You know, I actually like Tim Burton. I’m not kidding, I think he’s actually pretty good director. He’s got a unique visual aesthetic, a talent for writing interesting characters and a working understanding of story techniques. It’s just…lately there’s something wrong with him. I’m not quite sure what, I don’t know if anyone does, and it’s not 100 percent down (he’s made some good films lately, like Sweeney Todd) but his output has been going steadily downhill since the turn of the millennium. Shit like Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factor and Planet of the Apes, are actively terrible movies, which is distressing from someone who’s not a terrible director. But while Dark Shadows is not bad in the way Alice or Charlie is, it’s just…not very good.
The plot, based on a 1960’s soap opera, is about a 200 year old vampire, imprisoned underground by a jealous former lover who turns out to be a witch. He breaks out in the 1970s to find his old money family has descended into squabbling upper class twits. He arrives and makes it his mission to revive the family’s fortunes, opposed by the witch who is, as it turns out, immortal.
If that sounds like a thin premise, it is, and the movie isn’t doing a hell of a lot with it. It’s got a few funny moments, and a unique visual design (which is nice, as a lot of Tim’s later movies have the same goddamn visual design) but overall, there’s just not a lot to it. It’s a little too focused in on it’s ‘man out of time’ humor, which gets old fast (although I will say, to it’s credit, the 1970’s setting works really well, mostly for music and thematic reasons). It also fumbles it’s character relationships a bit, giving a lot of screentime to the entertaining interplay between the hero and villain, but not as much as to his relationship with his love interest or the kid he becomes a surrogate father to (yes a Tim Burton film includes a character with father issues, what a goddamn surprise), which leads the villainess to be vastly more interesting.
But all of this is ignoring the movie’s biggest flaw: That it’s just fucking boring. And that’s the biggest crime it commits. Sure Depp looks more engaged than he has since Sweeney Todd, most of the cast is game for the material and Burton is working his ass off, but it’s still just…dull. Not particularly funny, not particularly exciting, it’s just boring. So I guess I’m going to cut this review a bit short. I’ve heard Frankenweenie is good, so I guess I’ll see that when it hits DVD, but as for this one? Skip it.
Elessar is a 22 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he’d like to remind all of you to go see Ed Wood.