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David Poland

By David Poland

Review-ish: Dark Shadows

Burton is beauty.

He is Hollywood’s quirky, intellectual Michael Bay.

And Dark Shadows is beautiful… and full of fun and mischief… and a great melange of genres and style.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a third act.

Well, not one that works.

As with a number of Burton movies, it feels like he either had too much ambition for his budget or not quite enough.

The reason, I think, that the last 15 minutes of Dark Shadows feels like a punt, is that the key idea put forth needs a lot more room to breathe.

Until then, it’s Depp in a fun character… though his character’s don’t work as well when they are react-ers and not act-ers. And here, even though he is one of the wildest characters, he is The Mary (as in “The Marry Richards”), big time.

I really did enjoy myself watching Dark Shadows. But it’s definitely one of those Tim Burton films where you enjoy beats and don’t get to luxuriate in a great story, however well told.

I am always surprised – and it comes up often – how many times the “big surprises at the end” feel like the beginning of something more interesting and not the natural end of something. It’s like we are in a world of films being developed for sequels, not to maximize the first film.

Still, if you like Burton and Depp and Pfeiffer and Moretz and Eve Green and cool Gothic gags, it’ll be a good summer treat, tasty, though not very memorable.

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12 Responses to “Review-ish: Dark Shadows”

  1. cadavra says:

    Well, given that the previous DS movie had a sequel (of sorts), it shouldn’t be surprising that they would leave the door open for one here. Problem is, only once in his career has Burton made a sequel (BATMAN RETURNS), so the question now is, would he even want to do it himself, or would he (and Warners) be willing to turn it over to a simpatico cohort like Dante or Landis?

  2. skatepunk says:

    “Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a third act.

    Well, not one that works.”

    And how is that different from any other Tim Burton film?

  3. Yancy Skancy says:

    I like a good many Tim Burton films, but it’s amazing how consistently he has story problems, especially considering how often he uses the very savvy John August for his scripts.

    Even when Burton has a script that works beautifully scene-for-scene, it somehow misses as a whole. Like he doesn’t vary the pacing enough or something. Seriously, I think if you showed me ANY scene from ED WOOD, I’d say “great scene,” but when I watch the whole movie I start to get a little antsy. Weird.

  4. matthew says:

    All I can think of regarding this film is how much money the local (SF) IMAX screen is going to lose by switching from Avengers to Dark Shadows this weekend. Nothing about Dark Shadows really screams “SEE THIS IN IMAX!”

  5. LexG says:


  6. movieman says:

    I have no idea how “Dark Shadows” is going to do this weekend, but I really, really liked it.
    What puzzles me is how misleading the trailer is: it’s hardly the Mel Brooksian spoof-a-rama the studio is marketing.
    Kudos to Seth Grahame-Smith (and Burton and Depp obviously) for finding the perfect balance between light and dark. I was also impressed by how faithful it is to the original series without being slavishly, drearily reverential.
    The entire cast is terrific (Depp’s performance is equal to his great “Edward Scissorhands” turn), and it was a relief to see a vampire movie that was so (literally) light and bright versus digital-murky.
    The promo audience I saw it with Monday night seemed to be having a blast (they had to add an add’l auditorium for the overflow crowd). But again, I’m just not sure how that will translate to actual tickets sold.
    Cult status, however, is assured.
    It’s easily Burton’s most enjoyable film in years.

  7. Paul D/Stella says:

    I’m leery of betting against Depp/Burton and I could be way off, but the $38 million prediction for Dark Shadows from boxofficeguru seems high to me. Is this the right weekend for a movie like this? Isn’t it going to get overwhelmed by weekend 2 of The Avengers (even if it does sell a few tickets when Avengers showings sell out)? Do people like their vampires light and odd? It might play well with older viewers and fans of the show but I can’t imagine it doing well with younger viewers. I see an opening closer to $25 million than $40 million.

  8. Bennett says:

    I agree that $25 million is a lot more likely than $40 for Dark Shadows. I am not sure what the market is for it. It doesn’t seem to be a straight comedy, love story, thriller, or horror story. I think that Warner Brothers made the best trailer they could for it. I think the WB might have known that they had a possible dud on their hands and that why with the exception of a few stills they hid the film till early spring.

    I am guessing that just like in 2008, a Marvel film(aka Iron Man) over shadowed a potential Warner Brother hit(Speed Racer). I am guessing that Shadows will do a little better than Speed Racer, but it will bleed(pun intended) screens Memorial Day weekend when MIB3(which looks terrible) bites it.

  9. movielocke says:

    Why no one needs to see Dark Shadows:

    “Quick! get Johnny Depp and My Wife on the phone!”
    “I can’t NOT do that.”

    “Do you have any of that white makeup left from our last film?”
    *drops five gallon buck of white paint on table*

  10. storymark says:

    Thanks, movielocke – that was pretty funny, and spot on.

    “Danny Elfman! What have you got?”

    “Tweedle deedly BUM BUM BUM”

  11. Krillian says:

    I want to see it, but it’s also one where I hope this is the last time I see “Johnny Depp & Helena Bonham Carter in a Tim Burton film.”

    I’m hoping to enjoy Michelle Pfeiifer and Chloe Moretz and Jackie Earle Haley in it.

  12. CaptainZahn/Joshua says:

    Maybe it was because my expectations were lowered a bit, but I enjoyed the movie. I feel like the reviews were way too harsh. It’s at 41% on Rotten Tomatoes, but I feel like 60% would be more fair. The knives were definitely out for Burton after Alice in Wonderland.

    Considering that the actors don’t have a ton to work with on the page, I thought the performances were all quite strong. Eva Green is sexy as hell, and she drips with attitude. Bonham Carter has fun aping Grayson Hall. Chloe Moretz is amusing. Michelle is solid, though she can only do so much with the part because she has to be “the matriarch.” I liked Depp’s performance fine.

    It’s a great movie to look at. The sets are incredible. The romance between Barnabas and Josette/Victoria is undercooked, but it didn’t bother me much. Also, for me, the final showdown was satisfying enough.

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