After watching the Netflix series WednesdayI’ve been looking for kind words to say it, but I think that Tim Burton both in that phase of his career in which giving him “boiled” is kind enough. The cult author behind milestones like Edward scissor hands And Batman has for over a decade been committed to curbing a decline that has led him to replicate youthful intuitions in increasingly tired films, barring fortuitous exceptions (I have good memories of Big Eyesfor example, but I think there are only a few of us).
And what happens to those who have lost the impetus, the enthusiasm, the will to create? They become trademarks, stamps to be affixed to products that need a certain recognition. A seal of quality which however does not certify the quality but the belonging to a precise world, an emotional or visual universe that they have created in the past. In Burton’s case, the world in question is the gothic-childish imagery that moves between expressionism and consumer entertainment, where the border between the mundane and the horrid almost does not exist. Say “Tim Burton” and people will hear the noise of bizarre sets, concentric designs, stitches as graphic decoration, stories of the marginalized and misunderstood.
Netflix has well thought that to bring to life a new version of the Addams family – born in 1938 in the cartoons that Charles Addams made for the New Yorker – the right person was Tim Burton. On the other hand, the worlds of Addams and Burton seem made to be together, they have a peculiar sense of humor, black and playful, and both speak of outcasts who are not understood by society. And in fact Burton should have directed the film which was then made by Barry Sonnenfeld in 1991 (since he was busy with Batman).
In the series, to avenge his bullied brother, Wednesday goes too far, spilling two bags of piranhas into the pool where the bullies are training. She is thus expelled and sent to the Nevermore Academya school for special beings, including werewolves, vampires and mermaids, where Wednesday’s mother, Morticia, had also studied as a young girl.
At Nevermore, he meets the principal on Wednesday Larissa WeemsMorticia’s friend from school, roommate Enid Sinclairof the queen bee student White and the rest of the institution. In addition to school duties and adolescent skirmishes typical of his age, Wednesday will have to deal with the visions of death that catch her more and more oftena series of murders taking place in the nearby city of Jericho that appear to involve a monster, and the accusation that her father, Gomez, committed murder in his youth.
It is already clear from the second episode that neither the cartoons of Charles Addams nor Burton are the creative thrusts of this project. Wednesday is a part of Alfred Gough and Miles Millarscreenwriting duo already behind a Smallville And The Shannara Chronicles which took the Addamses’ eldest daughter and put her into a premise that it seems engineered in favor of algorithm.
Wednesday has a lightning start but then fades minute by minute an enfilade of banalities blended with the trends of contemporary TV seriesfrom the obligatory reference to social media as an element characterizing youth to similar atmospheresChilling Adventures of Sabrina. There are Pottery thrills (the school tournament, the house bands), pretty faces to fantasize about, the hormone, the mystery, a moderate dose of violence, the dark academia – with the libraries, the soft light, the uniforms, the dungeons and everything else.
Attempting to innovate the canvas already used in previous film and television productions, the authors have transformed Wednesday into a teenager whose innate sadism seems to be a typical behavior of her age, while when she was little, her age innocence and passion for the macabre created a humorous contrast. More than a character trait, Wednesday’s vision of the world becomes a gag, an obstacle to overcome in order to learn the values of sharing, empathy and tolerance. Instead of underlining its uniqueness and enhancing it (or criticizing it, but still recognizing it), the series seems to want to communicate to the public that Wednesday, the strange, the marginalized, can learn to be like everyone else. One wonders what Tim Burton has ever seen in these scripts that play with the figure of the outcast in the most glossy and cloying way possible.
Tim Burton and the Addams are in fact there as a commodity, a brand that seals an identity, visual and emotional, but which does not bring a concrete value. The director’s hand disappearsdrowned by hormonal melò and yellow, and emerges only to mottle the episodes with some of his mannerisms, such as the overdose of striped clothing, preferably black and white. Wednesday satisfies audiences looking for a series of love affairs and mysteries. He does it with dignity and skill, but it’s not exactly what one would have imagined thinking of Tim Burton’s Addams.