-May Contain Spoilers-
Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands is a genuine spectacle of a movie. By turns visually stunning, romantic, suspenseful, amusing, postmodern, and deeply touching, it leaves a stronger impression on me with each viewing, never once showing its 20 years, and more importantly after all these years it remains one of the most unique, satisfying, and downright perfect pieces of cinema ever made.
On a spectacular and sprawling yet (mostly) abandoned Gothic castle high on a hill surrounded by mouthwatering gardens and views lives an artificial man named Edward (Johnny Depp), whose old inventor's (Vincent Price) death left him completely alone and with sharp metal shears for hands. But then one day he is rescued from this life of mundane isolation by Peg Boggs (Dianne Wiest), a kindly local Avon representative who takes him home to live with her and her family, her everyman husband Bill (Alan Arkin), their typical girl-next-door teenage daughter Kim (Winona Ryder) and cheeky younger son Kevin (Robert Oliveri). He becomes a hit with the locals for his amazing gift for hairdressing and dog-grooming, but that is hardly what he will remember most about this experience. Like in any true fairytale, Edward immediately finds himself infatuated over Kim and (though they first meet with disastrous results) Kim slowly finds herself feeling the same way for this artificial but uncommonly gentle and kind man. But when her rough boyfriend Jim (Anthony Michael Hall) finds out about this and tries to stop it by tricking Edward into committing a crime, a series of events transpire that put Edward in great harm.
Visually, Edward Scissorhands is almost impossible to beat as you'd expect from a director whose first job in the movie business was as an animator at Walt Disney Studios. The sets are jaw-dropping in both their design and construction, with the sets of the spooky Gothic castle and the Boggs' brightly colored suburban street wonderfully juxtaposing the life of nearly complete isolation that in the beginning Edward only knows to the very friendly, close-knit and normal suburban environment from which he is eventually cut off once again in the end. Stefan Czapsky's cinematography, while (perhaps smartly) restrained for the first two acts, is astonishing in the unforgettable ice angel sequence the best scene Burton has ever filmed and in the almost equally perfect climax, the editing is fluid and Burton crafts one of his best personal opening credits sequences of all. And the brilliant Danny Elfman's score is nothing short of astonishing, becoming (like the scores of most films that depend heavily on any kind of music) absolutely instrumental in the effect of the finale.
Caroline Thompson's (who helped Burton develop the concept for the movie) screenplay is an underrated gem, and working from it Burton also succeeds in making a fantasy movie that is not just real eye candy, but also an amazingly well-acted fantasy movie. Ryder succeeds in displaying a far nicer side as opposed to the strong cynicism she showed in the hilarious Heathers and Burton's earlier work Beetlejuice, and she truly makes you believe a girl like Kim could fall for an artificial guy with metal shears for hands, Wiest's sweet as pie warmth has never been put to better use as the kind but slightly na´ve woman who sees past Edward's exterior and tries to help him fit in.But none of them can hold a candle to Depp, who's never been better before or since as he is here, astonishingly portraying with great dignity, subtlety and barely 100 words of dialogue (and let's not forget he had to endure a very tight leather suit and the afore-mentioned "metal" shears for hands and on that note a shout-out to the late, great make-up artist Stan Winston) an uncommonly gentle and kind but misunderstood and isolated artificial man who is hurt emotionally when he discovers that even the lightest touch with his scissor hands inflicts pain.
There are directors with distinctive styles and then there are geniuses like Tim Burton, whose extraordinarily vast, individual and visual imaginations are complimented by a real interest in telling beautiful stories to provide viewers with a film that will ultimately reach them on a personal level as well as dazzling their senses. He is one of the all-time gods not just of film-making, but of the arts in general, and with this film he is truly at the height of his powers. Burton still considers this to be his most personal film, and it thoroughly shows. He has and will never top this.