Dark Shadows (2012)

3.5 STARS

General Information:

Information below is taken from the following link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1077368/

12   113 min  –  Comedy | Fantasy  –  11 May 2012 (UK)

Director

Tim Burton

Writers

Seth Grahame-Smith; John August

Stars

Johnny Depp; Michelle Pfeiffer; Eva Green

Plot:

After centuries of being buried underground, cursed vampire Barnabus Collins (Depp) returns to Collinswood Manor only to discover that it’s 1972, a dysfunctional family lives there, and that the witch who cursed him to be a vampire is still alive…

Review:

Tim Burton's Dark Shadows

Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows

In my opinion, Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows is the cinematic equivalent of what would happen if Usaine Bolt injured his knee whilst running the 100m, and stopped halfway through. It has a lot of potential, but feels like it should have more story to tell, more strides to make. This film isn’t as funny as the trailer makes it out to be (albeit that sex scene…). Either way, from what I could see from the strides this movie made, there’s a lot of meat (pies) for Burton’s fans to tuck into.

The best part of this film is indeed the opening hour, and it’s very entertaining to watch the story unfold, and perhaps even more fun just to keenly observe Johnny Depp’s excellent performance. The style of the opening 15 minutes is like a cliché fairytale which its effect never decreases, no matter how many times we’ve seen it in the movies, and this is mainly due to Burton’s gothic sensibility. Now, the set-up: Angelique (Eva Green) fancies Barabus, however, Barnabus pays no attention to her, as he’s got his eyes (and other parts, I’m guessing) set on Jossette (Bella Heathcote). Unfortunately for Barnabus, he picked the wrong girl to not fall in love with, because when Josette jumps off a cliff in a moment of hormonal dispair, Barnabus follows suit, but doesn’t die, because, Angelique has turned him into a vampire…and then she puts him in a coffin, wraps chains around the coffin so he can’t escape, and buries said coffin in the ground.

As you do.

A few years later, it’s 1972 – and as if by mere chance, there are people digging near the area where the coffin was buried, they find the coffin, break the chains – and wumfff!, hot puffs of smoke come from the coffin, and Branabus shoots up from the air, bites all of their necks to which he then says something like “sorry, you have no idea how thirsty I am.”

We then get the usual expected stuff of a man from another world/another time not fitting in with the place/time which he’s been put in. Yet what makes this movie special is the fact that Johnny Depp really brings Barnabus alive. Johnny Depp is a physical actor of extraordinary talent, he’s the sort of actor that only has to subtly move a limb or an eyebrow to instantly portray an emotion, and his performance is certainly not wasted here. There’s a section where we see him cross a road for the first time, he staggers across it slowly, arms hunched, little movement per step, and he instantly catches the sentiment of the character. To further add to this is the fact that even though the script may be of average in terms of quality, Depp is given the best lines. Every word that he is given is clearly thought about to portray this unique comic character. For example, that funny moment in the trailer where Barnabus walks behind the television and says in a grand and majestic manner “Reveal yourself tiny songstress!” Nobody else would use the phrase “reveal yourself” (let alone “songstress”) other than a 19th century upper-class vampire.

Johnny Depp's hair in Dark Shadows makes me chuckle...

Johnny Depp’s hair in Dark Shadows makes me chuckle…

There are other great moments in the opening hour. Perhaps the most well-known of these is the sex scene. Barnabus has sex with Angelique, yet in a completely different way. They have sex on the walls, the floors, the ceiling, everywhere, the laws of gravity are smashed in two, sofas are scratched, furniture is knocked over, and no doubt other things have split apart as well. It’s all very camp and funny, and has that 70s feel to it which this film requires.

However, all of this drifts off into the abyss. At the beginning of this review I compared this film to Usaine Bolt only being able to run half of the 100m, I shall refer back to this point again. The movie feels like it has

(a) More story to tell, yet ends too early.

(b) Has little story but tells it over the period of 1 hour 45 minutes.

In my opinion it’s mainly (b) with hints of (a). The film tells the story of Barnabus trying to fit in with a new world by rebuilding the Collins fish empire, to which his rival is (surprise, surprise) the witch. Yet the film never particularly goes anywhere surprising. Of course there’s that “will they won’t they” thing going on between Barnabus and Angelique (which is concluded when the sofa and ‘other things’ are split), but that’s not enough. Sure Depp gives a great performance, but what about the other characters? We have Johnny Lee Miller playing a sarcastic, miserable man, who barely has any lines. We have Helena Bonham-Carter (who is ginger!) but also doesn’t have much involvement, which is a great shame because Bonham-Carter is a damned good actress, and the dryly flirtatious character she portrays I’d like to know more of.

We need more of these two: Johnny Lee Miller and Helena Bonham-Carter in Tim Burton's new film 'Dark Shadows'...

We need more of these two: Johnny Lee Miller and Helena Bonham-Carter in Tim Burton’s new film ‘Dark Shadows’…

As the film drifts on into the second and third acts, it left me wanting more substance. Perhaps it’s to do with the fact that the story concerns itself over rival fish-companies. I imagine it is that, after all, fish are not the most interesting of creatures, and Tim Burton’s gothic style doesn’t suit aquatic animals. But it’s not that. We never really plunge into the heart of the character’s and see what motivates them, and this is alright (since most films don’t involve great character development), but this is a film where the center of the story is about the characters (and the characters are played by actors of great talent).

Dark Shadows is a good film, but it left me wanting more.

Verdict:

Dark Shadows is a good film with strong performances, yet it story doesn’t seem to be explored in-depth and it’s character’s (albeit Barnabus) seem very ‘skim-read’. Either way, the artistry of this film and the visuals will certainly provide for Tim Burton’s fans. If you’re not a big Burton fan, skip this and watch Sweeney Todd instead.

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