Sunday, May 13, 2012

DARK SHADOWS - doomed for gloom

Dark Shadows marks the eighth film pairing between Johnny Depp and Tim Burton which is exactly half of Burton's feature film career. It also hails the sixth time Burton has cast Helena Bonham Carter of which Depp has been cast along with her in no less than four pictures. A tedium has begun to set in.

The movie wants to be dark and creepy and genuinely funny. I applaud the idea, nonetheless it was poorly realized and executed. The humor felt forced and certainly more irritating than droll. Of course there were a few amusing moments but you caught most of them in the trailer. **SPOILER** Barnabas Collins (Depp) awakens from a two century nap by way of a yellow steel dragon. He comes back to live in a dilapidated gothic house built by his wealthy parents in the late 18th century, now inhabited by his late relatives in the 1970's. He was cursed by a witch who loved him long ago and turned into a vampire because the love was unrequited. Sounds ripe for jocular wit, right? Aside a few instances of lol's, the gag reflex is more likely induced, not due to gross out but due to poorly directed comedy. One instance when Depp goes off to the hinterland to smoke pot (he doesn't know what it is) with his future niece's (who is a silly werewolf?) friends, he makes a few old English cracks and then just kills them all. It didn't feel right. The comedy did not blend well I'm sorry to say.

Burton and Depp have made movie magic together but I would argue, not since Sleepy Hollow has a great film come out of their partnership. My favorite and I think, clearly, the best film they made together, was Ed Wood and if you are familiar with his work, you will know why. To be frank, I believe CGI (computer generated imagery) has killed many a great director for allowing their imaginations to run rampant in a way that does not enhance the story, characters or enjoyability. Compare, say, Beetle Juice with Alice In Wonderland and you will see what I mean. These films, over the last decade, from Burton, just don't feel authentic anymore. For the most part I blame the direction and other aspects of filmmaking but my biggest pet peeve is his use of today's computer special effects. Think how much greater Charlie and the Chocolate Factory would have seemed if it looked like Edward Scissorhands! The only Burtonesque vibe I even felt in this movie was the great steep cliff with a crooked tree pointing out to the right. Other greats like Terry Gilliam, Steven Spielberg and even James Cameron have succumbed to the same. If you took Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and threw that up against Brazil you again would see that there is just no comparison. I do not wish to say that contemporary special effects can't be used well and in fact sometimes are (The Return Of The King for example) however, they have to look and feel right for the story being told and not take the audience out of the illusion.

I really wanted to like this movie, but alas it was not for me and even barley acceptable for hardcore Burton fans. Dark Shadows was based off a favorite old TV show of Burton and Depp of the same name that was quite good - I have known that Depp has wanted to pay homage to it for many years now and the result has been an unfortunate let down. Eva Green was the best part of the film and performed greatly as the evil witch. The rest of the splendid cast went to waste as did Danny Elfman who has worked with Burton on 13 of his features as composer. See it if you must but prepare for disappointment. Keep Alice Cooper in retirement for heavens sake! 

Recommended Viewing: Ed Wood - The Ninth Gate - Brazil

              Bob Scale: Objective: 5.8   -   Subjective: 6.0
             MetaCritic: 56
 Rotten Tomatoes: 41
                      IMDB: 6.7

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