Dark Shadows! The latest collaboration between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp (and Helena Bonham Carter too, of course) shows nothing more than the typical Burton style and the fact that this feels more like the 118th time they've worked together rather than the 8th. I've actually delayed writing this review because I don't actually want to think too much about the film because it disappointed me so (and also I've been sunbathing). The film failed to meet the expectations of the trailer which made it look so enjoyable and hilarious.
In 1776, wealthy playboy Barnabus Collins (Depp) spurns the advances of one of his servants, the witch Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), in favour of the vapid Josette. In a jealous rage, Angelique kills his parents and bewitches Josette so she jumps of a cliff to her death, and changes Barnabus into a vampire, and then proceeds to bury him alive with the aid of the townsfolk. Two hundred years later, his casket is discovered and he awakes to a world he is completely unfamiliar with - the early seventies. He returns to his family home to find the family business going under, the house in disrepair and a number of dysfunctional relatives. Whilst adjusting to his new life, Barnabus must also salvage the family's wealth and reputation, and also deal with a familiar face who is out to destroy him.
It is not only the most disappointing film I've seen in a very long time, but the film is also so falsely advertised in the trailers. The film seems to be confused about what type of film it actually is - it seemed from all the footage released to be a typical fish-out-of-water comedy, but there's family drama added in, there's a supernatural love triangle, there's action, and a little bit of horror, and all in all it seems terribly confused and unfocused. The different plot strands are all over the place because there's just far too much going on; it's like Burton has tried to cram five different films into one, and it's all rather chaotic.
The performances are all rather so-so as well, disappointingly. Depp's portrayal of the 18th century playboy-turned-vampire living in modern times feels rather restrained compared to what we know he's capable of - at times, it feels like he was filming at the same time as thinking "Why am I actually doing this?" - and that's probably down to the script again - despite having been asleep for two hundred years, he seems to accept all the modern day changes rather easily. Yes, there's the little things we've all seen like him being all confused about the television, and another bit where he gingerly steps onto tarmac, but overall he seems very well adjusted very quickly. Eva Green is actually rather good, and despite being the villain I actually sympathised with her, but that may be because actually all of the other characters were somewhat ghastly. She does do an annoying amount of showing off her looks and attempting to force Barnabus to love her, but compared to the rest of the cast she's probably the most engaging. Michelle Pfeiffer doesn't really do much more than drawl snarky comments occasionally, and her incessant eye-rolling could be down to the fact that she has realised she has absolutely nothing to sink her teeth into here. Jonny Lee Miller is just a horrible representation of a bad father to his poor son, a (slightly irritating) little boy who is seeing a therapist and thinks he can communicate with dead people (don't even ask, it's all moot). All the characters are basically under-developed and though you can see they've tried, it's just impossible to care for any of the characters at all. Whereas in the trailer it looked like Chloe Moretz was going to be an entertaining snarky teen, she ends up just being a whiny and very annoying one instead. She's one of those teenagers you want to slap for taking their angsty moods too far. And don't get me started on Bella Heathcote. She has two characters to play and she's still barely memorable. Both of them are vapid, as I said earlier, and bring absolutely nothing to the table except to be plot catalysts. You could tell she was supposed to be the likeable character in this, and you were supposed to root for her, but she just ended up being irritating and redundant. And of course, there's Helena Bonham Carter, aka, Mrs Burton. I'm pretty sure she's contractually obliged to appear in every film her partner makes - maybe they had that in lieu of a marriage certificate? Who knows, but even she here lacks that special something she so often brings to the screen.
There is a worrying lack of humour here: all the decent gags were given away in the trailer (and I meant literally all of them). This could even be excused if they made up for it in other ways, but the horror was clearly toned down (though there is one comparitively nasty moment with a blood bag being sucked dry through its user). It's not a love story, really, as the central romance gets overshadowed by too much else going on, and even the sexytimes feel a little too staged and surreal to be enjoyable. Even the end action scene is actually borderline dull, and I found my mind wandering during what I'm sure was actually meant to be the pivotal moment of the film. Where the tension appears to be ramping up, the audience's interest has surely already slipped to far beyond redemption. It's all thrown together so shambolically it's dizzying, and actually ends up feeling like you've stepped into the mind of Tim Burton on acid. Rather concerning, really.
There were a lot of things hat just never explained. Not to ruin too much, but there's more supernatural beings that just a vampire and a witch, but they seem very random in the grand scheme of things, like they've just been chucked into the film last minute. One of these appearances was actually laughable, it was so ridiculously bad. And it's just frustrating. If some things had been left out, there wouldn't have been any difference really to the plot but other things could have been explained instead. Everything just feels like it's been touched on because so much has been crammed in, and I think that's probably it's major flaw.
There are some good points I should make clear. The retro style of the film was actually really good, with set, hair and costume actually making me feel rather nostalgic at some points, and that's not to mention the ace songs they embedded in there too. Throwing in a bit of T-Rex and Barry White (actually technically wrong, since "You're the First, My Last, My Everything" was written two years after it was set) really did improve the film, and livened it up somewhat, which it constantly needed. Essentially, it looked good, with a pretty cast and pretty sets and pretty costumes. However, with the seventies feel also comes Burton's own unique style that frankly, is getting a little old. It was absolutely nothing we haven't already seen before from him, with the extreme make up, vivid and contrasting colours and constant gothic feel.
Also, I'm not sure if you can call this a good thing or not, but there's so many twists and turns and random things thrown in that it isn't actually predictable. Well, the outcome is, but not what actually happens along the way. Ok, I've just read that back, and actually that isn't a good thing. I'd much rather it was predictable and entertaining than... this.
It was left open for a sequel (the final shot felt very gratuitous of Burton... you'll see what I mean), but I emplore anyone who worked on that film to reject that idea. I strongly urge that they leave this alone to rot where it belongs.
Verdict: It's just shoddy work from people we all know can do better. I watched Sweeney Todd the day before I went to see it, and there was just no comparison. Instead of watching this film, I'd recommend just watching some of Burton's older works, where he was actually fresh and a visionary, and watch the trailer for this over and over again. It would be more enjoyable, trust me. All in all it feels like a very half-hearted, slap-dash film. Burton, where has your sparkle gone?