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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: Oct 23: Dark Shadows


Oct 23: Dark Shadows

"An imprisoned vampire, Barnabas Collins, is set free and returns to his ancestral home, where his dysfunctional descendants are in need of his protection."
Directed by: Tim Burton, Rated: PG-13, 113 minutes

I have stated before that Johnny Depp needs to end his marriage to Tim Burton and move past the strange and the weird. The man is talented, yes, but his "wife" continually makes him dress up in horrible costumes and even worse makeup for films that have the slightest bit of darkness surrounding them. Oh, you know what would go well with that (insert TV show, movie, cartoon) remake, Mr. Burton? A side of Johnny Depp. Hell, while you're at it, throw in your other wife, Helena Bonham Carter, she'll work for free! But wait! We need an older actor to add some "veteran" experience to the flick. Go on Burton, grab Christopher Lee, you've done it plenty of times before! I can only imagine that's the conversation Burton has with every producer in Hollywood these days. And to make this all sound spooky, with choir voices and sinister tones, Burton, of course, asks for help from Danny Elfman for the score.

 Please, you two. Stop it. For the sake of both of your careers. 

Now some of you may be thinking, "This relationship is amazing! They have made so many great movies together!". Sure, they have had a couple of classics (anything with Ed or Edward in the title), but can we really look past their last few films? I, for one, cannot forgive nor forget the atrocities that are Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, nor do I really want to. With Dark Shadows, Burdeppon has slapped me on the face once more, laughing at the fact that they have again gotten a way with producing a "hit". At this point in their careers, I have come to the conclusion that Burton and Depp just don't care anymore. Continually recycling and reusing the same ideas, the dark "quirkiness and charm", and again, the same actors and actresses, Burdeppon has milked every last drop (and then some) of this unusual cash cow. 

Oh look! It's Willy Barnabas Mad Hatter Sparrow Thompson!

Adapting a beloved TV show that all of us pretended to be familiar with once this project was announced, Tim Burton retells/remakes/rehashes the story of Barnabas Collins (Depp), an aristocrat turned-vampire who awakens after centuries of "eternal slumber" in 1972. As we all know, this time in history is incredibly relatable to the target demographic and all of us can look back at that day and age with familiarity and nostalgia. Barnabas awakens to find his estate is in disrepair and that his descendants live giving off an illusion that they're sitting on gold. Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) is in fact, the reason the family has fallen upon hard times, and, as a witch, has taken over the quiet fishing town of Collinsport, Maine. Under her witchcraft-ness, the townspeople have dedicated all of their resources to her and her business and the entire town's wealth trickles through her. Barnabas, aroused yet infuriated, with Angelique (she was the one to turn him into a vampire in the first place), vows to return his family to honor.

Even someone as beautiful as Eva Green gets destroyed by the twelve layers of makeup that are mandatory when working with Burton.

There's very little to love in Dark Shadows. Again, Tim Burton follows the paths he walked down with Alice and Charlie and refuses to use practical sets and actual locations for the film. So much of the movie is glossed over with foggy effects and over-CGI'd backdrops that very little of the final product feels like a story set in the 70s. Burton has again become the victim of himself and his obsession with turning the unnecessary into darkness and glum prove to be one of the movie's greatest weaknesses. Depp is more than past his prime as Barnabas and the character is exactly the same as the last four or five you have seen him play. Post-Pirates of the Caribbean Depp has continually channeled his inner Hunter S. Thompson while throwing in a fake-something-accent and being more bizarre than charming. Of the rest of the cast (that's quite packed, might I mention) there is really no stand outs. Eva Green is the closest to great as Angelique, and as the witch-ness unravels about her, her scenes become more interesting. Chloe Grace Moretz plays Carolyn, the young, rebellious, "sassy" teenager but Burton pumps up her sexuality to a point that leaves you rather confused and uncomfortable. As for Michelle Pfeiffer, Jonny Lee Miller, and Helena Bonham Carter Depp Burton, their roles are rather minimal and their presences feel used simply for the recognition factor as opposed to talent. 

Even Rorschach can't save the movie. 

Dark Shadows is one of Burton's weakest films and easily the most phoned movie in his filmography. Nearly every aspect of the movie falls short of anything wonderful and drags on for far too long. Dated and uninspired Dark Shadows fails to charm or humor the audience and only reminds us that the days of good Burdeppon movies are long gone. While I have seen exceptional films from the man, I have lost almost all faith in Tim Burton. I can only imagine the day he gives us a product worthy to stand next to Big Fish and Ed Wood, his two marvelous masterpieces. Dark Shadows is just another smear on his rather eclectic filmography and quite a low point for Johnny Depp as well. Both men I used to look up to and respect, but the way their careers are heading I can only assume that respect will run dry. 

