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Bad Movie Tuesday: Dark Shadows

June 19, 2012

Eva Green Red Dress movie poster

Dark Shadows is the end of an era. An era filled with strange characters, memorable visuals and the beautiful macabre. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have teamed up for some wonderful films (Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, Ed Wood) The recent collaborations have been box office hits (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland) that sacrificed the weirder aspects of the early works for commercial success.

What once was unpredictable, dark and imaginative is now predictable. It used to be that Depp was in a Tim Burton film. Now, the audience talks about Johnny Depp’s over the top characters that inhabit Tim Burton’s movies.  Gone is the dark atmosphere and rich characters. What we are stuck with is Burton letting Depp be Depp. Letting Depp be Depp is not an entirely bad thing. He did put his spin on Captain Jack Sparrow and the series has made billions. Nowadays, instead of letting the humor and appeal come from the characters Dark Shadows puts Depp in zany situations and expects laughs.

Depp is not the fresh-faced 27-year-old who appeared in Edward Scissorhands. That role gave him a weird/dangerous factor that summed up his career. The film also knew how to incorporate humor with the dangerous. Remember the scene where Depp and Winona Ryder first meet? She walks into her room and startles Edward who then pokes holes in a water mattress. The scene makes you laugh and realize how inadvertently dangerous and ill-suited Edward was to everyday life. It was humor from the moment. In Dark Shadows it is Depp doing things.

Dark Shadows focuses on Johnny Depp’s character named Barnabas Collins. Barnabas was the heir to a huge fishing company. However, he angered a witch who killed his parents, girlfriend, turned him into a vampire. Then, he was imprisoned in a coffin for two hundred years. He is accidentally let loose in 1972 and has to deal with disco, cars and hippies.  He tries to restore his families luster while Eva Green’s angry witch foils his every step.

Eva Green Dark Shadows red dress

What is lacking in this movie is danger, surprise and originality. Burton’s films are normally populated with zany goth characters wonderful misfits. This film lacks the third dimension. Depp is confused, Pfeiffer is a survivor, Moretz is a brat, Miller is a turd and Green is angry.

Dark Shadows has the look, characters and style of a Depp/Burton collaboration. However, it seemed so content to nail the look and make Depp weird that it forgot to add substance.

I’m hoping the next Burton/Depp collaboration will combine the box office success with the coherent weirdness of their earlier works.

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