So to all those Burton/Depp haters out there…I liked Dark Shadows. And no, it’s not because I cannot help but smiling when I see Tim Burton’s name directing something, or the fact that Johnny Depp is quite possibly my favorite actor of all time…but it sure helps.
There was a time not too long ago, when a movie called Alice in Wonderland came out. I was more excited than any college student could be. I wanted that movie to be so good. I had the poster on my wall for months of Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. For years I had been checking off everything that would be great about that movie – subject matter, director, all actors, composer, check check and double check! But it wasn’t. It was everything I hated about remakes all wrapped up in an ugly box. It was boring, uninteresting, and frankly I would rather not ever see it again. Not on TV, nowhere.
So when another Burton/Depp movie came around I was skeptical. I did not want to excite myself too soon. And Dark Shadows had something even better than Alice did – Chloe Moretz, my current favorite up-in-coming actress. I follow most of every movie she comes out with. I think she’s brilliant at choosing material that has a little bit of an edge to it. So therefore, although I wasn’t running through the streets giddy with excitement, I was very intrigued.
And then the trailer came out. And what a mediocre trailer it was. My heart sank. I didn’t know what to think. This movie just wasn’t looking to be good at all. But I was going to see it. I see all Burton movies, because ever since The Nightmare Before Christmas he has been my idol. My favorite director of all time, Burton has done for me what no other director (except Spielberg) can do – he makes dreams come true. And to me, Dark Shadows was no different.
Though not a perfect movie, Dark Shadows is fantastic campy and fun, in the same light that Beetlejuice or Mars Attacks was. There was also an air of darkness to it, a la Sleepy Hollow which is something I have missed from Burton all these years. Johnny Depp was actually a little bit funny in his quirky way, as well as Chloe Moretz. Helena Bonham Carter proved she can melt herself into any role that’s handed to her, and Michelle Pfeiffer is a goddess on screen. Eva Green was also an interesting villainess, although I had a hard time not connecting her to Ichabod Crane’s mother when she was dressed in her maiden attire. The film was light, playful, and all around enjoyable.
The movie was not perfect, though. The script was a little disjointed with characterization as far as the family (specifically the younger boy and Chloe Moretz’s character) and Victoria went. The pacing was also a little slow at times, which was due to some extremely long lingering cuts. It did not bring out huge laughs like Beetlejuice surely does, but it did make me smile frequently and I chuckled regularly! This movie really felt like old Burton – almost like a parody rather than straight up horror or comedy. Not to mention, the cinematography was stunning – the mansion was gorgeous.
To me this movie proves that Tim Burton still has it in him. He’s not boring yet. His comeback from Alice in Wonderland was no Sleepy Hollow, but it wasn’t awful either. I feel like people have hated this movie for either three reasons:
1. They are too attached to the old show, thus refusing to enjoy Burton’s parody of it (fine, I understand that feeling),
2. They are blinded by their Burton/Depp hatred, or
3. They expect too much from Burton now, and therefore find anything that remotely feels Burton-y “mainstream” or “overdone.”
(and for my end rant) Yet, no one complains when other people reuse similar film techniques. Gore Verbinski, another director who favors Depp, reuses his unique style in Pirates and Rango. There are definitely not as many haters there. People dislike Burton because he’s the easiest to pick on – his style was so original when it came out, that many people cannot get into it. He’s almost niche, if you will. And his style, like many other directors, will not change. Like it or not, but do not complain about his reuse of it. He is an auteur, and will make movies how he likes them – campy, rich with horror tropes and bright red candy blood all day long. And for these reasons Dark Shadows is good, and it was for that lack of reasons Alice in Wonderland was bad.