"It's the heart and the bold attitude of a filmmaker that makes his film entertaining at a high value and today wasn't the best day for Burton."
There's no miracle that Tim Burton knows how to create dark cartoonish worlds in which wild colors and vivid characters battle for the enchanted ground of these fantastic universes. Dark Shadows is wild, goofy, and colorful but it kinda feels like an asthma crisis. You know you have this urgency and impatience to watch the next Tim Burton film but even as a fan of him it does nothing in the end but providing you sudden gasps time after time. It's an interesting thing because Burton films usually have a really well developed emotional core. Here he probably wanted to pay an expensive, comical, and glossy homage to the more classic TV show but he didn't manage to give the film it's own identity, it's own soul. Sure it looks fantastic but that's a really slutty compliment you can give Burton considering that he's a master of that and we're already used with his rich vision of the fantastic.
I admire Burton because I respect his guts and his obvious love for film. He's passionate, he's paying a lot of attention to details, and usually he delivers great films on their own. He has his misses like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Alice In Wonderland but you can't deny this guy's incredible taste for the mythical and the surreal. He's like the Mad Hatter of cinema. He does nothing short than record dreams on film.
Walking into Dark Shadows with high expectations was a bit disappointing not because the movie ended up being bad but because the movie failed to be a great Tim Burton film. If this film was directed by someone else it would have been probably praised for it's design and considered a decent tribute to a classic TV show. However, since we have to deal with the fact that this is a Tim Burton film, we also have to deal with the fact that we're expecting something a bit more different even if executed by the same recipe.
This is probably one of Burton's most lazy story executions and is not a great follow-up to Alice in Wonderland. Not only did he missed the soul in this film, he missed a great amount of the expected dark humor, he missed avoiding making the gothic cliches so obvious, he missed the excitement button, and on top of that he also missed a huge portion of the character development. The one character we should root for, Barnabas Collins, played in a goofy, spooky, but already tiresome manner by Johnny Depp, is not at all that accessible and pleasant. All the other characters are far more interesting than him. There's no awesomeness in his own senile and campy behavior. I found myself enjoying a lot more characters like the drunk and sleepy Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley), the stuck-up Roger Collins (Jonny Lee Miller) or the distressed, bored, and impatient doctor Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), and even Barnabas' nemesis, Angelique Bouchard, played in a very erotic but manly way by Eva Green. Michelle Pfeiffer as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard and Chloe Moretz as Carolyn Stoddard are the most forgettable characters in the film not only because of their irrelevant and unimportant actions, but also because of the less cartoonish approach. The contrast between these characters is way too broken and dispersed.
The concept behind this story of this cursed man to be a vampire, getting lost in time, and fighting love, adapting to new a new world and new situations is much bigger and interesting than it is presented here. We have a typical, really sketchy and kitschy "from A to B" way of storytelling. And it is wrong because it becomes not only predictable but stale and bland. Visual luxury is not a luxury in a Burton film anymore. We need much more than that. We need Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Sweeney Todd or something completely different but don't treat your audience with the typical. The typical annoys us, frustrates us, and forces us to sigh instead of cheer.
The soundtrack is really great and matches a lot of the scenes and the aura of the '70s. It's one one of the things that I completely enjoyed in this film. Also the score provided by Danny Elfman, though not a standout, really subtle and well orchestrated. Burton does a pretty good job at this, making the transition from the gothic, old, rusty world to the fresh, modern, and hippy period of the '70s. The cinematography, the lightning, the set-design, the costume-design, the make-up, and everything else is top notch but that doesn't really count for a great experience. It's the heart and the bold attitude of a filmmaker that makes his film entertaining at a high value and today wasn't the best day for Burton.
Technical Execution: 9.1
Replay Value: 6.0