REVIEW: 'Dark Shadows'
Friday, May 11, 2012
Dark Shadows is your classic "girl falls in love with boy, can't have boy" story. Classic, that is, if the girl is really a witch and she turns the boy into a vampire. Thus is the basis of Dark Shadows, the Tim Burton-directed Johnny Depp movie. Based on the 1960s television series of the same name, the film moves the action into the 1970s, but keeps Barnabas Collins as a Victorian man who is cursed to be a vampire.
Being Burton and Depp's 1,000th collaboration (seriously, look it up on Wikipedia), the movie has a familiar feel to it. If you've seen Alice in Wonderland or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, you'll recognize the tone right away. Which is one of its biggest problems. Burton and Depp have fallen into a rut. Burton gets behind the camera, Depp slaps on some makeup and funny hair, and Helena Bonham Carter probably shows up, cast in role that no other director would ever cast her in.* Many directors and actors have their favorite people to work with. Think of the great films Martin Scorsese has made with Robert De Niro or Leonardo DiCaprio. Sadly, Burton and Depp aren't making those kinds of movies.
Dark Shadows, while beautifully shot in shades of grey with splashes of technicolor, is kind of a mess. The movie starts out strongly, laying out Barnabas' backstory and his history with Angelique, the witch who wants him to love her. Barnabas' introduction to 1970s society, while hokey and predictable, is fun and Depp appears to be enjoying the role. Things go bad when the movie has to figure out how to resolve its plot.
When the time comes to end the movie, it's clear that Seth Grahame-Smith, who was responsible for the screenplay, had no idea how to wrap things up. In fact, most of the movie's climax comes off as a giant middle finger to anyone who bothered to become invested in the characters or story. (SPOILER ALERT) New supernatural creatures randomly show up. It turns out that Chloë Moretz's character was actually a werewolf the entire time, and is even given dialogue along the lines of "Yeah, I'm a werewolf, so what?" to justify the plot point. Ghosts are introduced, statues come to life and the delicate plot crumbles down. (END SPOILER ALERT)
That said, I do have to point out that Eva Green, best known for her role as Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale, is very good in Dark Shadows. As an actress, she seems to rarely get roles that allow her to chew scenery and actually have some fun. As Angelique, Green gets that chance, bouncing from collected to manic, often threatening Barnabas in raspy yet seductive tones.
This needs to be the last Burton-Depp collaboration. They are too good at what they do to get to stuck in this trap of just producing junk movies. Doesn't Scorsese or Christopher Nolan have a project they'd like to work with Depp on? Doesn't Burton have a story in mind that would be perfect for Christian Bale or Andrew Garfield? We get that you guys like working with each other — just show us something new. Dark Shadows is not that something new.
*With the exception of Tom Hooper. I have no idea who thought Carter was Oscar-worthy in The King's Speech, but that actually happened.