Friday, May 25, 2012

Review: Dark Shadows (Film)

Dark Shadows is a film based on the soap opera of the same name. Running from 1966 to 1971 the series was a supernatural themed show, meaning that it had ghosts and vampires and all that good stuff. As I understand it a young Johnny Depp was obsessed with this show, specifically with the vampire character Barnabas Collins, to the point that he apparently wore cape as a child. Starring in a Dark Shadows film seemed to be a dream project of his and wanted his good friend and collaborator Tim Burton to make it a reality.

A word on the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp relationship, if I may.

Longtime friends they first worked together on Burton’s film Edward Scissorhands and their most recent film was Alice in Wonderland. Now some of these collaborations are considered very good while others not so much. Such is the nature of Tim Burton because in general he’s always been very hit or miss when it comes to making movies. But many people have been saying they’ve gotten pretty sick of it lately partly because no one really liked Alice in Wonderland and partly because things weren’t looking any better in the months leading up to this film’s release. As always because he directed Big Fish I had to give Burton the benefit of the doubt because that movie was crazy awesome. Did I regret my blind obedience or did things work out better than last time?

Full review after the jump.

[WARNING: Lots of spoilers in this review. Read at your own risk]

Pictured: 93% of this movie

Sailing from England to the New World in the18th Century the Collins family set up an extremely profitable fishing company in Maine and founded the town of Collinsport. Barnabus (Depp), the heir to the family business grows up here. One day he breaks the heart of a servant girl Angelique (Eva Green), unaware that she is secretly a witch. Angry with her inability to make him love her she systematically ruins his life leading to when she causes the death of Barnabus’ love and subsequently causes him to become a vampire. Barnabus is eventually sealed in a box and buried alive. Nearly two hundred years later, in 1972, Barnabus awakens to find that while his family still exists they are in dire straits.  He resolves to help restore the Collins to their rightful glory.

First things first I should point out that Eva Green is super attractive. She’s not super attractive in this movie but she was gorgeous in Casino Royale. I wasn’t going to put her on my Hottest Women in Hollywood Last but I’ll do it anyway because she has eyes that haunt me.
#13: Amanda Seyfried 
#12: Greta Gerwing 
#11: Natalie Portman 
#10: Bryce Dallas Howard 
#9: Amy Acker 
#8: Reese Witherspoon 
#7: Eva Green 
#6: Kat Dennings 
#5: Anna Kendrick
#4: Alison Brie 
#3: Anne Hathaway 
#2: Ellen Page 
#1: Michelle Trachtenber

France is awesome!
But the real reason I’m even doing this now is because I don’t have a lot of good things to say about this film. Seriously. For the first hour of this film the movie was “okay”, or at least not too bad. So for all that time there was no head scratching or annoying bits for the most part. In fact if you were worried about how comedic everything looked I can assure you it wasn’t as bad as the commercial made it look. Oh, it’s still pretty bad but it’s not the Addams Family w/ Vampires that the trailers made it out to be.

Then at some point everything goes to shit.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The first and foremost major problem with this film is that it’s the Johnny Depp Show. Now I don’t hate Johnny Depp but for Christ sakes he’s not the only goddamn actor in this flick. Then opening is all about him and Barnabus’ origin, which makes sense. There’s a section of film that takes place after the opening but before he returns that actually focuses on Bella Heathcote’s character Victoria Winters and her and ours, introduction to the Collins family where she learns a bit about the supporting cast. Then Barnabus returns and apparently Burton got bored with all these other characters because we basically never leave Depp’s side for the rest of the film. Everything for the rest of the movie HAS TO HAVE DEPP INVOLVED and he’s the only one to get any real decent development. Victoria and Angelique get some decent development but only  because they’re the love interest and villain respectively. Everyone else is an afterthought, barely focused on and only half developed to any real degree. This could have, and probably should have, been an ensemble cast but I guess Burton decided that they weren’t interesting enough to do much with. There’s a ton of talent there though and everything is well acted; they cast is just wasted. When you have ChloĆ« Grace Moretz and Jackie Earle Haley in your cast and you do pretty much nothing with them with any substance YOU HAVE FAILED AS A DIRECTOR!

