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I think I've been fairly vocal about my issues with the ongoing creative collaboration between Johnny Depp and Tim Burton. Sure, my favorite film of Burton's career stars Depp, but they've settled into a overly familiar rhythm to things, and it feels like the law of diminishing returns has kicked on.
On the other hand, the idea of Tim Burton making a new movie with Michael Keaton starring is exciting on many levels, and might honestly be some of my favorite news of the year. While I have many issues with the 1989 "Batman," I think overall, these two guys had a great rapport and they each push the other's sensibilities in important ways. I don't think Keaton is Burton's lost soul mate the way Depp seems to be, and that's a good thing. Keaton has a fast and strange comedy brain, and he made "Beetlejuice" feel dangerous in ways that Burton couldn't have pulled off with someone else in the role.
They've been trying to make a sequel to "Beetlejuice" since the first film came out, and they've gone through a ton of different approaches. I would love to spend a day reading all the various different drafts. I know both "Beetlejuice In Love" and "Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian" were titles they were using at different points. I think there's room to do this now, and certainly I feel like young fans are still being turned on to the film.
This new version of the sequel really seemed to get off the ground when Seth Grahame-Smith wrote "Dark Shadows" for Burton to direct even as Burton produced "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," which was based on Grahame-Smith's book. When you're dealing with a director like Burton and you're a studio trying to get him to commit to making a film, one of the smartest things you can do is hire people he has worked well with recently. Grahame-Smith will co-produce with David Katzenberg, and reports now have Tim Burton looking at the director's chair.
Michael Keaton has been way too scarce over the last decade, and I've had so many conversations with other films fans over the years who wonder why that's been the case. He has started popping up more and more often in supporting roles, though, and I've got to imagine seeing him play Beetlejuice again would be a treat. Burton seems like he's working on diversifying from the easy slam-dunks of things like "Alice In Wonderland" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." I'm excited to see the film he just wrapped, "Big Eyes," a true-life story scripted by Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander, and the book "Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children," which is being scripted by Jane Goldman, seems like a good fit but not a screamingly obvious and broad piece of material.
A "Beetlejuice" sequel would trump them all, though, if only because we don't see enough movies where Burton cuts loose with his most antisocial side, and that's what made his first few films so brutally funny. I would hope that Keaton and Burton both sign on to do this because it's finally the right version of the film, and not just because they finally threw enough money at them.
Michael Keaton will be onscreen in "Robocop" on February 7, 2014.