A few weeks ago Michael Keaton sorta kinda confirmed his involvement in Beetlejuice 2. Tim Burton appears to be directing. Seth Grahame-Smith is currently writing the script. While the film is still many, many steps away from a green light it’s certainly in development and there’s a reasonable chance it could happen. And, while there’s no guarantee this thing will be any good, it’s also not yet the assured disaster that Ghostbusters 3 is (should that film ever actually get off the ground).
But I’m actually hopeful it will be good. For one, Beetlejuice 2 seems to be retaining its main attraction – Michael Keaton. While you could make an argument that the concepts and worlds of both Ghostbusters and Beetlejuice have merits that would attract their respective fanbases no matter who was involved, there’s a big difference between attracting your fanbase and pleasing it. Ghostbusters 3 will be catastrophically hobbled by Bill Murray’s absence. Beetlejuice 2 may or may not bring back Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Winona Ryder or Catherine O’Hara (I seriously doubt they’d bring back Jeffrey Jones), but at least it has its marquee name. And Keaton’s recent work in films like The Other Guys suggests he still has the comic chops to pull it off.
But the main reason I’m able to be cautiously optimistic? Frankenweenie. Last year Tim Burton made a creative comeback by going back to the beginning of his career and reassessing it with new eyes and the result was wonderful. And unexpected. I honestly didn’t think he had a picture like that in him after Alice In Wonderland and Dark Shadows. Of course, like all of the best Tim Burton movies*, Frankenweenie underperformed at the box office. But I’m hopeful that he doesn’t let the sting of that perceived failure smother whatever may have reawakened inside of him.
Of course, Seth Grahame-Smith is writing the movie and I haven’t really been a huge fan of his film stuff thus far (I haven’t read his books but mashups most assuredly aren’t my thing). He even wrote Dark Shadows for Burton – which admittedly isn’t a great example of what these two are capable of when paired up. But I’m not prepared to disavow his ability to do good work just yet. Francis Lawrence, a director who has had several creative misses with films like I Am Legend and Water For Elephants, appears to have fashioned a truly great film out of the upcoming Catching Fire – so there’s always a chance for people to up their game. Plus, the world of Beetlejuice is fairly ripe with possibility.
So… yeah. There are hurdles here, I won’t lie. But if you had asked me if I thought Frankenweenie was going to be any good at this stage in its development I would have rolled my eyes. Instead, I saw the film and nearly cried them out. So while I’m not placing all of my chips on Beetlejuice 2 just yet, I at least feel semi-reasonable in my hope that it’ll work out. Every creative person has fallow periods, perhaps Burton has found a way out of his.
* Seriously. When your best film (Ed Wood) makes less than six million dollars and your worst (Alice In Wonderland) makes over a billion worldwide, that has to be a bit of a mindf*ck. Not every artist’s fallow period is so wildly successful.