Rapid Reviews – Dark Shadows [DVD]

Do you remember Edward Scissorhands? Really well structured, artistic film with different underlying themes? That was the genius of Tim Burton in 1990. Now fast forward to 2012, and to one of Tim Burton’s latest creations; Dark Shadows. All I can say to Tim is what the hell happened?

I saw the trailer for the film beforehand and I admit it made me laugh, there was a certain charm to it and it looked as though it could be very interesting. Then I watched the film. Which is an experience I can only describe as being similar to looking at pictures of a hotel online, seeing they’ve got a nice pool, then going to the hotel and finding out that it’s just a puddle. It was a mess and a half of a film.

I don’t think I could describe the story, because it starts in the usual Tim Burton way of being very dark and dreary and then just looses it’s nerve later as it panics whilst trying to find itself. It didn’t really have a plot line that you stick with throughout, you just watch the characters going from one event to the next. It felt as though the writers sat down to brainstorm key moments of the film, but then didn’t link them together. It doesn’t flow at all and it just left me with a lot of questions like “why is she now suddenly that?” “why did he do that to those people?” and most importantly “why do I care about these people”.  The characters are written to be quirky and have their own little personalities but they actually felt quite flat so I didn’t feel connected to them in any form.

Also on the subject of writing I have to talk about screenplay; absolutely awful. It was boring and had no imaginative spark to it, with the best jokes being formed in the trailer by stitching different moments of the film together. It wasn’t as funny as it should have been, and there are a lot of scenes spent just talking aimlessly about what I can only describe as ‘stuff’ or ‘gothic stuff’. Either Seth Grahame-Smith got heavily bored whilst writing the screenplay or he just has a total lack of both imagination and the ability to articulate.

In terms of acting, it was very similar to many Burton films: Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter do their thing that we all know well enough by now. I will say that in the film’s defense Eva Green did a good job of playing the main villain with a good mix of being dark and mysterious but also with a mischievous element too. However her ability was knocked out of focus by the appearance of a young Chloe Grace Moretz, who for this particular film had all the skill of a GCSE drama student, so instead of appreciating Eva Green more I found myself getting annoyed will young miss Mortetz. Quite a poor effort from the cast, but to be honest with the material they were given, there wasn’t a lot of room to squeeze talent in.

The whole style of the film feels very outdated. It felt as though Burton was trying to relive the days of Beetle Juice and Edward Scissorhands and it really didn’t work for me. There’s pointless scenes of violence that add nothing to the film, the characters are meant to be quirky and dark but in the end they just feel odd and out of place, and there is a lot of references to older gothic films but they literally feel as though they are ingredients added to a cake mixture just before it’s put in the oven. In particular, later in the film it got really boring because of all the silly violence that kicked in and amounted to nothing so it felt rather pointless. It did not have the artistic nature of creative flare that Burton has had in the past.

All in all I would give the film two stars, it was a really poor effort from a film maker that I actually rather like. It was loud and trashy with no real appeal or spark to it, and to be honest it felt as if it was really ill disciplined. I won’t say it was completely terrible because admittedly I did giggle a couple of times, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that it’s a mess. The story and characters are both shambolic so the structure of the film collapses. There are not themes or messages present and it felt as though Burton was making the film for a bit of fun, which if you are going to do, at least do it in a Tarantino styled way so the film is at least partially enjoyable. Personally I feel that it failed as both a comedy and a drama so it sits in the void of films, waiting for a day when someone will come along and feel a connection that I struggled to find. I don’t plan on watching the film again, I was put through the pain of it once and I don’t think a second viewing is going to change my mind. To anyone planning to watch it, just think twice and don’t watch it based on the fact you liked the trailers.

So to sum up, in the words of Mark Kermode: “wasted my time I did”.

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