Yeah, yeah, apologies for not updating etc. BUT! We have to talk about how Tim Burton just keeps disappointing us (meaning me) constantly (meaning every now and then) and how we cannot deal with it (meaning, you know…). Of course I am talking about Dark Shadows and of course I am going to rip it a new one.
My disdain for Dark Shadow stems from the fact that the trailer actually looked very promising and like the movie would be a lot of fun. Granted, that’s what trailers are supposed to do, but in the case of Tim Burton we have to consider the history of his filmmaking. Which basically means that there are some beautiful gems and masterpieces alongside some horrible failures. One of the biggest failures is also his second most recent film – Alice in Wonderland. Which was a disappointment, because you know, Alice in Wonderland, the story where he could go all out visually and story-telling wise and he sort of didn’t. So, my hopes were high, that his new feature Dark Shadows would bring back Burton the Masterpiece Maker a la Batman Returns, Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollows etc. But, my oh my, he didn’t and it was painful to watch. Actually, for a lot of the same reasons that Alice didn’t work for me.
The reason I expect so much from a Burton movie is mostly my undying love for Batman Returns where the superhero-movie genre gets an infusion of Burton visuals, which are at the least creative in an out of the box sort of way plus a rock-solid characterization of the main protagonists and antagonists. I believe in what they say and do, even though it might seem ridiculous, because their motivation seems real and grounded in their experiences and feelings. Over the top characters like Catwoman and Penguin work, because their backstories, their characters and ultimately their motivations make them believable within the surroundings of the story.
Sad to say, but all of this does not take place in Dark Shadows. Characterization does not happen, or rather only to the extent that someone says: “Look, he is a strange boy” and we are supposed to base our judgement of the boy and other chraracters reacting to him on that statement. Instead of, you know, seeing him behave strange. My biggest problem with the movie is how it wastes it characters. There are so many of them, but none of them get enough time, nor enough backbone to their story to make them round characters with believable motivations.
It’s not that these are boring characters – I mean, who is Elizabeth and how come she is such a determined woman? Why is her daughter a werewolf and whats the relationship with her mother? Why is her brother Roger such a douchebag and steals from people? How is it, that he neglects his son? Why is Dr. Hoffman drinking like a maniac and behaving the way she does? All of this questions are actually interesting and some answers and insights would not only deepen our understanding of the characters, but make us actually care for them.
That is the major problem with the main protagonists Barnabas and Victoria and the antagonist Angelique. We know basically nothing about them as human beings. Ok, Angie is in love with Barnabas and a witch. And ok, Barnabas is in love with Josette and then Victoria and thinks family comes always first. That’s nothing. Like, there is not even a reason given for these character traits. Why does Angelique love him so much? Why does he think family comes first? Cause his father told him so? Weak. Why not give a few examples of how the family held together and formed strong ties? The weakest link in this non-explanation territory of the movie is Barnabas’ love for Josette. Why the hell does he love her? We don’t even know her. She gets about one minute screentime and we’re supposed to buy that this is the greatest romance of them all and care about her as a character? Sorry, but bullshit. The entire movie is based upon how Angelique is in love with Barnabas and how he denies her. There is your big love story, there is what is driving the plot. The character of Angelique and her motivation are so much more interesting and even though they are explored far too little, they are infinitely more believable than all that talk of the great love for Josette.
Which ties in with the sub-plot of Barnabas falling in love with Victoria. He falls in love with her because she looks like Josette? And that is why we’re supposed to care even though him and Angelique have a real history of relationship and drama going? And ultimately it is supposed to be a happy ending, that Victoria isn’t even really Victoria but just a reincarnation of Josette? This infuriates me, cause yet again, a potentially interesting character is completely wasted for the sake of a really lame plot twist that had better been avoided. The fuck, the movie only takes seconds to explore how Victoria talked to the ghost of Josette and got abused in a mental institution. Which is a wicked story in itself and it would have been fantastic to see how she deals with it and overcame all that. But in the end, it doesn’t even matter, because her tragic life is annihilated by the fact that she just stands up and IS Josette from that moment on. All the experiences we should and could have cared about are thrown overboard. None of it actually mattered and the person we were introduced to in the movie doesn’t actually exist anymore. Because the movie, just like the doctors in the mental institution, didn’t care about her as a human being. And that is really infuriating on a variety of levels.
Granted, the movie looks cool. I like the overall Seventies style, Barnabas and Dr. Hoffman just look great as characters. And Michelle Pfeiffer gets to showcase how hot she still is and is allowed to have the camera linger on her face, her precious blond curls and those impeccable outfits. Now, I love Michelle Pfeiffer, but Burton should just take her and make that Catwoman movie he always wanted to make with her. And he better not ruin that fantasy for me. And before I go, one more complaint: Why have Helena Bonham Carter in your movies in such potentially interesting roles as a crazy character and then make absolutely no use of it? Every time she looks great and could go all crazy on everyone’s asses, but then she never gets to realize the potential. Tragic waste.
All in all: Super-Blargh. That one could have been so much better and turned out to focus on all the boring nonsense instead of what it had going for itself. Yea: I expected more!
How about you?