5 Reasons Why Burton’s Wonka Movie is Better than That Other One

The Unremitting Weirdness

I’m not sure if this movie has a reputation for being commercial or not, but it’s one of the most bizarre children’s flicks to hit screens in the past decade. Dahl’s story is warped to begin with, but Burton seems eager to take that bent texture and dial it up to full-blown zaniness.

Just look at Depp’s performance. I can’t really pick a favorite between him and Wilder overall, but I know who wins for sheer ballsiness. Depp’s Wonka is a creepy, alienating figure, a man who’s clearly not gotten out much in his life and hasn’t come out the better for it. There’s hardly a safe moment in his whole routine, really.

The film’s humor, too, is a weird mix. It’s got a childish element to it (“Back off, you little freaks!”) but occasionally finds itself crossed with surrealism (Dr. Wonka’s very literal cut-and-run) or full-fledged metafiction:

“Do you have these flashbacks often?”
“Increasingly… today…”

Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory isn’t safe, reasonable, familiar, or cool. In many ways, it’s the iconic director at his most out there.

All this wackiness — aside from making the movie interesting on a pure production level — really pays off. During the scene in the glass elevator (one of the movie’s more inspired bits), Mike Teavee asks a very legitimate question:

“Why is everything here completely pointless?”

To which Charlie responds:

“Candy doesn’t have to have a point. That’s why it’s candy.”

Maybe it’s just me, but that simple truth alone puts the whole enterprise above its predecessor.

Now, the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory isn’t ENTIRELY better than that other one. I think I’d prefer most of the other child performances in the 70’s version, for instance. But Burton’s take more than justifies its existence, and proves to be one of the stronger remakes of recent years. It deserves its place next to Wilder’s nostalgic favorite.

  • Frothy_Ham

    Meh, I just can’t get behind the Burton version.

    Bearing in mind, I grew up watching the Wilder version over and over so there is a sentimental attachment and bias. The issues I have in particular with the Burton version are as follows:

    Overuse of CGI distracted from the fairly simple plot. It felt like a case of using crazy CGI effects just because they had the budget, but it contrasted too starkly against the practical effects and took me out of the movie. The over designed set pieces basically did the same thing.

    The only actor I enjoyed at all was Freddie Highmore, and thats because he wasn’t going out of his way to overact or play a cariacture of a human…he seems like a real little boy. Those that DID overact did it so woodenly, and it all just felt too disingenuous even within its own fantasy world.

    I also felt the background story for Willy Wonka felt tacked on, and really not genuine enough to evoke an emotional reaction from me. The melodrama used didn’t match the events taking place.

    The sum it all up, it just felt too awkward and in need of a lot of editing during every step of the creation.

  • Avi

    All those things may or may not be right. That is irrelevant. The main character of each movie, Willy Wonka, was completely different and Wilder was clearly superior. You focused on pieces that were not the main part of the film.

  • J5



    I disagree, mainly for the same reason that Avi stated:

    Gene Wilder > Johnny Depp.

    I still enjoyed the newer movie, just not to the extent that I would consider it in the same league as the Wilder version. Also, those Oompa Loompa dance pieces in the newer version were god awful.

    I did like the Mike TV character in the new one a lot more, though. Just a rage gamer that reminds me of my nephew.

  • Nicholas

    I agree with Avi and Frothy Ham. In the Wilder version, Willy acted mean or bizarre but thats all it was an act. He setup the factory as a test to pass on. He wanted someone good hearted to take over . In Burton’s, I never had that feeling for Willy. Willy was more of a lost child. His backstory actually took away from the movie. It took the magic of Wonka away. Wilder’s still had the character as mysterious.

    I agree the CGI was way overused. I liked the old Ompaloopas. Them all looking the same was just a turn off.

    The mean difference between the two really is that the Burton one was more dark, and the original while having dark moments was more light.

    It’s good your a Burton fan but that’s coloring your view. Next your going to say that Marky Mark Planet of the Apes is better than the original.

  • Justin

    The new one was alright, it does have a place on my shelf. But any argument that the new film is better than the old one is instantly crushed by Gene Wilder.

