While I can forgive Tim Burton a great many INSTANCES of narrative sloppiness, because he is FAMOUS for being a "style over substance" kind of storyteller, this film is a unmitigated failure on almost every level, and if there is justice in the world, should end the partnership of Burton and Depp. And, why? Because:
1. Barnabas is a weak protagonist. He is presented, in the wholly unnecessary prologue, as inheriting wealth. He doesn't desire ANYTHING. They say he preserved the Collins fortune, but we don't see it. We see him making vague, shallow, investigations into The Dark Arts, but we never see anything come of it. (for example, Mephistopheles is not the name of the Devil. Neither, incidentally, is Azazel, Adramelech, Aschema, Beelzebub, Belphigor... These are all names of demons. And I am no student of the dark arts, by any means. I'm just a researcher, at best).
Barnabas is merely a cold fish, who spurns a lover... who happens to have much more power than he imagines. And, too bad for him.
But, who is the protagonist, if not him? As near as I can tell, it's the witch. She's the plucky adventurer, who pulled her self up by her boot straps. She's the one with specific goals, and drive and passion. She's the one with the perfect breasts.
2. The story elements are muddled, with too much of everything, and not enough of anything. Element one: witchcraft. Element two: vampirism. Element three: seeing ghosts. Element four: lycanthropy. Element five: child neglect and abuse. Element six: seventies concerns like the president, the war, as well small town commerce and politics. Each element is mentioned in a slap-dash, superficial, referential way. They are not made to matter.
Any story problem is literally solved by 'hand-waving'. Barnabas needs a servant, so he wiggles his fingers, and voilà: loyal, slightly stupid, butler/chauffeur. He needs to hire a flotilla of fishing boats, and he overcomes the wise old captain with more or less exactly the same method of jazz hands/Nosferatu fingers. And nobody else seems to notice the shenanigans or care. (This is actually an epidemic in the film. The Good Doctor discovers there's a vampire in her immediate vicinity, and, yet, she is easily mollified with "be fascinated". Ol' Barny-boy lights himself on fire by standing in a sunbeam, and everybody kinda shrugs and moves along.)
3. Nobody... expects the Spanish Inquisition. Also, nobody says 'no' to Eva Green's breasts. They're like the two towers: YOU. SHALL. NOT. PASS! And, so you see how ham-fisted cultural references just isn't funny. Spoiler Alert: Alice Cooper is in the film. Spoiler Alert # 2: Alice Cooper is played by a dude named Vincent Damon Furnier. Spoiler Alert # 3: Barnabas thinks Alice is "the ugliest woman ever". This is an old joke. It's such an old joke, it makes you remember how young you were, when you first heard the joke... and then you get depressed about how old you are now. Referential humour is like salt, a dash gives you seasoning; a lot gives you a coronary. My chest hurts.
4. What does Barnabas want? Success and True Love. So he nips down to the larder, and rustles up some jewelry. How does that work, exactly? "you want to refurbish your home? Nifty! We take cash, Visa, and rubies..."? We never see him working for his success. Rather, it just happens. And nobody seems to notice. Similarly, the way he goes about courting Josette 2.0 /Victoria-if-that-really-is-her-name leaves much to be desired. I've been in love a couple of times. Funny thing: the girl I FIRST fell in love with... I still think about her now. A decade later. I wonder how she is. I sometimes hear her voice on the breeze. And when I was still with her, well... I thought of nothing else. I ate and drank and slept her. Love was an all consuming passion. Barnabas rather forgets Whatsherface. He's too busy making clueless "ball" jokes that AC/DC made in 1976. And eating hippies, and who doesn't eat hippies? And killing the doctor (again, nobody goes, "Hey, that perpetually drunk, quasi-somnambulist psychiatrist woman... where did she go...!?").
How much better if he spent his time wisely, either menacing his sworn-enemy-who-locked-him-in-box-for-two-centuries... or wooing the lady he claims to love? But no. There's none of that. He even took time out of his (not very) busy schedule to hate-f**k his nemesis. At least that's what I think they were doing. They destroyed her office, but kept their clothes on. Not even a frond of his elegant Hipster-Gothic hairdo was out of place, after. And it was risible, and not at all erotic.
Don't get me wrong, if Eva Green professed undying love for me, and offered her undying body to me, I'm pretty sure I could play along, at least for a bit. But then, she hasn't killed my true love and my parents, and destroyed my family's name and business, or (oh yeah) locked me in a casket for two hundred years. So, there's that.
The problems of the film can be enunciated in two clear flaws.
1. When you consistently make style over substance films, you become a prisoner of your style. So, in the final scene, where Barnabas lies at the bottom of the cliff, with his now transformed-lover, I don't think, "oh! How romantic!". I think "holy poop-skates! It's the chick from Corpse Bride!"
2. A vanity project almost always comes off as vain, even pointless. And who wants a pointless vampire movie?
In the end, I could have saved myself $31.50, and stared at a dreamy poster of Johnny Depp... Or that chick from Corpse Bride.
I give it two stars, one for each of Eva Green's arresting... eyes. (got ya!)
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