Ror Reviews: DARK SHADOWS
Tim Burton's latest - a big screen adaptation of the cult '60s tv show - hasn't gone over too well with critics, but does it deserve the backlash? Click for my take..
Tim Burton is certainly a polarizing director. Many people seem to either love or hate his movies and his style. Personally I think most of his films are pretty great (Batman, Beetlejuice, Ed Wood, Sweeney Todd etc), but there is no denying that he has thrown out a few stinkers too. Now quite a few critics would have you believe Dark Shadows falls into the latter category, and while it's true that it doesn't reach the heights of his best work, it in no way deserves to be cast down with the Alice In Wonderland crew either.
It is a damn strange movie though - and not always in a good way. Despite what the trailers would suggest, Dark Shadows is most definitely not a comedy. The humor is there of course - thankfully it works most of the time too - but the darker, horror elements are more prevalent than you would think going by WB's marketing for the movie. Johnny Depp plays Barnabas Collins, cursed to be a vampire by the ridiculously hot witch Angelique (Eva Greene) and buried in a coffin. Fast forward a couple of hundred years and Barnabas fins himself free (thanks to some unfortunate workmen), and returns to his family home of Collinwood to find it still occupied by a motley crew of distant relatives. But Angelique is still around too, and when the Collins's attempt to get the family business back on track, things get very messy. Unfortunately that's also the word that best describes the movie as a whole.
Early on the tone is maintained pretty well - the humor balanced nicely with a bit of blood and even a few genuinely creepy moments. But after a while it becomes a bit tedious, and the plot never gets the kick in the ass it really needs. As our main protagonist, Barnabas is not exactly easy to like. He murders quite a few people, and doesn't even really seem to be choosy about who his victims are. Anyone outside of the Collins family being fair game. Sure Depp's performance and his tragic past help evoke our sympathies, but one action late in the movie almost makes you want to see him get his comeuppance , and not triumph over Angelique at all. Burton and Depp have said that they wanted to give us a real vampire again after so much Twilight brooding and posing, and that's great. But if you're going to essentially make you're hero out to be a villain then you need another character that the audience can relate to to balance things out. I assume that was supposed to be Victoria (Bella Heathcote), but after being established as a major character at the beginning, she is virtually absent from the last act of the movie. The rest of the Collins family are treated similarly, none of them getting enough screen time for us to give a damn about any of them.
Performances are all fine though, with Depp on form as Barnabus. If you're not a fan of his this won't change that, but I think he did a great job. Greene too is very good, she overdoes it a bit at the end maybe but then the story does call for it. It's great to see Michele Pfieffer back on the big screen looking so well, but I'm afraid she doesn't do much other than stand around - likewise the rest of her family, aside from Chloe Moretz who it turns out has a few secrets of her own, and if her little moment seems to come out of nowhere, it is at least good fun.
As is the movie as a whole. If Burton had maintained the pace and tone set at the start, and just focused on delivering a solid gothic horror with a few laughs instead of a mishmash of so many different things, I think this might have been a truly great movie, instead of just a great looking one. But even though it becomes very silly by the end, it's still well worth seeing. If you're a Burton fan, you won't be disappointed. And even if you're not usually you might just find yourself having a good time
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