Dark Shadows

Having never seen the original TV Show, I had no idea what to expect from this film when it was in production. I had heard it was a gothic supernatural soap opera, so when the trailers came out positioning the movie as a comedy, I was surprised…

Well, as it turns out, Director Tim Burton tries to have it both ways and the results are disappointing. The movie certainly does have its share of comedic moments, but it never abandons the Gothic drama. As such the movie “straddles the fence” a little, and that turns out to be a poor choice.

Johnny Depp plays Barnabas Collins, a vampire who has been trapped in his coffin for nearly 200 years. Born to a powerful, wealthy family, Collins had the misfortune of jilting a young woman, Angelique, who turned out to be a witch. The witch (Eva Green) then murders his family and causes Collins’ lover to commit suicide, and magically turns Collins into a vampire so that he will have to live forever with the suffering. Not content, she also turns the villagers of the town against him and has him imprisoned in his coffin – and buried alive. Collins lies trapped in his grave until a construction crew unearths him in the early 1970s.

Suffice it to say, the world has changed.

Collins finds his estate occupied by his ancestors, and suffice it to say, they’re not the exactly the same stock as the highly successful, driven folk who founded the town and built a fishing empire. The mansion is in disarray, and the family fortune nearly squandered, but worst of all is the fact that the town is now run by the same witch who ruined his life nearly two centuries ago. Miraculously though, the spirit of his long-lost love has found his way to him through a young woman who’s her spitting image. It’s a mad hodge-podge of family, enemies, and supporting players, all while Collins is still trying to acclimate himself to the era.

And so, Collins sets out to restore his estate, rebuild his family’s empire, restore their good name, and win back the woman he loves. Of course, the witch Angelique is not just about to let that happen…

I enjoyed “Dark Shadows” for the most part, but it’s difficult to recommend, and I find it hard not to be disappointed with it.

Depp is fantastic as Barnabas Collins, he’s genuinely funny… he has such a great sense of comic timing. Collins is stiff, formal, out of touch, constantly being taken aback by things… Depp manages to get every drop he can out of the part. It’s really a great character for him, I wouldn’t mind seeing him reprise this role. There are some seriously funny moments scattered throughout the movie, and I think he’s behind almost every one of them.

Unfortunately, the emphasis is on “Scattered” and not “Throughout”. One of the main issues I had with the movie is that it was all over the road in terms of the tone it was trying to set, and the blame for that needs to rest directly with Tim Burton. The film showcases his trademark Gothic feel, but I never got comfortable with what type of movie it was supposed to be. One minute they’re hysterically juxtaposing cheesy 70s music over a montage and obviously playing for laughs, the next, Barnabas Collins is seriously pining about the loss of his humanity and it’s very dramatic. We’re rooting for him and laughing with him along the way, and then suddenly he’s murdering someone as a vampire… and it’s not always played for comedy. I was thinking to myself, “You don’t expect us to be scared now, do you?” The movie veered from mood to mood like it was a speeding, driverless car careening down the highway.

The other major issue was the end of the film. I don’t want to get into spoilers, but I will say it involves a good deal of mediocre CGI and has an action scene tinge to it. Which may be a text-book way to end a movie, but it felt silly (not in a good way) and out of place here. The entire end lost me, and that careening automobile I touched upon earlier finally crashed through a guard-rail and off a cliff.

I understand that a lot of my issues may actually stem from Burton trying to harken back to the source material, and seeing as I’m unfamiliar with it, that would be lost on me. From what I understand, the original show was campy and a soap opera, so I can understand why that could inspire a movie such as this. I can respect that, but there’s also such a thing as delivering a cohesive movie.

I realize the review reads as if I’ll be giving it a much harder grade, I just had to express my disappointment. The trailers held promise, and in actuality, seeing the movie only reinforced that. This was a good idea, there was something here. Depp was great and there’s definitely enough laughs along the way to keep you entertained. This movie will find fans and supporters, but for me, personally, I’m having difficultly overcoming the disappointment of what might have been.

