Dark Shadows 2012 ★★★

Not a whole lot happens in Dark Shadows. You meet the characters, they bring a canning business back to prominence, and then they're attacking each other and it's over. And yet during this flimsy, not so interesting plot, there's still a lot of filler and a number of characters who are completely inconsequential and just taking up valuable space and time, seemingly only there because they exist in the original series... or because there was/is a plan for them in any sequel. Either way some of these people need to go, including Helena Bonham Carter and Jonny Lee Miller's useless contributions.

Dark Shadows' merits are quite few and simple but they do make a significant difference. For one, it is funnier than I expected. Pretty much everything Depp does as fish-out-of-water somehow worked for me, and it is all in mannerisms and performance and less the words coming out of his mouth. Eva Green is similarly good as a villain, and she and Depp have a lot of chemistry and passion together.

Which makes the love story between Depp and Heathcote seem all the more tacked on, as they don't have a fraction of the chemistry and don't actually seem very into one another at all. Heathcote is actually mysterious at the start of the film as we are with her entering this world, but once we have shifted to Depp's Barnabis Collins the attachment to her as a character suffers tremendously.

As for everyone else, well they're interesting, charismatic, familiar faces who don't get a whole lot to do. Jackie Earle Haley is electric every moment he is on screen, but at best his character is a gofer with no payoff.

The other big selling factor that kept me interested was that I found this to be one of the better looking Burton films in some time. Even as I noticed the pacing lacking in many scenes I was never bored thanks to the absolutely stunning set direction, costuming, lighting, cinematography, and score. Collinsport feels real and lived-in, immersive and gorgeous. Bruno Delbonnel is the Director of Photography for this film, and I am most assuredly a fan of his. Between this, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Amelie and others, he has a knack for color and scenery and is a good pairing with Tim Burton, and I hope they will partner again.

All in all it's a very flawed film with some very talented people doing the best they can with a rather weak script. It doesn't deserve the sequel it sadly ends suggesting will happen, but there's enough good talent here that pull through with what they are expected to bring to the table that I would consider watching it hoping that the story will be better next time, and that people will actually... have stuff to do. Stuff more important than canning fish and sitting around the house.

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