Suspension of Disbelief

Suspension of Disbelief: Dark Shadows

Suspension of Disbelief is a weekly feature, in which we review movies, books, TV shows, and other popular culture for the skeptical teens.

A dark comedy about an 18th century vampire who wakes up in 1972. Hilarity is supposed to ensues as he tries to rejuvenate his declined family estate and business while tossing around and fighting with the witch who turned him into a vamp in the first place. Feels slightly like a more modern Edward Scissorhands (or like it’s trying to be), but less well executed.

Title: Dark Shadows
Director: Tim Burton
Story by: John August and Seth Grahame-Smith
Based on: Dark Shadows by Dan Curtis
Starring: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Chloë Grace Moretz and Bella Heathcote

I have to say, the movie was pretty lame despite the overflowing star power it had. Maybe I was too old for it… Or maybe I just went in with too high of an expectation, since as a rule I really enjoy Tim Burton/Johnny Depp/Helena Bonham Carter collaborations. I’m actually a massive Helena Bonham Carter fan, especially her stage stuff. …But I just couldn’t get into this one…

It started off promising. The mood was dark and humorous, which was cool. The story at the beginning is a great setup for a future quarrel fueled by love. The setting was interesting and full of potential, but they never really quite leveraged the vampire’s character effectively. After he got out of the coffin where he spent the last 200 years, the vampire makes a few funny gaffs around town, but seems to more or less blend into the setting with ease. All the people who knew he was a vampire weren’t all that surprised (or at least not as surprised as you’d think they’d be), and there was a kind of general acceptance of supernatural things. I guess given the premise that’s pretty understandable, but I really got ticked off when one of the characters said that science has confirmed the existence of the supernatural. I suppose if we did live in a world of vampires, witches and werewolves, science probably would discover such things, but I’m not sure if the intended audience would think that far…

The pace and the story really started to head downhill half way through the movie, when it just got super boring and slow. Nothing really happens, and the “romance” was just ridiculous. The vampire was supposed to be madly in love with his dead (and reincarnated) wife, but even after he met her, he proceeds to hook up with two other women. All the dialogue about the vampire’s love triangle was so cheesy I sometimes wanted to jab a pair of wooden stakes into my ears.

The story, while semi-interesting, really suffered from the silliness of all of it. I think it needed to take itself slightly more seriously. I love it when movies just go for it and don’t feel the need to explain any of the oddness (ie: The Cabin in the Woods) but this one was just a little too goofy to pull it off in a good way. It also really suffered from super meaningless plot developments that didn’t really add to the overall story.

My love affair with Depp is also massively on the decline and this move really demonstrates why… he has the same facial expressions, hand movements and voices for his characters recently that are all annoyingly over the top. As Edward he was soft spoken and cute – and it really showed a different side of Depp. But this character, the pirate one and a few others are all the same sort of thing.  It’s like he is no longer acting, he is simply being this character that so many people have fallen in love with over the past few years.

Chloe Moretz is badass.

Some of the other characters were interesting though, like the daughter of the family (the girl in Kick-Ass). She is so incredibly pretty – she’ll be a stunner when she’s older. I also liked how quirky it was in the characteristic Tim Burton style. The colors, architecture, darkness…etc, that you all expect was there and at least made it interesting to look at. The costumes and visuals were a blast, again typical of Tim Burton. Some parts were pretty funny, like when the vampire hangs out with a bunch of pot-smoking hippies.

All in all, Dark Shadows could have been good or even great, but the pace, the dialogue and the writing just fell short. It’s really unfortunate because it was a fun premise! It just… didn’t work.

I’ll give it 2 teenage werewolves out of 5… skip it and see Avengers (even if you’re seeing it for the 2nd time… which I did last week and it was just as awesome the second time around.)

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Katie is a graduate student from Canada studying the environment and systems theory. She also loves dinosaurs and baking cupcakes. Follow her on twitter @katiekish

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