Tim Burton is an acquired taste. I’m frequently finding myself questioning whether or not I’ve enjoyed his films, and over the last decade he’s gone a bit mainstream, so I’ve generally leaned towards the positive. However, Dark Shadows is definitely more old-school Tim Burton, and again, I can’t decide if it was good or terrible. I’d have to conclude that it’s a bit of both.
The production values are as high as ever, as the visuals have a unique quirkiness that only Burton can bring, including its purple-heavy colour palette and distinctive art direction. The visual effects are, at times, amazing, particularly towards the end when Eva Green’s porcelain skin cracks like an egg.
Helena Bonham Carter isn’t given much to do, but doesn’t do it very well. Johnny Lee Miller is similarly wasted, and it’s only Michelle Pfeiffer who has enough screen presence to command your attention; only to have her vampish matriarchal role virtually disappear in the final act. Chloe Grace Moretz is certainly no better or worse than she’s ever been, although she’s growing up fast. Eva Green’s mugging become very tiring very quickly, making her look both stunningly beautiful and oddly grotesque at the same time.
As for Johnny Depp, it’s fair to say he’s phoning it in. Ordinarily, you can see why women would fight over him, but Tim Burton has a unique knack of desexualising one of the world’s most handsome men, and does so again here. His now familiar British accent has lost both its impact and novelty value, and his acting treads the fine line between larger than life and hammy- but fortunately avoiding the latter. Just.
And yet, the whole thing is rather tedious. Very patchy in style, story, and tone, it toys with elements of horror, melodrama, comedy… But never achieves any of them. It’s never less than entertaining, but does get a little tiresome as you’re wondering where it’s going before discovering the answer is nowhere.