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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
Dark Shadows is a movie I wanted to like. It boasts a strong cast led by Johnny Depp, the previews suggested a tone which would be darkly quirky (which I’ve previously and fondly compared to The Addams Family), and it gets the always-fantastic visual style of director Tim Burton. Yet, this film just ultimately doesn’t work. There are a number of reasons why this is the case, but for me, the biggest issue was that the film had way too make characters to service.
Beyond Depp’s vampire Barnabas and Eva Green’s Angelique, none of the characters are really explored enough for the audience to care what happens to them. This is made worse by the fact that the movie feels the need to give each of them some sort of storyline.
For example, Chloe Grace Moretz is completely wasted in a role which added completely nothing to the movie. Towards the climax of the film, we get a “twist” (for lack of a better term) with Moretz’s character, but it proves worthless, and it is never really commented on. It reeks of being thrown in there for the sake of being thrown in there.
We learn nothing about Michelle Pfeiffer’s Elizabeth. Dr. Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter) and Roger (Johnny Lee Miller) are completely superfluous. Bella Heathcote does well in her duel role, but for a character who is the crux of the story, she really needed to be developed more.
I commented above that Depp’s Barnabas is explored fairly well. This is true, but his characterization had a fundamental flaw: it was inconsistent. He goes around bemoaning the fact that he is cursed. However, he has no problem killing innocents to feed. Granted, his a blood-thirsty, creature of the night, but it becomes very hard to sympathize with a character who does this and doesn’t show any regret. In one instance, it is suggested that he premeditates killing a group of people after befriending them. It was difficult for me to root for the guy.
It does seem as if the actors were having fun in the movie. However, I ended up not having much fun watching them. Dark Shadows isn’t an outright bad movie. It is just incredibly average. Burton needed to either cut down the amount of characters or expanded their stories. Perhaps time will make me kinder to it. But, as it stands now, I left the theater disappointed and underwhelmed.