emily: the beautiful music by Danny Elfman, a harmonious balance of light playfulness, yearning, and deathly melancholia, expresses much where mere words just cannot.
And I especially liked Emily’s character, whose heart, as Lord Barkis Bittern at once point mocks her, still breaks even though it has stopped beating. Still hurting from her failed love, she takes the chance of the un-lifetime with Victor, who, unfortunately, sees her not as the bride but as “the other woman.” Her personality is a mix of insecurity and spirit, brokenness and playful innocence. And, in the end, though Emily finds no new groom or new partner (and some movies, I think, do fall for such a trap), that Victor was willing to sacrifice himself for her was resolution enough, and the movie ends without the flamboyance of a “happily ever after”–but we know that everyone, us included, is satisfied.
Though the plot has its little loopholes (how stupid was Lord Bittern to drink that cup, among others), the overall strength of the film’s theme, soundtrack, and aesthetics makes Corpse Bride a must-watch. It definitely puts a spin to the vow, “‘Til death do us part.”