Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dark Shadows

Get out your coffins and disco balls, we're reviewing Dark Shadows!
Johnny Depp was made to be a vampire. Is he a vampire in real life maybe?
This is a strange movie, and not just it's Tim Burtoniness(Tim Burtonisicty? Burtonese?) You can definitely feel it's soap opera roots and everyone has a fun time hamming it up, but it doesn't quite translate as well to the big screen.

When Barnabas Collins(Johnny Depp) shuns the affections of a house keeper, Angelique(Eva Green), who happens to be a witch, she turns him into a vampire and buries him in the ground. Cut to 1972, the Collins family is in shambles, and Barnabas is let out of the box.  He tries to put the family business and the family itself back together, but Angelique is running the town and ready to make his life a living hell!
Did not realize this was Eva Green. Very good bitchiness.
This feels exactly like an over the top soap opera, and in that sense Burton has succeeded.  All of the actors are happily overacting,  and all that's missing are dramatic close-ups with sinister music.  Granted, I've never seen the original, but if this were a TV show it would be incredibly entertaining. I could see this as the next Being Human or Vampire Diaries. That it's a movie instead of a TV show is one of it's biggest pitfalls.

The beginning is steady and easy going, and characters and plot are introduced steadily, but midway through things just start happening, it all gets muddled, and then the finale just happens and ends the movie.  I like that it takes its time in the beginning, but it's not a tight script at all and there are way too many story lines not to get confused.  It's hard to see exactly what the focus is, or what the main story is when there are so many things going on at once.  Even the stuff that should get more time doesn't, like his relationship with his love interest. I was sure it would be Helena Bonham Carter's character since they seemed to spend more time together, but that ended weird.

The third act comes in way too abruptly and the final battle feels like an action sequence stapled on to a brooding drama.  They don't take good use of time.  This is especially apparent after watching a Joss Whedon script where everything is set up, nothing is wasted and everything makes sense (I swear that man has ruined me).  Near the end, one of the characters literally comes out and announces they're a monster OUT OF FUCKING NOWHERE and it's just sort of, oh yeah, that happened, with nothing explaining or leading up to it. It's really poor staging.
Strangely enough, Helena Bonham Carter is not the main love interest.
Not to say that the effects or the final battle are bad.  The final battle is actually pretty entertaining with lots of cool Burtonesque effects, and actually makes me want to play videogames. This almost makes me wish this was a videogame, almost, maybe if it were something from Telltale. And I do have to say this has one of the best sex scenes ever, of all time.  If you've seen the previews, you already know that a vampire and a witch do it, and oh man, it is exactly as awesome as it sounds.  They just go at each other, wrecking up the place, with Barry White playing in the background.  If that doesn't start some deviantArt type fan fiction I don't know what will.

Major points have to be awarded for the seventies aesthetic, because it is perfect. There's no way that this movie doesn't feel seventies from the buildings, to the clothing to the great soundtrack to the character archetypes, and it all feels like it fits perfectly.  I also like how even though Barnabas is a fish-out-of-water character, he's not really startled or scared of the new world, he's just sort of "What is this glowy box. Fuck this glowy box, I'm a 17th century vampire and I am FABULOUS."

The acting is the big draw here, everyone involved hams it up to the appropriate levels. This is one of the roles Johnny Depp was built for(little known fact, Johnny Depp was built in a lab by Tim Burton from clay, booze and white make-up); he feels perfect as an out-of-date dramatic monster of the night. I also like how he's an actual vampire who kills people but is trying to do his version of good. Also, major points for being an actual vampire that sucks blood, sleeps upside down, is hurt by light, and hypnotizes people. Eva Green is very good as a seducing and creepy witch business woman.  Michelle Pfeiffer acts like she IS on a soap opera; her levels of ham reach to 9000. Chloe Mortez is incredibly entertaining as Carolyn, the troubled teenage girl stuck in a house full of squares. And Jackie Earle Haley is hilarious as the drunk hired help 'Willie'.
Jackie Earle Haley, why aren't you in more things? I demand you be in more things now!
It's got a great 70's aesthetic, great soundtrack and smaltzy acting, but it's more of a cobbled together bunch of TV shows than a singular movie.  The individual parts are good, they just don't add up to a distinct whole.  If you don't expect a comprehensible experience or anything particularly making sense, you should enjoy it though.

THE GOOD: Great over the top acting, very cool 70's aesthetic that fits, Johnny Depp has fun, great classic soundtrack, action is pretty good and very Burtonistic, one of the best sex scenes ever.

THE BAD: Not a tight script, things just happen, third act comes and ends abruptly, things happening out of nowhere, too many storylines that don't get enough attention and get muddled.

THE VERDICT: $$$ It was just ok. It's enjoyable, you should have fun while watching it if you enjoy Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, but it's no Nightmare Before Christmas or Edward Scissorhands

MOVIES LIKE IT: The Addams Family, Edward Scissorhands, True Blood, The Munsters

ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: The first Collin's family dinner we are introduced to each of the family members with their own quirks and set backs. Carolyn is dancing a sultry dance to Season of the Witch in the background. It's a great slow way to set-up all the characters and their eccentric natures.

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