Monday, May 14, 2012

Rant #735: Dark Shadows Indeed

My family and I took in another movie this weekend, and yes, we went to see the "Dark Shadows" film on Mother's Day.

As you know, I have been both looking forward to and dreading seeing this film, both at the same time.

As a big fan of the original TV series, I had always hoped that a real, honest to goodness "Dark Shadows" movie could be done in the present time, the right way, without many restrictions put on it.

However, when I heard that a dreaded "reboot" was going to be made of the TV show, well, I had my trepidations.

But with talent like Tim Burton and Johnny Depp involved, I hoped for the better. And I know that Depp is a fan of the TV show, so I really hoped that the movie would uphold the tradition of the show but move it to the next level.

Sorry, people, the movie was bad, not the worst movie I have ever seen, but a disappointment nonetheless.

It was more like "The Addams Family" than "Dark Shadows," and that is where it made its biggest mistake.

The movie takes place in the fictional Collinsport, just like the show did, and the center of attention is the Collins family, just like on the TV show. And yes, the dysfunctional family of the TV show remains dysfunctional.

But other than that, there is really very little linking the TV show and this movie.

And that is the real shame, and sham, of the whole two hour mess.

Pretty much everything was changed in the movie.

The original Barnabas, played by Jonathan Frid--who passed away just a short time ago--played the role of the sympathetic vampire, a character that you pitied for his foibles rather than for what he did to survive.

Depp's Barnabas is nothing but a one-dimensional character, full of angst and ready to spill it everywhere.

And everyone in the Collins family knows he is a vampire, which takes a major, crucial element away from the story.

The other characters pretty much follow suit in this movie, which details the battle between the Collins family and another company, led by Angelique Bouichard, the witch, to take over control of the village's fish canning business.

All of the characters' personalities and characteristics have been changed for the film, and not for the better. And two characters from the original show--Maggie Evans and Victoria Winters--have been combined into one, for no apparent reason.

The worst one--and the one that provides the best performance in the film, by the way--is Helena Bonham Carter, who portrays Dr. Julia Hoffman as a brazen, sex-filled drunk who desires to be so close to Barnabas that she steals his blood for her own immortality.

As the only actor in the film who gets the character right--even though the characteristics are completely an about face from the TV character's foibles--the actress demands more screen time, but gets very little.

The rest of the cast does what it can with a script that is neither witty nor insightful. Michelle Pfeiffer, as Elizabeth Stoddard, and Eva Green, as Angelique, pretty much play this one out with a paycheck in mind, and the rest of the cast is pretty awful and not well cast.

Yes, there are a few chuckles, but a movie like this should have gotten not only chuckles, but out and out laughter--and at the screening that I saw, there was very little laughter by the audience at all.

And yes, Alice Cooper is in the movie as a backdrop to one of the legendary "balls" held by the Collins family. Barnabas continually calls him "she" and says he/she "is the ugliest woman I have ever seen." That's about the level of the humor you get here.

And yes, if you blink, you will see the shortest cameos of all time by some of the original "Dark Shadows" TV cast. It's at the ball, and if it lasts a full second, it's a lot.

With Depp (as actor and producer) and Tim Burton at the helm, I think they made a huge mistake going for jokes rather than doing this straight. I really think that with this talent, they could have made a really terrific movie based on the show.

But they veered too far from the show to make the satire work, and even looking at it as a comedy--as probably most people will, because they don't remember the show or weren't around when the show was on--it just falls flat, flat as a board, or even flat as in bored.

Satire is very difficult to pull off, but satirical works based on TV shows of the past can work; just witness the first "Brady Bunch" movie.

But the creative people behind the show in question must not only be fans, but they must understand the show from top to bottom--including the characters--to draw laughs from it.

Here, Burton and Depp are fans, that's for sure, but for the life of me, I can't understand how they didn't really "get" the show or get the characters.

At the late morning showing we went to, there were about 30 people in the audience, and it appears that at least right now, people are spending their money on "The Avengers" and forsaking this film.

Although it came in second at the box office this weekend, "The Avengers" killed this movie and quite frankly, everything else in its path.

So it might be unfair to say that "Dark Shadows" is a bomb at the box office.

However, as far as I am concerned, "Dark Shadows" laid an egg and is a bloody mess.

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