Memo to Tim Burton and Johnny Depp: STOP WORKING WITH EACH OTHER. I’m sure you get on well, and have a lovely time and it’s all very comfy, but you’re dragging each other down into such mediocrity it’s just sad.
I’ve never been much of a Tim Burton fan. It’s not that I don’t like him, I think he’s actually a very talented director, and always adds an enjoyably eccentric flourish to his work, I’ve just never had as much of a boner over him as some try hard emo kid from Camden would. Same with Depp. A talented actor, sure, but for the last decade or so he’s just been coasting on wacky character pieces rather than actual acting. Even Jack Sparrow was only properly entertaining for the first Pirates film.
So, it’s not like I came to Dark Shadows expecting a huge amount. A campy fun gothic tale about supernatural things would have suited me down to the ground. But you don’t get that, you get The Johnny Depp Show. The whole thing just seems like an excuse to get him into a weird outfit while he says campy things in an OTT English accent. Yawn.
There are glimmers of proper storylines in here somewhere. The nanny haunted by her ancestor’s ghost, a little boy’s “delusions” of his dead mother not being dead, Michelle Pfeiffer being an awesome ice-queen, a woman’s desperate desire to stay youthful no matter what the cost, werewolves being thrown in and used as an allegory for being a teenager. All of these storylines could have been amazing, had they spent any time on them at all. But every single one is barely touched upon so that LOLZ LOOK HE’S TOUCHING A FORK IN A WEIRD WAY HAHAHAHAHA. Only Eva Green manages to make an impact as she chews up the scenery like a woman possessed.
They even waste time with a cameo from Alice Cooper who is supposed to be 1972 Alice Cooper but is clearly 2012 Alice Cooper, and it’s more sad than anything. It’s supposed to be all “Yay, look how awesome Alice Cooper is” but all you end up thinking is “It probably would have been better if he had died young”.
Burton is clearly coasting too. There are some lovely touches here and there but for the most part I had to remind myself that it was a Tim Burton film. Again, not necessarily a bad thing, his eccentricities can be quite tiresome after a while, but he manages to even cut it all wrong for the humour, pretty much every joke being filmed in such a wrong way, that they all end up falling flat. I can’t really explain it very well, but you’d know what I meant if you’d seen it.
When it comes down to it, they need to stop working together. Burton is wasting his talents by just ignoring everything in his films if it isn’t Johnny Depp, whilst Depp is letting himself drift along playing more and more dull versions of the same eccentric caricature.
This could have been a really amazing film had it been a comedy adaptation of “Dark Shadows” with a cast that just happened to be lead by Johnny Depp, but instead it’s “JOHNNY DEPP STARS IN DARK SHADOWS… and some other people might be in it too, we’re not sure”. Maybe they’re planning a proper full cast effort for the sequel but I’d be surprised if they get one with this being so downright disappointing.