Visually great but a corny & empty disappointment.
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Well, here we are again as the eccentric film director Tim Burton works alongside close friend Johnny Depp for the 8th consecutive time. Yet, we were in for a special treat in 2012 seeing as Dark Shadows is a vampire film and with Burton as director and Depp in the leading role, it could have turned out a dream come true! However, upon the release of the official theatrical trailer, it became almost a totally different film as it became more like a comedy and did not appear any serious vampire film at all. In addition, Tim and Johnny slightly lost their touch with Alice In Wonderland in 2010, there was the hope that they would make up for that. Nevertheless, Dark Shadows became a huge disappointment that has sunk Tim and Johnny to an even lower level.
Just like Lewis Carroll’s world of Wonderland, the eccentric and blood-thirsting nature of vampires is absolutely typical of Tim Burton. Dan Curtis’s original soap opera was the inspiration led to Tim making a film adaptation seeing as he was a fan of the show as a youngster. However, from a story by Seth Grahame-Smith and John August, Tim creates a film that differs to the source. How Tim handled it was that Dark Shadows jumbled many genres together: horror, comedy, drama and romance and yet, none of them successfully worked in this film. For starters, the film was not all that scary as it massively lacked the terror, the fright and the suspense that we have seen before. In addition, the humour was literally the poison within the film and the dialogue was an almost complete muddle. Finally, there is almost no emotional connection between any of the characters and the acting is not entirely convincing either. This made Dark Shadows a very forced, corny and dry motion picture.
Any film starring Johnny Depp by Tim Burton is going to be an immediate attraction, but the fact that Depp is portraying a vampire; it is the jackpot for its target audience (teenagers and young people). On the other hand, because Depp continues to portray eccentric and unorthodox characters with identically the same tone of approach and style of character that we have seen from him before, anxieties arose for his portrayal of vampire Barnabas Collins. Although Depp, like Burton, was a fan of the original soap opera in his teenage years, his performance as Barnabas was nothing major at all. Admittedly, he looked good with the make-up and costume design but it was practically Captain Jack Sparrow dressed as a vampire. If there is anything that Depp has shown in Dark Shadows, it is that he is overkilling what he is best known for, which is by playing these unorthodox and wacky characters. Thus, Johnny Depp does not deliver the absolute worst performance of his career but his role as Barnabas Collins expresses that it is time to take a break from these characters and from working with Tim Burton.
Aside from Depp, there is usually a mixture of new additions to Burton’s regularly selected cast. Michelle Pfeiffer returned to her second film with Tim Burton as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, the family matriarch, and made her presence known with an exceptional performance. Helena Bonham Carter doesn’t play as much of a vital role in Dark Shadows like she did previously in Alice In Wonderland, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street and Corpse Bride, but the role of Dr. Julia Hoffman suited her. Bonham Carter’s style of appearance and character selection is usually rather odd, much like her partner Tim, but only she could have played that character. Christopher Lee made his fifth collaboration with Tim Burton as he made an appearance too.
On the other hand, there were a group of newbies into the cast. This included Eva Green who portrayed antagonist Angelique Bouchard, a heartbroken witch who curses Barnabas Collins and the rest of his family out of rage and jealousy. What the audience had with Green as Angelique was that she appeared as a very seductive and sexy woman that was certainly easy on the eyes. However, what she lacked was that she was not as dangerously disturbing as her character was made out to be. Chloë Grace Moretz makes another rebellious performance as Carolyn Stoddard. Furthermore, Bella Heathcote played an underused role as Victoria Winters. Victoria was not only developed enough as a character but she perhaps was not very relevant to the story very much at all. Heathcote also portrayed Barnabas Collins’s former lover Josette Du Pres. Finally, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Gulliver McCrath and Alice Cooper made appearances in Dark Shadows too.
Overall, Dark Shadows is a hugely disappointing film from Tim Burton that could and should have been better. He is slowly beginning to lose his reputation nowadays and his films are suffering massively from repetition. It is the same old every time. Dark Shadows is one of those films that looks great with fantastic visuals, make-up, background design etc but never captures the imagination or the attention of the audience watching. It is just an empty and lifeless film that is simply not funny, not dramatic and not scary. Nevertheless, Burton has his next stop-motion animated feature Frankenweenie, a remake of his own creation, due for release in October. Hopefully that will make up for the disappointment of Dark Shadows and will give us hope that Burton is not losing his touch.
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