There is a trend among people who rise to the top too quickly: Their metaphorical wick tends to burn out faster and with a slightly more pathetic than usual flicker. Whether it's because of the constant pressure to produce material or the unrealistic expectations of managers, studios, and fans, the "stars" and "auteurs" who achieve success from the get-go do not appear as determined to hang on to their integrity. My case in point is one, Tim Burton, who, with his unquestionable creativity and inventiveness during the infancy of his career, drew the attention of notable names like Griffin Dunne and Paul Reubens in the early eighties with his offbeat projects, Vincent and Frankenweenie.
After directing Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, the door to Hollywood was wide open to Burton and he barreled through without ever looking back to the imagination of his former self, the aspiring demiurge who attended Cal Arts and passed the dull days in Burbank by concocting demented visions in his mind. His imaginitiveness remained intact for his next two film projects, Beetlejuice and Batman, even if it was the inception of Burton's perverse pattern of remakes and rip-offs. But then, in 1990, it looked as though the original Burton was making a comeback with what is, in my opinion, the zenith of his work, Edward Scissorhands.
The film was an incontrovertible triumph for Burton, who was able to secure his childhood obsession, Vincent Price, in the role of the inventor. After the critical acclaim garnered by Edward Scissorhands, Warner Brothers, now somewhat more trusting of Burton's abilities, granted him total control of the sequel to Batman, Batman Returns. Perhaps innovative by nineties standards, Christopher Nolan later proved himself to be the best director of the Batman series. Once Burton had cashed in on Batman, he returned (maybe guiltily) to his smaller scale roots with The Nightmare Before Christmas, his very last totally original effort. Following the animated phantasmagoria of Nightmare, Burton churned out adaptations and derivations consistently, including Ed Wood, James and the Giant Peach, Mars Attacks!, Sleepy Hollow, Planet of the Apes, Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and imminently, Alice in Wonderland. The sole work out of the past seventeen years created by Burton being Corpse Bride, a mere imitation of The Nightmare Before Christmas.
All of this begs the question: Where the hell has Burton's sense of ingenuity disappeared to? Was the last of it stolen by the ghost of Lewis Carroll or is Burton simply contented with the money he gets out of being Hollywood's go-to director for "weird" movies? While Burton's body of work is still something to be proud of regardless of being utterly devoid of his own ideas, I'm not sure there is any hope of him ever returning to the purely unprecedented and unconventional nature of his early films.