B-

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33 thoughts on “Dark Shadows

  1. Exactly! You nailed it. We share a lot of the same thoughts about the film and it’s a bit discouraging. There were certainly parts that I really liked in the film and if Burton would have just stayed with what worked it could have been really memorable. Unfortunately…

    Solid review!

    • Yeah, it’s funny. We both posted to twitter within minutes of each other, and I went over to your review and saw we were essentially saying the same thing.

      It is unfortunate. Especially since so many of the moments within WERE really funny. If he could have found a way to keep the humor going consistently, it wouldnt have been so lackluster. Oh well.

      Next time, right? These guys are going to put out movies every couple of years or so, LOL.

  2. I’m disappointed to hear you were disappointed. I was hoping for more from than this than the majority of reviews are suggesting. Nevertheless your words about Depp’s performance and comic timing give me hope that there is plenty to enjoy here. Just a bit too scattered. Nice review!

    • LOL. Yeah, there’s a lot of disappointment going around.

      There’s stuff to enjoy here, definitely. I mean, at the end of the day a B- could be worse. I just would have liked to have been a lot more enthusiastic about it, and I really can’t be.

      Its a bummer.

      Thanks for the compliment though Pete!

  3. There is a rather strange phenomenon I have noticed with Tim Burton. It might be a little complicated, so please accept my advanced apologies if this ends up the case.

    If there is a previously existing (and remotely well known) source material, it will likely be a less enjoyable film, whether you are a fan of the previous work in question or not. Examples of this might be “Planet of the Apes”, “Charlie & the Chocolate Factory”, “Sleepy Hollow”, “Mars Attacks”, or “Batman”.

    By contrast, if a film he is involved with does not have a previous incarnation, it tends to be a more enjoyable watching experience. To illustrate this I submit “Edward Scissorhands”, “Big Fish”, “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, I would place “Ed Wood” here as well, due to it being more of a biopic.

    I fully accept that not everyone will agree with this, as it is primarily derived from my own opinions. Generally speaking, I find myself in something of an “anti-Tim-Burton” camp with respect to seeing films by him in general. Although, with that said, I did fully enjoy “Edward Scissorhands”, “Big Fish”, & “Ed Wood” and completely understand the reasons for following that “The Nightmare Before Christmas” has. I just thought I would throw this out there and see what you think, considering the film reviewed (based on said review) falls right in line with this thinking.

    • I’m in the other camp, pretty much Dak… even though his films have been more miss than hit of late. I think the man has a handful of visionary, genius level, all time great movies and that’s more than a lot of other directors can boast. I also think that even when his films miss (This movie is a good example) the floor is pretty high. They still entertain to a degree.

      That said, the adaptation theory is a valid one (although I’d slide Batman and Sleepy Hollow into the win column and substitute Alice in Wonderland). I think its got something to do with the fact that he has a very strong style/vision and a lot of times when he tries to shoehorn that onto something, it’s not a great fit. Whereas with an original property with no one having any preconceptions of it, he’s freer to paint as he pleases and the audience will accept it more readily.

      Thats my take, there’s definitely something to it though one way or the other.

      • Preconceptions might have a play in it, perhaps even on a subconscious level.

        I will agree that there are not many directors out there with even one, let alone a few great movies to their credit. That certainly counts for something.

        Since I was only bringing up this observation based only on your review, and not a first-hand account, I didn’t feel comfortable listing Alice in Wonderland due to my not having seen it. While I can’t get behind Batman or Sleepy Hollow, I will concede that those two are at least not without some charm.

  4. The action scene at the end of the movie is not paying homage to the original series. It was gothic, melodramatic, and sometimes slow. It was never action packed. All the reviews I have read are in line with yours.

    Good review.

    • Thanks Victor. Not sure you’ve seen it… lets just say there were elements within that scene that I thought were included simply to give nods to the series.

      Cause I couldnt think of any other reason they’d be in there. LOL. Ooosh.

  5. I read this immediately after leaving the theater. Youre right about it being all over the place as far as tone goes. What’d you think of that certain reveal (that shall remain nameless) during the ending that seemingly came out of nowhere?

