What crippling self-doubt keeps Tim Burton awake at night? What uncertainty plagues him? What terrible demon haunts his dreams and malevolently whispers sour nothings into his sleeping ear?
And wouldn't it be great if he'd sort it out already?
I've been pondering these questions on the back of the news that Burton's been called on to reimagine Disney's dusty old animated flick Dumbo.
From the House of Mouse's perspective he's a solid choice. The dude is a reimagining, money-making machine. Nobody else comes anywhere near his reimagining track record.
If you have something that somebody else has already imagined, then without a doubt Tim Burton is the go-to-guy to get that shiz reimagined.
It won't be any good, of course. It doesn't need to be. That's not the objective. But for the purposes of discussion let's disregard finance and instead focus on the art.
There are no three words in all of Pop Culture-dom that fill me with more groan-inducing dread than "Tim Burton's reimagining".
For all his individualistic creative flair and distinctive artistic vision the dude has proven time and time again that he can't reimagine his way out of a paper bag. And that's what's so vexing.
At this point I really feel the phrase should be changed to "Tim Burton's ruination" because that is a wholly more accurate summation of what happens whenever he's given the opportunity to let his reimagination run wild.
And this is what I don't get. Burton's actual imagination is great. His signature quirky, goth-lite style and idiosyncratic cinematic obsessions once worked together to conjure up macabre classics like Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice and the dark-before-it-was-cool Batman Returns.
Whereas when his reimagination's let loose he excretes cinematic waste like Planet of the Apes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland. Lemons, turkeys, travesties.
Yeah sure, they made truckloads of cash but this just adds to my Burton confusion. Financially, he's now clearly sorted. Powerwise, he must have a lot. I'm sure he'd have no trouble pursuing passion projects and getting them onscreen.
I guess he does do this a little with the various animations that come out carrying his name. Fair enough. He is an animator by trade after all.
But as far as live action goes he generally seems content to just breeze along, piggybacking off of somebody else's already successful work. And that just seems like a giant waste of a very singular talent.
I'd thought, quite wrongly as it turns out, that last year's biopic Big Eyes was a signal that the old school Burton might be staging a comeback.
It was, for him, a low budget and modest little flick. It was also pretty good, receiving a positive critical response and making over double its budget at the box office. In every sense of the word it was a success.
What it wasn't, sadly, was any kind of precursor of a blossoming artistic renaissance. A quick squiz at his schedule for the years ahead highlights a retreat into his reimagination as he goes about adapting a book, an old film and his own old film.
It's a line up that's financially prosperous but creatively bankrupt. Unless you truly believe that the guy has long harboured a burning desire to reimagine the story of a bullied flying elephant. Which, for the record, I don't.
But whatevs. He owes us nothing and we all got bills to pay. He's a movie director making a living directing blockbuster movies. Living the dream.
Besides, if he wants to squander his very real artistic skills borrowing other people's ideas then that's his business. I would, however, very much like to know why.
Where's the self-belief at Timmy? You can do it! Don't listen to the voices. Unfurl your gothically inspired and cartoonishly evil wings and fly, man. Don't settle for reimagining Dumbo. Be Dumbo. You big dumbo.
Maybe I've got it all wrong. But if you think so go back and watch any of Burton's early films. You'll quickly find that his imagination trumps his reimagination every time.