The Good:
Eva Green has her few moments of brilliance but what Burton puts her up against leaves much to be desired
The Bad:
a weak script with an entire lack of humor that tries to be something quirky and dark but ends up mundane and glossy
The Ugly:
Depp and Burton's relationship has expired and the film tries its hardest to push past the fact, but fails in nearly every aspect



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At October 23, 2012 at 10:58 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think at this stage Depp just wants to have fun and to him wearing crazy make-up and doing an odd voice is fun. I think he'd do these kind of roles with or without Burton, which is a shame because he used to be a fairly brilliant and subtle actor but wacky pays better. I feel like Burton's always had his hits and misses so I don't how much separating them with fix anything. Yes, they are enabling each other but they are successful enough that if they parted ways, they'd just find someone else to play the part. HBC is a sad case too, because she is really great in non-Burton films and it's kind of a drag knowing she will always be in his films because they are married.

At October 23, 2012 at 11:01 PM , Blogger Nick said...

I think Depp's in too deep, honestly. He needs to play more normal roles and not this quirky eccentric weirdos. He used to be a very talented actor but I think his involvement with Burton has "tainted" him beyond repair. As for Burton, he needs to realize that special effects and green screens are not the keys to successful movies and again, return to something normal.

At October 23, 2012 at 11:13 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good Marrow, GentleGuy, I just wanted to put my two-cents in. I think you're looking a wee-bit too deep into this. You're looking at is as......yeah, seen this before, nothing new, Burton. Well that may be true, but you gotta try watching it as if you have never heard of Tim Burton, or seen any of his films. He does what he is most comfortable with, I still don't see much of a change since Edward Scissorhands. It's still the same feel, weird characters and all that. I didn't think this was awesome either, but I didn't hate it. /I think you know I see plenty of worse movies/

I don't know. I guess that's why I view things objectionably.

At October 23, 2012 at 11:24 PM , Blogger Nick said...

I have to disagree. You can't keep rehashing the same things and you can't expect the audience to watch each film as though it's the first thing of his they've seen. Burton keeps making movies and people keep seeing them. To compare each new film to his past movies is practically mandatory and even almost impossible to look at one on its own, esp with Depp in the picture.

At October 23, 2012 at 11:32 PM , Blogger awsumdave said...

Well, don't you think that's a bit of a generalistic approach? I mean how do you give a movie a fair critique if you base it off of something it technically has nothing to do with? I've spoken to a lot of people who think similarly to a range of different actors and directors. Will Smith is always the Fresh Prince, Jim Carrey is always Ace Ventura.

So it is hard not to think about. Instead think about the elements of that movie, did they specifically do anything wrong, and if so, what?

At October 24, 2012 at 3:53 AM , Blogger Ben Hayward said...

I rated it just above average (6/10) but I did feel similarly to you. I gave it such a high rating because the visual look of the film was still top-notch. The set design, setting, score is all well done, if a little stale.

My one big problem with the film was that there were too many characters. Some characters are only in the film to further the story - i.e. the kid with the ghost, the girl/maid who looks a little like Barnabus' dead wife. There's very little back story other than 'look this is bla bla bla'.

I think they were trying to appease the old watcher's of the television show (which I haven't seen) but at the same time, the tone of the film is for a new generation. So the film flops in its storyline because one part of the audience know these characters and want more, the other half don't know them and don't care.

At October 24, 2012 at 10:46 AM , Blogger Nick said...

I feel I talked about the other elements as well. I mentioned the crappy CGI and green screen use, the sub-par acting, the lack of humor and charm, etc.

At October 24, 2012 at 10:47 AM , Blogger Nick said...

That's something I was thinking about as well, Burton trying to appease fans of the old show. As I said in my review, most of pretended to know about it once the movie was announced. I'm not sure how many people are actually familiar with it.

At October 24, 2012 at 11:26 AM , Blogger Sofia said...

I didn't care much about the CGI either, not a fan of the Alice in Wonderland look, but that's just a matter of personal taste. And like Ben, I thought there were too many characters.

I don't have a problem with Burton working with Depp, and like Amanda said, they're just doing what they love, going separate ways wasn't going to change that. In various interviews Burton and Depp stated that "the idea came up, we loved show, we decided to do it". Pfeiffer was in it for the same reason. So all of them are just having fun, and that's fine with me, to some point. I wasn't expecting anything more than a LOT of silly humour and quirky performances.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that... it's only that bad if you can't find the humour pleasing. Like To Rome with Love - not great, but I found it hilarious so I can't say it's bad either. I watched Dark Shadows when it came out (many months ago) and still laugh at the McDonald's / Mephistopheles joke. Some movies are just meant to be fun.

At October 24, 2012 at 2:26 PM , Blogger Nick said...

I went in angry and came out angrier. But I understand where you're coming from. Either then, I still couldn't give it a higher score. The McDonald's joke was okay, but in the end it felt more like an obvious product placement than anything else.


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