Thursday, May 17, 2012

Movie Review: Dark Shadows

So hey, yeah, saw this tonight. Johnny Depp flicks aren't my usual fare other than the Pirates movies, and neither are Tim Burton flicks, but the family wanted to see it so I tagged along. This'll be a quick one.
Overall, it was...decent, I guess. It's a bit weird how it works out to that. First, my background: going into this, I knew zip about the movie. I hadn't seen an ad, a trailer, nothing other than the fact that it was Johnny Depp and Tim Burton again. I know nothing of the source material.

Plot: The plot is BY FAR the weak point. Seriously, to be honest this is a good quality movie that is forced to follow a ridiculous and bizarre plot. Now, I suppose it's to be expected; this WAS based on a late 60s soap opera. But to be totally honest, this movie could have been considerably stronger all around if they'd ditched the old plot and come up with some interesting new stuff to go with all the rest of the quality.

Writing: Despite the absurdity of the plot, the writers salvaged a watchable and occasionally funny movie. They wrote some  excellent scenes in there, and I felt an awkward/weird Twin Peaks vibe that was pretty cool. Kudos to the writers - it takes skill to make a decent movie out of an awful plot.

Directing/Photography: Holy crap, whoever came up with some of those shots needs an award. The filming itself is very impressive, and several times I saw something and stepped back and thought "damn, that's a cool angle they pulled off there!" There's one scene near the beginning when Victoria is having her first dinner with the Collins family where Carolyn is dancing slowly in the foreground but out of focus while we're watching the stuff further away that sticks with me as very memorable for it's shooting, it just had a natural look and the scene itself was one of the biggest ones to hold the Twin Peaks vibe I mentioned.

Acting: Actually, it's top notch, assuming a lot of the characters are supposed to be awkward (especially the David kid near the end). Johnny Depp pulls it off like usual, as does Helena Bonham Carter, Michelle Pfeiffer, and the whole cast. Chloe Grace Moretz just keeps on coming with her good films, coming off of last year's Hugo and the year before's Kick-Ass! - if she keeps it up she'll be quite the force to be reckoned with in the future, I mean she's actually only 15 right now. And I gotta admit, I found Bella Heathcote (Victoria) to be pretty cute, despite how screwed in the head her character is. Anyway, yeah, any problems this movie has certainly aren't stemming from the actors.

Sound: Actually, this is my surprise success. I actually caught myself paying attention to the music at times, and not just when it's taking center stage. I was expecting your basic background stuff, but this stuff was actually pretty good! Likely not worth listening to outside of the movie's context, but still a success I wasn't expecting to give them. Also, the licensed music did a good job at fitting the time. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised - Danny Elfman has worked with Burton for long enough to know what to do with Burton's movies.

Conclusion: So yeah, what's the final verdict? Well, it's decent-to-strong everywhere but the plot. Unfortunately, the plot is the thing that you really need for a movie to be good, and while the pretty good writing makes it watchable, it's not good. I think the big issue is that this is a movie built to be a B-movie based on a soap opera itself built to be a B-movie, but they released it like an A-movie. The general public just doesn't go for camp as much as they used to, and Burton should have realized that.
Watch This Movie If You: Like the original Dark Shadows (or maybe the 1991 remake), enjoy Burton/Depp movies, like campy humor mixed with gothic color.
Don't Watch This Movie If You're Expecting: A strong or serious storyline, Burton/Depp's best work
Grade: 6/10 (C), and that's being a little generous, I was wavering on 5 or 6.

Basically I'm saying to watch this if you catch on TV sometime but not to spend your theater money. Go watch Avengers or save up for any of the next few weeks' powerhouses in Battleship, Men in Black 3, Snow White and the Huntsman, or Prometheus. By the way, you can expect reviews for most of those, maybe not MiB3 but the rest for sure, especially Prometheus. Later folks!

End Recording,

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