It seems that Tim Burton has almost become a parody of himself. His last few films have been lacking the type of fun that so many of his earlier films had. What used to be a natural kind of quirk is now a forced effect. Instead of just being odd, Burton appears to be trying to be odd, which won’t cut it any longer.
Even though Dark Shadows feels like it’s trying too hard, there is still enough to enjoy, but that amount is quickly shrinking. Much of my enjoyment from this film comes from my love of the soundtrack and some of the final scenes where the creepy moments begin to seep through. It’s probably a good thing that I haven’t begun to watch the original Dark Shadows television series because I have a feeling that this film couldn’t be further away from the original ideas of the show.
Perhaps it’s my love for so many of Tim Burton’s early films that I find it hard to dislike any of his new ones. I just can’t bring myself to hate his movies, even if there’s very little to enjoy. The only thing more unnatural than my strange affection for Tim Burton films is the pleasure I get from ’70s music, something this film is full of. In one scene, the members of the Collins family gather for a meal as the sounds of Donovan’s Season of the Witch fill the room. Instantly, I could care less how terrible the film may be, I’m sold. Luckily for Burton, it doesn’t seem to take much to win me over.
To be honest, the performances of everyone involved are actually well done. It may not appear that way since everyone seems to be as cold as Barnabas’ undead body, but that must be the point. Why that’s the point, I couldn’t tell you, but it’s obvious that the actors that populate the film have more range then they display here. They may be interesting to watch, but the stilted performances are part of that forced problem that inhabit Burton’s latest films. It’s also the reason that I’m still on the fence regarding my enjoyment from the movie. It’s good, but not like it could have been, or should have been. Middle of the road isn’t something that is acceptable for Tim Burton any longer.
The story suffers by having too many ideas without enough time to explore them all. The strange history of Victoria Winters, the relationship between Barnabas and Angelique, Dr. Julia Hoffman and her attempt at helping Barnabas, the greed of Roger and his eventual decision of what to do with his son David, not to mention the rivalry between the Collins family and Angelique as they each try to take over the fishing industry of the town. Add to all that the numerous attempts of Barnabas to become accustomed to life after being buried for 200 years and you’ve got quite a lot of story to fit into less than two hours. Some characters seem to have a very convenient exit as well, possibly to end their storylines quickly.
I couldn’t possibly explain how I managed to enjoy this film at all after spending five paragraphs complaining about it. The problems that are obvious aren’t always things that ruin the film. I wish they had explored some of the stories in the film further, but what is there is frequently well done. It’s just that people continue to expect so much more from a Tim Burton film, and we rarely get it anymore. I always hope for the best when another Burton film is released, but patience is running short. The few highlights of Dark Shadows is enough for me to enjoy, and even take in a second viewing when it’s released to DVD, where I hope to find even more to love about it.
Under the marquee – Will