Tim Burton has often been accused of focusing more on style over story, a criticism that wasn’t warranted, for example, with regard to “Ed Wood,” or even “Edward Scissorhands.” However, it’s an apt comment to make in light of “Corpse Bride,” which is full of wonderful imagery, funny moments, and amazing animation but ultimately falls victim to a passive protagonist.
Rather than drive the action, Victor simply goes along for the ride during the course of this tale. He’s set to wed Victoria in an arranged marriage that’s supposed to help his parents improve their social standing while keeping her parents from the poorhouse. The beginning of the film sets up an intriguing clash of class dynamics, but Victor starts to fall for Victoria the first time he meets her, thus ridding their relationship of any possible tension as the story unfolds.
He still manages to screw up while rehearsing for the wedding, however, and while practicing his lines that night he accidentally “marries” the Corpse Bride, who pulls him into her world. Despite his situation, though, he doesn’t seem to want out of there very badly, and when he learns that Victoria will be marrying someone else, he resigns himself to life with the Corpse Bride too easily. Even the battle against the bad guy at the end results in his elimination without Victor doing much to make it happen. I wish Burton and company had put as much work into the story as they put into the delicious visuals.
This DVD doesn’t feature a Burton commentary, but it does include seven micro-featurettes that run less than 10 minutes each: “Inside the Two Worlds,” “Danny Elfman Interprets the Two Worlds,” “The Animators: The Breath of Life,” “Tim Burton: Dark vs. Light,” “Voices From the Underworld,” “Making Puppets Tick” and “The Voices Behind the Voice.” That last one shows clips from the film in one part of the screen while we watch the actors record their lines in another.
The rest of those clips are pretty self-explanatory, I think. They basically touch on the major aspects of making the film—creating the world, the genesis of the story, building and animating the puppets, scoring the film, casting the roles, and so forth—but never dip too deep into the subject matter before they end. It’s all very EPK-ish material, unfortunately.
This may be a minor thing, but I wish DVD producers would simply string video this short into one featurette, or at least include a “Play All” button.
The last featurette, “The Corpse Bride Preproduction Galleries,” runs about 13 minutes and is actually the best of the bunch. We see footage of each of the main puppets in the film, from early stages of construction to test footage of the final product, running under Elfman’s score. There’s some interesting footage here, including a slightly different version of the opening scene with Victor.
This DVD concludes with the theatrical trailer and a music-only track. If Warner Bros. wasn’t going to spring for more in-depth documentary materials, I wish they would have at least brought Burton in for a commentary. This is one of those skimpy releases that makes you wonder if a more elaborate Special Edition is in the works.
Of course, do you need a two-disc, jam-packed Special Edition if the film is only so-so? I’d say no, but I realize there are probably Burton fans out there who eat this stuff up, so I’m sure Warner Bros. will eventually cater to them with a more elaborate release. In the meantime, this is at least worth a rental.