Johnny Depp and, um, some  random dude of no importance
Also Barnabus is a hard protagonist to like since he kills a rather large amount of innocent people in this film without really have to pay for it or even really being called out on it that much for it. You could say that’s just what you have to deal with when you have a vampire as the main character but I would say that’s probably why having a vampire main character is tricky to do. But the point is that if there was a development ensemble cast than this wouldn’t have been as big of an issue for me as it was. Because, and maybe it’s just me, but if I’m going to watch a protagonist for any long amount of time I’d prefer he didn’t MURDER TONS OF DECENT PEOPLE AND HAVE IT PLAYED OFF AS COMEDY!

But, while these issues made the film hard to watch, Dark Shadows crosses the lien between “not great” and “f**king terrible” in the third act when everything just goes to hell. Basically everything that happens after Barnabus straight up asks Angelique to turn him back to human all the way until the ending everything pretty much stops making sense. Characters start acting bizarrely for no properly explained reasons, motivations are forgotten and worst of all plot point start cooking out of nowhere. The worst part is ChloĆ« Grace Moretz’s character Carolyn Stoddard who is revealed in the final action scene to be [SPOILER ALERT] a damn werewolf despite there being NO HINTS ABOUT THIS BEFORE THIS LAST SCENE! It’s not even just a joke either; she plays a huge role in the final confrontation with Angelique. It comes completely out of left field. Why in God’s name couldn’t this be revealed earlier? Then we could have spent time exploring what it means for Carolyn to have to go through this. It literally changes the context of everything she says and does in the movie. But oh no, instead we have spent all out time watching Johnny “Look How Pale I Am This Time” Depp try to figure out how to use the motherf**king television. SUPPORTING CAST, WHAT’S THAT?! HUMPTY DUMPY DOO!!!

She pretty much does this for and hour and half then turns into a wolf-girl
 Some less rage inducing issues: the tone of the film is a bit wonky in that it can’t strike a proper balance between its comedy and it’s more serious parts. This is why it’s so weird to see Barnabus kill people in this film because in at least one scene it’s completely played for comedy but he spend the whole movie complaining about being a vampire. It’s bizarre. Also, and I guess this isn’t really a negative, but I’m a bit confused on the changes made from the show. Why does the movie take place in 1972 when the show was produced from 1966 to 1971? Did the show take place in the future or was that a change? Was Carolyn Stoddard a werewolf in the show? Because everything I’ve read indicated that she was not. I haven’t watched the show so this stuff just confuses me more than anything.

The ending was weird. It doesn’t exactly end on a cliffhanger per say but there’s a whole lot of loose ends, as if to set up for future films. Except that Burton basically said that wasn’t his intention, but rather he wanted to end it in a soap opera way. So basically if you were hoping for a satisfying ending that wraps everything up look someplace else. Also I feel like everyone didn’t need to be nearly as pale as they were here. And Johnny Depp looks like a damn clown.

Depp as Barnabus or Gerald Way of My Chemical Romance?
You decide!
This movie is terrible. This movie is all Johnny Depp all the time and anyone else in this movie simply doesn’t matter. I know this was Depp’s dream project or whatever but this was just plain maddening. This almost feels like self-indulgent nonsense. It starts out okay but gets progressively worse as it goes on until reaching a boiling point where everything simply stops making sense. Tim Burton made a bad film, plain and simple. There’s pretty much no redeeming quality to it but it may be the type of film you can laugh at it. Even if you like the movie I hope you weren’t hoping for a sequel because the way this flick performed that ain’t likely. 

I give Dark Shadows 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas


-It’s well acted 


-The secondary characters are severely underused 

-Barnabus is not a great main character 

-The final act is a mess 

-A werewolf? Are kidding me?!?! 



  1. I've never seen the original show, but I've heard about it, and some friends gushed about it. When I saw the trailer for this movie, my first thought was "wait, I didn't think Dark Shadows was a comedy." I did a quick check later and discovered I was right. That, plus the general badness of the trailer convinced me that it would probably be a waste of time and money to see the movie. Your review solidifies my decision. Ick.

    1. I literally did the exact same thing. If I had to pay full price for movies it indeed would have been a big waste of time and money.


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