Thursday, May 24, 2012

Dark Shadows movie review.

Grim and wacky auteur Tim Burton, a director who you may remember best for terrific movies like Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish, and Ed Wood, gives us the first of his two 2012 directed features. Dark Shadows, based on the long running TV series created by Dan Curtis, features Burton's undeniably quirky stamp, but it also turns out to be his least entertaining movie since Planet of the Apes.

Johnny Depp stars as Barnabas Collins, a man from the 18th century who is cursed to be a vampire after toying with the heart of a woman who turns out to be a witch. For this, the Collins family is historically cursed, and Barnabas, locked in a coffin for nearly 200 years, awakens in 1972. The Collins family business, led by matriarch Elizabeth, is flailing. Overpowered by the business led by a rival company, the brains of which belong to Angelique, the woman who cursed Barnabas. Barnabas seeks to restore the Collins business it to its original grandeur, win the heart of a young woman, and figure out what sorcery powers a television.

The biggest problem with the movie lies with writer Seth Grahame-Smith. The screenplay is seriously awful. The back stories of the characters are interesting, but somewhere in the writing, something just rings untrue. These characters have so much potential, but the emotional involvement is unsatisfying, the development falls flat and inconsistent, and the structure just feels off. The movie itself also lacks rhythm. It struggles to find a consistent tone, thrown off course by irritating pacing shifts, and the kind of quirky humor that normally works for Burton's films, but feels wildly uneven here.

Johnny Depp is witty and hypnotic as Barnabas Collins.
As for the cast, there's plenty of talent, but not enough chemistry. Oddly enough, the cast do succeed in bringing something out of nothing roles, except perhaps Chloe Moretz and Johnny Lee Miller. Eva Green, delightfully wicked and menacingly funny as Angelique, is one worth mentioning. Johnny Depp, as well, remains just as deliriously enjoyable as ever. Even if the fish out of water humor feels a bit much, he still manages to leave one in genuine fits of laughter, especially in the hysterical floor-wall-ceiling love scene in Angelique's office.

And since it's a Burton movie, it looks just as good. Definitely his most beautifully designed movie since Sleepy Hollow, and arguably his most beautifully designed movie ever. Rick Heinrichs' production design, Bruno Delbonnel's cinematography, and especially Colleen Atwood's extraordinary costumes are properly elegant, and Burton's composer of choice, Danny Elfman, brings on yet another great musical score. However, it takes more to make a good movie than pretty imagery. A good movie requires true heart, which Dark Shadows unfortunately lacks.

***/ *****

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