Friday, October 19, 2012

Dark Shadows

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!

Dark Shadows – 3 out of 5

My experiences with Dark Shadows the soap opera is limited.  I never really watched the show with the exception of a few instances when I saw the repeats on SciFi.  So, sadly, I am unable to compare the Tim Burton film adaptation to the series but, since I’ve faded out reviewing television shows in favor of only reviewing movies for this blog, I think it works itself out because I’m only looking at this from a film perspective and not an adaptation perspective.  Kinda like when I reviewed The Hunger Games…I’m still receiving threatening emails for my dislike of that film.

"Um, eyes are up HERE."

Based on the gothic soap opera of the late 60/early 70s, the film tells the tale of Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp), a boy of wealth whose family made such a success that an entire city was named after them.  After setting the ire ablaze of one of their house employees (who turns out to be a witch) Barnabas finds his parents and the love of his life killed and he cursed to be a vampire.  The witch; Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), goes one step further and sealed Collins in a coffin to spend the rest of his immortal life--however, he wakes up several centuries later in the 70s and discovers that his once proud estate is now the home of his dysfunctional descendents that include Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer) having to control her emotionally unbalanced, budding teenage daughter (Chloe Grace Moretz), her nephew who sees the ghost of his dead mother and is being cared for by a doctor (played by Helena Bonham Carter) at all times, the child’s new caretaker; Victoria (Bella Heathcote) and the house’s odd caretaker; Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley).  However, to Barnabas’ discovery, not only did he return but Angelique never left and is now the crowned queen of the city that was once called Collinsport.

I thought Saruman was dead...nope, just retired the wizard thing for a quiet life
as a fisherman.

Going into Dark Shadows, I was filled with reserve for several reasons.  Number 1, I’ve never watched enough of the show to say I had a fanboy-like excitement to see it but the biggest reason I had my doubts going into this movie is the fact it is yet another Tim Burton/Johnny Depp joint.  I know I’m not the only person in the world that believes that this pairing needs to take a vacation because I’ve learned that I’m not the only one who refers to Johnny Depp as Tim Burton’s wife.  While it’s nothing new for a director to re-use actors from previous films--for example, this generation’s Stanley Kubrick (aka Christopher Nolen) has taken a liking to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cillian Murphy and Michael Caine and has used them in several films--but unlike most directors who work with the same actors, Burton keeps using Depp as his main character.  One must wonder if their friendship is really that deep (or deeper) or if one has dirt on the other.  This pairing has become so prevalent that it has become a satire of itself--almost an expectation with a Burton film. You’ve come to expect pop-culture, Hot Topic style trendy gothic tones, Danny Elfman still using the same track he’s used since he started working in movies, an overall phoned in attempt to cash in on his name and Depp leading the cast in a Burton film.

Oh no...Barnabas got the Kool-Aid man!

However, despite the tiresome duo, Dark Shadows was not a terrible film.  Burton did a tremendous job of setting up a beautiful visual style, a lavish tapestry of gothic architecture set within the 70s with a rich use of colors and shadows that make for a very visually pleasing film.  Despite this amazing use of tones, the film fails tremendously in the story department as it is an utter mess.  The plot is ragged with story elements being thrown in haphazardly, often with no real explanation.  For example, the character of Victoria bares a striking resemblance to Barabas’ lost love of days gone by and he quickly falls in love with her…the problem is that they never share any scenes together for this love to be justified from any logical standpoint.  This haphazard placement of story elements and erratic plot is seen in the characters as well as most of the Collins family members are not properly developed and elements of their back story, which should have been feathered out during the running length of the film, is quickly tossed in at the last second during the climax of the third act.

"Now I'm Hot Topic!"
(Two Hot Topic references in one review!  Achievement Unlocked!)

Even some of the acting seems out of balance but mirroring the chaotic nature of the film’s plot.  It’s expected to see Johnny Depp play an eccentric character--so much so that it’s impossible for the man to actually play a normal character and even more impossible for him to pull it off.  I admit I’m not the biggest fan of Depp.  There are a few movies I watch him in and not think, “Oh, it’s Johnny Depp hamming it up in AS such and such character,” rather than say, “Oh, this such and such character is PLAYED by Johnny Depp.”  To boil it down, I never see him as the character he’s playing but rather himself playing the character.  There are some exceptions like him in Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, Edward Scissorhands and, of course, he plays it like a boss as Captain Jack Sparrow!

Suddenly I like this movie a whole lot more...and my pants seem to have shrunk.

Unlike a majority of his films, I actually enjoyed Depp in this one.  He was particularly funny as Barnabas and his usual eccentricities that he jam-packs in every character he plays and his usually overacting actually worked to his benefit…not to mention his fake British accent he loves so much that he uses it on a daily basis worked in his favor, as well.

Alice Cooper took a break from State Fairs and casinos to be in this movie.

Hit Girl becomes a bitch teenager...
The biggest disappointment in the acting department was the scenery chewing performance of Chloe Grace Moretz.  Moretz is a great young actress with a bright future ahead of her but her performance in this film left a bad taste in my mouth--and it tasted like ham (and,as a vegan, I don't like the taste of ham).  It was very unlike her to overdo it the way she did in this movie.  It was almost like she was imitating and trying to out-overact her co-star Helena Bonham Carter…who, not surprisingly, played her role the same way she plays all her roles and was more of an annoyance than a strength to the film.

Oh Helana...if it wasn't for Burton, you'd be doing commercials.

Special mention has to be made to Eva Green whose performance as the enchantress witch Angelique was amazing.  She was so wickedly evil, I quickly found myself falling in love with her and I couldn’t understand why Barnabas would spurn her stalker-like advances.  But the man who really stole the show for me, and the man who had some of the least scenes, was Jackie Earle Haley as Willie Loomis.  Haley is already an established awesome actor but he showed that he can do comedy well and some of the funniest moments in the movie came with his awkward character.

You could cut glass with her cheekbones.

In spite of this inattention to details when it concerns the film’s story and plot, the movie makes up for it with its humor.  I already mention how funny Jackie Earle Haley was but Depp provided some great laughs and some of the physically slapstick thrown into this gothic tale was very entertaining.  Sometimes the jokes can be lame to the point of groaning but for every bad joke thrown in, a great one comes in behind it and makes you forget the lame ones and the inconsistent overall tone and story of the film.

After his experiences with the Collins, Loomis changed his name to Walter Kovacs,
put on a mask and started fighting crime as Rorschach.

As the credits rolled, I realized that Dark Shadows was better than I expected. While the film isn’t the most creative, unique or best movie Tim Burton has done, the film was still pretty entertaining.  The film severally lacks in consistency and a lot of acting can be unbearable but the film looks visually stunning and it’s pretty funny.  When you consider that Tim Burton hasn’t released a truly unique or creative film in the last decade plus and has been riding his name since he made A Nightmare Before Christmas, getting a mildly humorous, passably entertaining film is all once can ask for but I’m being serious when I say that Burton and Depp need to take a few years off from each other.


  1. Ron, you do realize that Helena Bonham Carter was making films for years, even being nominated for two Oscars, before she met Tim Burton, right? She's been acting since 1985 and she met Tim in 2000.

    1. I know...but Burton has been giving her the most steady paychecks in her career.


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