Thursday, May 10, 2012

Review: Dark Shadows (2012)

“You may strategically place your wonderful lips upon my posterior and kiss it repeatedly!”

Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer and Eva Green
Writer: Seth Grahame-Smith

There was a time when Tim Burton was one of my favourite directors. But things took a turn around about his remake of Planet of the Apes. Personally I don’t think he’s lost his talent, as at the very least he has one or two moments that shine, but I think he’s become very comfortable in what he does and doesn’t want to push himself. However in Dark Shadows I saw the potential to push him self once more; sure the first trailer didn’t fill me with hope but I was still hopeful.

First off the acting in this movie is pretty damn decent. Johnny Depp yet again plays a quirky character, but there is a hint of seriousness in this performance that is a little more refreshing than say the Mad Hatter or Jack Sparrow. Michelle Pfeiffer is excellent as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, she plays straight woman to all the other characters, but is strong enough to not be lost in the background. Eva Green is the villain of the piece, and brings forth a tonne of sexuality for the role, not to mention a creepy bloody voice when she get’s extremely witchy. All the other actors are fine in their roles but I think they suffer thanks to a movie that doesn’t spend the necessary time with them. For Bella Heathcote who plays Victoria Winters this is a massive problem as she is the main love interest for Barnabas Collins (Depp) and the movie does put this relationship at the centre, but never gives it enough time.

Visually the movie actually takes a step back from Burton’s usual style. While there are flourishes we’ve come to expect from him, most of the movie is guided by the era and a natural feel to it all. For the most part it works and allows the weirder colour schemes to stand out. It’s nice to see Burton break free from his standard look. The camerawork though is nothing to really write home about and for the life of me I can’t really remember anything that stood out.

Where the movie really falls apart is in the story. I’m not sure who can be blamed for this, but Seth Grahame-Smith has to shoulder most of the responsibility. The movie is overly long and yet crammed with too many story threads to really do service to all the characters. There are some plot points that just pop up out of nowhere, and you wonder why there was a need to put them in. This movie all most begs to be a series of movies as there is a wealth of stories to use, but in one fell swoop it’s blown it’s load so to speak. I’m not sure if it was a want to reference as many story lines from the original series as possible but it just didn’t work.

Another thing that doesn’t work is the clash of tones. The trailer made the movie look like a comedy that the family could all enjoy, but with very dark moments and lots of sex it just doesn’t really mesh. Barnabas as a vampire who has trouble adjusting to the new era is funny, but how can you laugh at a character who murders people in cold blood. I think this does come down to Burton trying to put his sensibilities into subject matter that really doesn’t gel with it. This is where I wish Burton would get brave and maybe try to make a movie with a more serious tone and leave the comedy alone.

My main problem with Burton is his seeming want to change things to his vision without giving any thought if it works or not. He is a talented director but he needs to make some brave moves. Overall I can’t say this movie is that bad, in fact other than maybe Big Fish it’s my favourite of his sense the Planet of the Apes, but if you are tired of Burton then this movie will not change your mind. Also parents should keep in mind that this is not a movie for kids and disregard the trailer.


  1. Your review rather supports my theory that this film was, at least from the point of view of whomever now controls properties that belonged to Dan Curtis, made first and foremost just to drain one last bit of cash from "Dark Shadows".

    (Yeah, I know that the film was in the works before Curtis died, but my dealings I had with Curtis' people back in the mid-1990s left me with a distinct impression that anything he would have had a hand in wouldn't have "blown its load" all at once.)

  2. It has some real moments that made me laugh and had me enjoyed, but Burton starts to lose himself by the end, therefore, he lost me. Could have been so much better and the only reason it is as good as it is, is because of Depp’s insane performance. Good review.