    Incidently, while the articles are often interesting and well written, I always know its a David R editorial when it’s about movies and I disagree with everything in it.

  • Lima Zulu

    I too favored the Burton film, though it made me quite the persona non grata in many social circles.

    Throw in my love for the Speed Racer film and, well…

  • Hallamq

    I agree with the article. I’m not a huge fan of either film but in the end it comes down to a story (no, it doesn’t come down to Depp or Wilder), and the way that story is told in the old version feels dated. I watched the old version recently and it bored me. It may have been a superior film when it was realeased, but it hasn’t aged well, except for some parts of Wilder’s performance. However, as I said, the new version is no gem either.

  • Luke

    David, while I respect your reasoning and can see why you would make such claims, I’m with Justin when I say I’m afraid you’re just not the person I’m going to go to for movie references based on so many differences of opinion. Good article, though, so keep it up!

  • trashcanman

    Kudos on having the balls to commit this to the internet jungle, thus inviting the possibility of the great shitstorm of our time. Maybe I’m old school like that, but I very much prefer Wilder in the role, although I did enjoy Burton’s version and Depp’s predictably wacky performance.

  • Gotta agree with Mr. Frothy Ham above. Way too much CGI, just didn’t make it look right.

    Plus, I liked Wilder a lot better.

  • Caleb K

    I’m not usually one to sit on the fence but due the sheer mediocrity of both versions of this movie I see them both as being pretty even with each other. Which raises the question. Why even bother with remaking an average piece of entertainment in the first place?

  • Vince

    Gene Wilder > Johnny Depp
    Iconic songs > Burton-tastic weirdness
    Oompa Loompas > Multiple CGI Deep Roys

    Those three points are more than enough to out the original way ahead of the new one.

  • Godotzilla

    Yeah, you’re full of it. The Wonka backstory was unnecessary, a hamfisted attempt to explain why the dude’s so weird. As if we need to know that. A little unknown goes a long way to creating a mythic character.

    Wilder’s Wonka was far superior because you never knew which way he was going, zig or zag. He might hug you, he might shove you down a greasy dumpster chute. He was dark and mysterious, yet intriguing and fun. Depp played him like a closeted pedophile. No warmth, no fun, just oodles of (unwelcome) creepy.

    And the oompah-loompahs in Burton’s film sucked–way too much Deep Roy. And let’s not even get started on the kids. The first Veruca ruled. As did Mike TV.

    The original was dazzling and inviting. The Burton version is all cold, hard surface and uneven narrative–just like most of his films.

    But then, I don’t know why I’m wasting my breath: you clearly posted this to provoke. It’s the only explanation for why anyone would favor Burton’s piece of shit over an undisputed classic.

  • Lima Zulu

    Got to love that ego, where the only possible reason to disagree with YOU is for attention.

    Jerk yourself off somewhere else, Zilla. We aren’t too keen on watching your finisher.

  • Jake


  • RichMahogany

    The fuck is this shit?! *checks calendar* It’s nowhere near April 1st! I just don’t understand this at all.

  • YaddaYoda

    People get way too emotional about this. Burtons film is not a remake of the original. Its his version of a movie based on the book. The book called ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’. NOT ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’.

  • Donovan

    Mr. Wilder’s terrific insight into his character:


    Burton has gotten too indulgent in his later years (Dark Shadows, anyone?)… and although Depp is always entertaining, the lost child-Michael Jackson-esque Wonka was offputting, see also the CG replicated Indian Oompas…

  • Straenge

    As a long time fan of Burton and Depp and will almost religiously watch everything they do, even I have to agree with most of the comments.

    The problem is that Burton did one thing right, he kept to the original book, more or less which many haven’t read while there will always be the Mel Stuart/Wilder version that people will refer to and which will always be the greater of the two for one simple fact. Mr. Wilder’s version of the character was greater than Johnny Depp’s. But also, again we have to consider the CGI aspect where with Burton who moved away from Practical effects more and more (thankfully, I think he is starting to return to at least) overused it greatly in the film.

    It’s just sad because it could have been a great movie based on the original book and I agree with one thing about this article above all else. The actor who played Charlie could not have been better in the Burton version. He was, to me at least, one of the only actors/characters in the movie that made the most sense.