Sunday, July 15, 2012

Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows

Directed by Tim Burton

Once again proving that in Tim Burton's world, style greatly outweighs substance in order of importance, Dark Shadows is an over-crowded, uneven, stylistic wreck of a movie with few redeeming factors.

Dark Shadows is based on a soap opera of the same name, which ran during the late sixties and into the early seventies. Being a soap opera, this show ran every week day for roughly 5 years. If you do the math, you'll see that this is far too much material to fit into a single 2-hour-long movie. So why did they attempt it? Instead of taking small bits of the story and formulating a plot more "inspired" than "based" on the show, they essentially tried fitting 1,000+ episodes worth of plot and character development into one movie. And this is more than apparent as you watch the movie; they introduce dozens of subplots that either go, or come out of, nowhere. What was the point in this, exactly? Frankly, I have no idea.

One of the most glaring flaws of this movie lies in its inability to maintain a consistent tone. I truly don't understand what this movie was trying to be. At times filled with soapy melodrama and melancholy despair, but by the end of the scene may have already transformed into a series of desperately unfunny fish-out-of-water jokes. And that's how the movie goes. The drama is not effective, and most of the jokes are either horribly out of place, or simply not funny. Which returns us to the same issue again; this movie is incredibly uneven. The dramatic and comedic elements of the movie are drastically different, causing the movie to clash with itself and resulting in the entire movie being an enormous mess. It was impossible for me not to ask myself at the end of each scene, "is this supposed to be funny, or should I be taking it seriously?".

Now, I'm sure it will come as no surprise to you when I say the best thing about this movie is Johnny Depp's performance as Barnabas Collins. Despite his clownish make-up and misplaced eloquence (which almost always results in some form of disastrously over-used joke, not half as funny as intended to be), Depp's vibrant, commanding presence more often than not makes his scenes the most interesting in the film. The remainder of the cast lacks this energy; many of which appearing as though they may be sleepwalking throughout most of their scenes. The more I think about it, perhaps Depp's performance only looked good by comparison, for he truly had no competition in the acting department.

Giving credit where credit is due, the visuals in this movie are quite good. But is that enough? One strong performance and striking imagery is not enough to redeem this movie. and even with all the sub-plots and story-lines overlapping throughout, I still found myself overwhelmingly bored. Emotionally detached, comically inept, and filled with inconsequential plot points that never seem to stop emerging, there is very little I can truly praise about this movie. Fans of Burton may be satisfied, but I was not.

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