Sunday, 13 May 2012

Dark Shadows

"Tell me, future dweller, what is the year?"

Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) is the son of a wealthy English family who move to Maine, USA in the late 18th Century. After spurning the affections of servant/secret with, Angelique (Eva Green) he falls in love with local girl Josette (Bella Heathcote). Angelique, unable to bear seeing someone else with Barnabas, kills his parents and Josette and turns Barnabas into a vampire. 200 years later it’s 1972 and Barnabas is unearthed from a coffin which the townsfolk placed him in and attempts to reconnect with his living family and rebuild the great Collins name.    

Tim Burton appears to be on a bad run at the moment. His last two films 9 and Alice in Wonderland were critical failures though Alice proved to be extremely popular at the box office. It is my feeling that Burton is currently favouring style over substance and that is evident in his latest offering. Tim Burton has no trouble creating beautifully odd looking sets, characters and films but it is one thing to make a film that ‘looks Tim Burton’ and another to make a film that is any good. The film has all the gothic grace of Tim Burton’s finest and he manages to meld this with a 70s look which works quite well. Details of both periods look great and work well together. The set dressing, clothes and music are all spot on. Where the film falls down is in the plot.

Firstly it makes no sense and there are more plot holes than a machine gunned Swiss cheese. Barnabas, an only child, is killed in the late 1700s, long after the death of his parents yet 200 years later his family is alive and well. Where they came from is never explained. Another problem is that Eva Green’s witch character has tried for 200 years to get rid of/keep the family out of the way. She is a witch and shows her power in numerous scenes but has still been unable to remove them. This doesn’t make sense and in one scene late on it is shown that she is responsible even for improving the survival chances of one family member. A further problem is that the character of Josette and the 1970s nanny Victoria are played by the same actress and one is followed by the other’s ghost. The reasons for this were never explained and made absolutely no sense. Another problem which bothered me though probably doesn’t matter in America is that Barnabas is meant to be from Liverpool but speaks with the same non-descript English accent that most American actors use.

Other than major plot holes the plot itself is thinner than tracing paper. It was really boring and I didn’t care about any of the characters. It wasn’t funny enough either. I sniggered a couple of times but didn’t laugh once and I wasn’t alone. Even during the funniest parts, the audience I saw it with barely tittered. Along with being unfunny it also wasn’t scary. For a comedy-horror really it should have been at least one or the other. The Woman in Black showed what can be done with a 12A/PG13 rating and this film came nowhere near to making me scared.

The actors were all generally quite good. Johnny Depp was fairly amusing with his from a different time bit, but it soon wore off. Overall though he was very good and carried the film. Chloe Moretz was also excellent, for once playing a normal teenager. She conveyed teen angst very well and made for a good sparring partner with Depp’s Georgian vampire. Michelle Pfeiffer was also fine as the family matriarch though she didn’t have much to do. Helena Bonham Carter was great but felt under used and Bella Heathcote felt a bit swamped by the exuberant characters and personalities around her. Eva Green was excellent as the witch. It was also nice to see Christopher Lee on screen, if only for a minute. The addition of Alice Cooper felt like when a TV show has run out of ideas so brings a star on to boost ratings. It felt very unrealistic to have him appear but it was only a matter of time before he did make an appearance in a Burton film.

Overall this is a film of style over substance and that puts Tim Burton in a bracket with Zach Snyder, somewhere he really doesn’t want to be. It looks and sounds great, has some great acting and characters but suffers from a poor script, lack of laughs and scares.


No comments:

Post a Comment