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Tim Burton is probably one of the best choices to direct a Dark Shadows
movie. He's always good at making Dark, Gothic films and everyone's
expecting it to be something like Sweeney Todd and Sleepy Hollow.
Instead, it has a hybrid of Corpse Bride and Beetlejuice. It begins
with decent gloominess but the rest is scattered with groovy soundtrack
and colorful images. But that may not be the problem. It's actually
pretty good at recapturing the 70's. The main problem is the plot
development. It's fun but also disappointing.
It looks promising in the beginning. Tim Burton uses his campy directing style which made the intro intriguing. It get silly when Barnabas returns from his grave. Exploring the changes of his town. It's quite funny and delightful. There's a good character development in this that made it entertaining. Johnny Depp gives a delightful performance as Barnabas Collins. Eva Green is quite menacing as Angelique. Jackie Earle Haley and Helena Bonham Carter are the extra comic relief. Chloë Moretz is always good at bad girl roles.
There's a lot of fun going on, but in the end, the experience feels like something's missing. It could have been an interesting story but it ends pretty lazy. There are couple of senseless twists that aren't consistent. At least there is something good in the filmmaking. The production design is quite decent and sometimes unlikely colorful. Postmodern music are played often which made Danny Elfman's music score hard to notice. But these merits can't fix the film's storytelling.
Dark Shadows is undeniably entertaining and nothing else. There are things that could have been better. I don't think the colorful groovy look is the problem. It just needs a better ending that gives consistency to the story. People can still give it a try for its camp. There's a true vampire here that is nothing like our modern vampires. Dark Shadows is not bad. It's just unsatisfying. It has the color, life, and all but what's missing is a proper plot development.
Let's leave it all at the door here. I loved Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and Batman. Hated Batman Returns, Alice in Wonderland, and Willy Wonka. Could care less about Nightmare before Christmas and Sweeney Todd. Okay, so I'm not a Tim Burton hater. I'm not a huge Tim Burton fan. I think in this situation, I'm as close as you get to the average movie goer. No agenda, no attachments. That being said, this film is terrible. Burton spent so much effort and time worrying about making this film Gothic and off pace, stuffing his favorite actors into the film even though half of their parts were pointless, he forgot he was making a film. It's a simple and fun idea but it feels like ego and "showiness" kept them from making the plot even make sense. We get it Tim! You are weird! Don't ruin a good performance by Depp and a fun idea for a film because you have to live up to your own Gothic standards. Grow up. So much talent is wasted on these films having the same look, cast, and feel to them. Take that talent and make something fresh! Stretch yourself just a tad out of that Hot Topic comfort zone will ya? This movie was long, boring, and ruined. All of the funny scenes were in the trailer. By the way.... wasn't this supposed to be the 70's? Other than a shot or two of trees and a hippie van it was just like the set of Sweeney Todd. The whole film felt like London in the 40's. That's bad film making whether your name is Tim Burton or not.
Oh the possibilities that were missed here. Except for the character names and a similar architecture in the house this film bares very little resemblance to DARK SHADOWS. The movie starts out beautifully and then goes off in so many awkward directions that it never finds what kind of movie it's trying to be. A few scattered laughs here and there do not compensate for a poorly conceived story that meanders itself to the point of being dull and confusing. What can you say about a movie that only comes to life in it's montages set to a pop songs from the early 1970's? Depp doesn't even attempt to capture any of the guilt ridden angst of Barnabas Collins. His Barnabas is a trick or treat Pirates of the Caribbean, very much like a kid playing dress up on Halloween and with two emotions, upset and more upset. Film has some nice set pieces but Burton doesn't bring any true Gothic feeling or sense of dread to the surroundings. The script has that throw everything up against the wall and see what sticks feel to it. Burtons direction comes off in a conveyor belt "okay, let's shoot this one" tone with interest only in visuals, which are striking. He's really more of a visual artist than he is a film director. Indeed, one gets the feeling that this film would never have been made if not for Johnny Depp and his love for the original series which is evident here. It's unfortunate that he relies too heavily on make up to carry his performance. Helean Bonham Carter has no interest in being in the film and it shows, doing it only as a favor to her husband. Eva Green is the type of actress Tim Burton is attracted to and loves to cast in his films, but she possesses little of Angelique's spellbinding jealousy. The only one in the cast that has a hint of what these surroundings should be played like is Michelle Pfeiffer. She is the Grande dame of Dark Shadows capturing both the Gothic feel of the original story and the magnificence of the character.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
With the admonition, "I never liked the bitch anyway," the Willie
character in the new DS dispatched my favorite Dark Shadows character,
pretty much summing up Depp and Burton's apparent opinion of her. For
me, Dark Shadows was about Julia and Barnabas. Their chemistry created
the dynamic that made the show work for me. I'm not only a first-
generation DS fan, I'm the co-author of the Dark Shadows Companion.