    • Well, see, that’s what I thought might have been put in to pay respect to the source material. Like at some point in the series that was in there, so they wanted to make sure it got in the movie. But to me, that was one of the major elements is the “flying off the rails”. Completely out of nowhere, didnt add anything – major detraction. As was Angelique’s suddenly porcelein nature… just silly. I dont know.

      The “Reveal” was one of the worst parts though I was like, “well… there it goes” LOL.

      What did you think? I presume you agree it sounds like…

      • They did show her crack a few times earlier in the film, so I bought that better than I did the…other thing. You’re probably right about it being a reference to the source material, though. I hadn’t thought of that.

        The line of expository dialog that came afterwards is what got me. It was like, “Hey, remember that thing nobody mentioned before? I totally caused that.”

  6. I only gave this film a 6. I agree with you on the tone but I sort of enjoyed the end scene. Many a times the humor wasn’t needed. And instead of the great Danny Elfman putting original music in spots, we’re treated with The Carpenters and Depp reciting lyrics from the worst song ever written-The Joker. A little disappointing and just a little bit enjoyable.

    • Well, I think either MORE humor was neeeded, or they should have just moved away from it altogether, you know? It was in that uncomfortable middle ground…

      Some of the music worked well as humor – for the most part they were mocking it – but I agree with you . On the whole, disappointing, and just a little more enjoyable than not…

  7. I have to wonder if this will sound a death knell for Burton. I have been a big fan but I cant help but wonder at his future. Fogs you were far kinder than Brian for sure but a disappointment is a disappointment!

    • Yeah, well I’m sensing a trend as far as being kinder than Brian. LOL

      Death knell though for Burton? No, I doubt it. It might put him on a tighter budgetary lease though. The budget for this flick was $150 mil. It’s on pace to open at like $30 mil. So this was probably a reality check for studios – who were probably willing to give him whatever he wanted pretty much due to Alice in Wonderland raking in a bazillion dollars.

      He’ll still be making big movies. going forward, its just a question of how big. Plus, one more huge success like Alice and he’s right back in “Give him whatever he wants” territory.

  8. I think this could have been so much damn better if Burton just stuck with his goofy approach to the story. Instead, he had to go and be serious with this material and it just comes off as another one of his gothic “passion projects” that him and Johnny Depp always seem to collaborate and make love on. Nice review Fogs.

  9. Such a bummer that the movie isn’t as funny as the trailer. I mean I LOVE the trailer, I’ve played that over and over. I ended up not going to the theater this week and I think I’ll just rent this one.

      • Oh I hate when they do that!! I always laugh every time I saw that bit when Barnabas pulled the plug of the TV and said, ‘Reveal yourself you tiny songstress!’ :D :D

  10. Nice review. Still planning on catching this one. Either way it goes, funny or not, I’ll probally still enjoy it.

    • Yeah, thanks… I wish the news I was delivering was a little better. That tone hopping they kept doing totally undermined it for me too. Serious. Comedy. Serious. Comedy. Serious. Comedy. GAAAHHH!! Make up your MIND!! LOL

  11. Saw this one yesterday with the wife. Your review nailed it. Although I would have given it a C+ only because Tim should have done a much better job producing this flick. The movie was ok but the best parts where in the trailer. I was hoping that this one was going to be a solid B or better since I like the theme and I have seen parts of the original soup. But you are right, it was all over the place and the ending was not that great. They even introduced a new character, the wolf chick. Where the hell did that come from??? But I did enjoy it some what and it was nice to get out of the heat. Sorry to hear Men in Black III wasn’t that great. Sounds like the same thing, high expectations and low results. Oh well the summer goes on.

  12. my nephews dragged me to this over Memorial Day weekend. I agree with the disappointment. It started out decent enough, but then spiraled off from there. I was bored and hated the way characters who we thought might be important would just disappear for long stretches only to return and hope we cared when they showed back up. Depp needs to just do some “normal” characters for a while……now wouldn’t that be weird?

    • Yes it would. Very strange.

      But it would be a nice return. I remember when Pirates of the Caribean was such a surprise because he was usually so selective about his roles. Now it seems all we get is Jack Sparrow Hunter S or a Tim Burton crazy character… LOL

      Glad you concur on the review, but I still wish for everyone’s sake that this had been a better film. :(

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