Acclaimed director Tim Burton is reportedly in talks to direct a sequel to his 1988 dark comedy Beetlejuice, as “multiple individuals familiar with the project” tell TheWrap. These sources also indicate that Michael Keaton is expected to return to play the title role once more. The two would work from a script penned by Seth Grahame-Smith, writer of the detestable Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter movie adaptation and the excellent book that inspired it.
Bear in mind, Burton being “in talks” doesn’t actually guarantee anything. The sources seem to make it clear that the Dark Shadows director hasn’t yet chosen what his next project will be. It’s not clear how far along the talks are, but Keaton’s got a couple of big-ticket blockbusters coming up in RoboCop and Need for Speed. There’s no word on whether any of the original movie’s other stars might return, though fans likely wouldn’t cry to see the old gang back together: Winona Ryder, Alex Baldwin, Geena Davis, Jeffrey Jones, and Catherine O’Hara. What a cast, right?
Before you start getting excited, let’s take a moment to highlight Burton’s uneven track record in recent years. Dark Shadows was an unmitigated disaster, and both Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were, at best, middling. We’ve also seen Frankenweenie, Corpse Bride, and Sweeney Todd surface over the past decade, so it’s not all bad news. What’s more, those three movies demonstrate that Burton is still very much in tune with his dark humor. Is a Beetlejuice sequel the right move though?
Perhaps. It would be great to see Keaton suit up again as the ghost with the most. He still brings the funny in various supporting roles, and he’s demonstrated that he still has the manic energy to bring Beetlejuice to life. The danger of a sequel lies in the potential for alienating the audience that is most interested in it. Those who fell in love with the original back in 1989 are a good deal older now. A sequel that’s developed for the same crowd could be brilliant. Unfortunately, there’s always the danger in Hollywood franchise revivals like this one aiming for a broader audience. Burton is no stranger to this phenomenon (see also: Alice in Wonderland, Dark Shadows). In truth, he’s one of the worse offenders.
The problem with swinging broad on a remake/revival is you run the risk of homogenizing your product. Beetlejuice is a unique property, but so was Alice in Wonderland, or Dark Shadows, or any number of other, non-Burton efforts before they were revived. Remember that Total Recall remake from last year? No? Exactly.
What are your hopes and dreams for a Beetlejuice sequel? Do they involve a return of the other cast members (R.I.P. Otho)? Do you want the heavy focus on physical effects/makeup (over digital) to return? Are you dying (no pun intended) to see Saturn again?