Johnny Depp, supposedly a first-generation fan, even though he's two years younger than I am and I'm supposedly very young for a first generation fan, apparently thinks Barnabas Collins is part moral icon, part victim of his crotch. I wonder if Depp was watching the same series I was. As much as I loved the original Barnabas, I see no trace of the character in his interpretation. Frankly, the minute he murdered Julia, the whole movie collapsed for me -- the implied oral sex scene was bad enough, but the killing finished it. In the House of Dark Shadows big-screen remake this was accepted by fans because the series was still on-going. Depp does not have that salvation.
I really don't care that she's alive for the sequel. I doubt there will be a sequel. If there is, it's still not the characters I grew up with.
However, we're supposed to be reviewing what the film is, not what it's not. What it is, is an overstuffed suitcase that somebody sat on in order to zip it shut. It spills out all over everywhere. The cohesiveness is forced. The characters are largely unrecognizable. As I watched the film, I was at first taken by the wonderful graphics, but Collinwood seemed to morph into Disneyland's Haunted Mansion.
There are some good performances, it's occasionally slightly funny, it's graphically intense and interesting, but Depp and Burton seem to have nothing but contempt for the original series. I'm sorry, but flawed and bad as it could be, Dark Shadows was still far more compelling on its tiny budget than this movie was with its huge one.
What a shame -- and a waste. I really wanted to like it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Just got back from an early screening of the movie. As someone who like Johnny Depp, I was excited to watch the movie, but nearly ended up walking out of the screening halfway through the movie. There are hardly any entertaining moments, an extremely weak plot, and some very average acting. Sure, Johnny Depp may be a brilliant actor, but there's only so much an actor can do to salvage an immensely boring film. The weak development of the love story, limited exploitation of what could have been some interesting time-travel anachronisms and absurd additions to the plot (like ghosts and werewolves who remain mute spectators throughout the movie only to appear at the very end) were insulting to the intelligent movie-goer..
I saw every Tim Burton film since Mars Attacks! at the cinema. Until this came along. I had had enough of Burton's subpar efforts over the years and Alice In Wonderland was his last chance as far as I was concerned. Finally saw this and I'm glad I waited. This is simply awful. Based on a soap opera, Burton doesn't seem to know what to do. It changes tone dramatically from obvious humour involving Depp's character waking up after 200 years of being buried and being confused by things such as television. To grisly kills where he takes out innocent victims. There are a whole cast of characters, each one is given their own story, but none of them are given enough time to develop. Miller, Carter, Heathcote are all wasted as are their stories. I didn't even get the point of Miller, which is a shame because he was great with what he had. Entire scenes have no place in the film, or are needlessly long and repetitive. The main plot seems to have Eva Green asking Depp to be hers and him rejecting her, over and over and over again. It really does feel like snippets from a soap opera condensed down. This is really just a clip show. By the end it starts pulling things out of its backside. Couldn't care for anybody in this film and think the original property should have just been left alone.
