Tim Burton, you’ve gotten lazy

 WARNING:  If you are planning on seeing this movie please don’t keep reading for two reasons: 1) there are some spoilers and 2) It’s not the most positive review I’ve given, and it may tarnish your idea of the film…

Dark Shadows follows the life of Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp, pretty much any Tim Burton film); from when he is cursed into becoming a vampire by heartbroken servant (and witch) Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green, Casino Royale), who also kills his parents, his lady love, and curses his family, before locking him in a coffin for 200 years (she’s a real treat); to 1972, when Barnabas escapes his coffin, is reunited with his extended family and tries to get the business back on track.

On top of that, he falls for the delightful governess Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote, TV show Neighbours), who also happens to be a dead ringer of his dead lady love (who she conveniently continues to see as a ghost…go with it)  Only problem is, crazy witch from hell Angelique is still around, and she wants to get with Barnabas (but can you blame her?  It’s Johnny Depp!)…even if it means playing the old kill-everyone-you-love card.

For me, there were several problems with the film; most of which was the disjointed, unfinished, largely unexplained storyline.  I understand that it was based on a TV show, and original fans might understand what the heck was going on, but I had no idea.

First off, Eva Green’s character, Angelique, didn’t seem to be in the film enough to explain her bonkers behaviour for Barnabas.  She swanned in, made her point, got laid, and then let all hell break loose (again).  Yet this was over a period of 2 hours, so there were big chunks of the movie when she wasn’t around, and you kinda forgot she was part of the storyline.

Secondly, the children.  I didn’t appreciate how they introduced crazy little David at the beginning of the film as though he were going to be a major part in the story, only to have him practically disappear except right at the end, when his ghost mother conveniently had the ability to finally kill Angelique.  Seriously…what?  And the daughter, Carolyn, who appears moody, partially stoned, and all around weird, just happens to be a werewolf…Honestly, I’m not making this stuff up.

Thirdly, I felt that the relationship between Barnabas and Victoria was underdeveloped, and her connection to his previous love was unexplained…was she the reincarnation of her?  Was she the ghost of her in human form?  I still don’t really know.

However, there were aspects of the film that were done terrifically.  Like all Tim Burton films, the visual aspects were perfect; from the gothic castle, to the weird but wonderful costumes and make-up they each had.

While the overall storyline wasn’t great, certain bits of the writing do stand out, particularly the run of jokes that are made about the fact that Barnabas is really from the 1760s (the use of hip-related jokes are a favourite).

In particular, these jokes were well delivered by the always wonderful Johnny Depp.  He has a way of acting that involves a lot of movement, and use of props and space around him, to the point that it’s almost effeminate.  Yet, as Barnabas Collins this worked perfectly.  It slightly softened the otherwise borderline-terrifying vampire, and allowed the jokes to run smoothly.

Overall, I think one of the main problems with this film is that Tim Burton has gotten complacent.  He has the same cast as a great deal of his other films; Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, the same music guy, Danny Elfman, and overall the same set-up; gothic, heavy make-up, elaborate costumes, and a lot of dark.  Throw in the use of the mise-en-scene, references to German Expressionism and essentially Dark Shadows was the same as EVERY OTHER TIM BURTON FILM.

And while I understand that directors are known for having a certain style and flair, I also believe that it’s important, both as artists, and as professionals, to try and push forward and try something differently.  If Johnny Depp is being asked to essentially play the same character in most of the films he’s doing, he fails to develop as an actor, and many people tire of that.  More importantly though, films like Dark Shadows are produced, which has a lot of potential, yet falls flat because Tim Burton believes that his core group of fans will continue to watch his films.

I’d give this film 2.5/5 stars.  It wasn’t terrible, the acting was very good (except for Eva Green’s voice…what the heck was that about?), and clearly Tim Burton and his team know what they’re doing, but I felt like it could have been a lot better than it was.

Also…I really liked how attractive Johnny Depp was as a vampire…Just saying.

Have you seen Dark Shadows?  What did you think of the film?

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