The film can't decide whether it's a fish-out-of-water comedy or a
Gothic thriller/romance. Instead, we get treated to a bipolar movie
that is, at times, really funny, but mostly full of unnecessary
exposition. I think Burton wanted to honor the TV show by adding in so
many details, but frankly, it was boring at times as they moved from
one plot point to another. Some of the "wrap up" surprises at the end
came off as forced. Though I'm glad they didn't rely on as much CGI to
create the set pieces, one major scene involving a concert looked like
it was stolen from the Austin Powers films.
Johnny Depp did some great physical comedy as well as Helena Bonham Carter and Jackie Earle Haley, but Dark Shadows should go back to the grave.
I am a huge fan of the old Dark Shadows shows. I liked the old series, bloopers and all. I liked the films House of Dark Shadows and to a lesser degree Night of Dark Shadows. I liked the 1991 revival series of Dark Shadows. This new Tim Burton/Johnny Depp version has some good elements in it, like the costumes, soundtrack and special effects, but the problem here lies in the written word. The script relies too much on gags, some funny and some rather lame. The basic characters are mostly here with the exception of the melding of Maggie Evans into Victoria Winters, and the actor playing Willie Loomis does a better job with the character than did the one from the 1991 revival, who chose (or was directed) to play the role as a half-wit.(The one element I disliked about the revival). The 1970s music, cars, costumes and hairdos are spot-on and add to the comfy 1970s feel of the piece. The climax is all special effects and one "revelation" of the plot is so absurdly done here that it is (unintentionally) laughable. In all, I would say that this film may appeal more to those who never saw any of the original versions of this than the fans of them. I didn't hate this film, I just didn't love it either.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie is nothing but an excuse for Johnny Depp to put on make up and clothes and play a foppish character. He does it well, great in fact, but that's not a reason to make a movie. This was very much a disappointment. Too much happens too quickly and other things happen without much thought. Characters are not defined and Michelle Pfeiffer and Jackie Earle Haley are wasted. We have a vampire, witch, ghosts and a werewolf and not much scare or many laughs.. a few chuckles at the 'fish-out-of-water' aspect, but "Austin Powers" was funnier and more poignant. I didn't understand the motivations for any of the characters except the witch who curses Barnabas to be a vampire... he essentially uses his servant girl for sex then falls in love with another woman, no wonder she wanted revenge. This was a disjointed piece of distraction. Barnabas kills a bunch of construction workers, which has some scares, then he kills hippies, for laughs. He complains that killing is destroying his soul, but we don't see any reason to believe that. The sets and costumes are excellent as is the cinematography. The only thing missing is a well thought out story. The final shot suggests a sequel... which would be a curse.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Dark Shadows is one of the 5 films I have been eagerly awaiting to see this summer and was very excited when I got a pre-screening pass to see it just a day ago. (I've seen The Avengers, too, so that's already 2 out of the list.) After seeing it last night, I couldn't decide what I thought about certain elements of it until this morning. When a film stays in my head, I know it's made an impression and again, Tim and Johnny have done just that. I can "replay" most of the movie in my head. Everyone is the way you'd expect their character to be and they are all excellent in their roles. They've made a film that will appeal to a wide range of audiences. When Barnabas hypnotizes someone, you believe he's doing it. Johnny is amazing, again! The sex scenes, such as they are, imply rather than show anything, but the expressions on Barnabas' and Angelique's faces tell you a lot. The story is (ahem) fleshed out rather nicely as everything is explained in due time and you're not hit over the head with stupid jokes. There is a good balance of humor and drama and even a bit of sweetness when Barnabas is with Victoria Winters (but not the kind that is sappy). Barnabas does reveal who his to Elizabeth but how this transpires and what it leads to is interesting and not played for laughs. Michelle "gets" Elizabeth and even her false eyelashes are a nod to the original TV show actress' look. The costumes! Colleen Atwood has done it again. 'Nuf said. There are Sleepy Hollow-like elements in the use and look of the blood, the horror elements (like when he kills) and can I mention the fangs? They come out when he's about to dine. They're marvelous! I will probably see this again with some friends as I'd like to see Dark Shadows in IMAX because, heck, IMAX is wonderful. My recommendation: Go see it! 9/10
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