Aaron R. Davis
Oh, Tim Burton.
Tim, I really used to love you. You made grand, silly little masterpieces about outsiders and outcasts who were both fascinating and terrifying to the contained little worlds they were thrust into. There was a time — roughly before 2001 — when I used to love the movies you meticulously crafted and then let float into the world. But that was, sadly, a long time ago now. Back before your terrible, uncommitted, almost arbitrary Planet of the Apes remake sent you reeling and into the safety of turning yourself into a brand name who repeated the same formula over and over and over again. Because why take a chance on doing something interesting when you can just give the audience the exact same thing repeatedly? Sadly, no one’s ever failed doing so.
While we’re at it, the same goes for Johnny Depp. I remember a time when people were constantly surprised that Johnny Depp could even act. Johnny, you were one of America’s most exciting performers for about a decade. And then you, too, decided it was time to stop being interesting and start going for large paychecks. Now, instead of being excited to see you in a movie, I dread the day when you’re actually in something I want to see again, because watching you sleepwalk your way through a decade of over-budgeted panto has been about as exciting as staring at ditchwater gleaming in the sun. Cynically going through the motions as Jack Sparrow over and over again, whoring your talent out for big budget, undirected weirdness … jeez, at least it took Marlon Brando two decades to become a parody of himself.
So now this two-man circle jerk of not-trying-very-hard has gone back in time to bring us a movie based on Dark Shadows, the old vampire soap opera that people my mother’s age have always tried to convince me was an engrossing drama, but is actually about as convincing and well-made as a high school play. And they’ve apparently decided to sell it as a fish-out-of-water comedy.
I know people who are rushing out this weekend to see it, many because they love Tim Burton and they love Johnny Depp. But I’m saving my money, because I already have a sense of what happens.
Here you go:
Johnny Depp plays a tall, skinny outcast with white makeup, weird hair, and black circles under his eyes. We see him in his element at first, probably in a very grand — possibly narrated — opening sequence that sets the stage. Then we see what made him an outcast and put him in a situation where his weirdness is amplified to extremes, because unmotivated eccentricity never stops being hilarious to Tim Burton.
This is always the part of the film, too, where we get long comments that pretty much amount to “Boy, suburbia is weird” or “Boy, families sure are a strange, loose collective of people who don’t seem to relate to each other very well” or “Boy, the 1970s existed once and all I can remember is the kitsch.”
Johnny Depp’s character will occasionally be wracked with eye-opening flashbacks that reveal ironic things about his character, or that he’s motivated by parental issues. Mommy or daddy issues, it’s actually always a toss-up with Tim Burton, which weirdly makes Tim more interesting than Steven Spielberg, who is always going to be pissed off at mom and worshipful of a remote father figure.
There’ll be two women, both weird in their own ways, but the blonde one is clearly the good one, especially if she’s a brunette who’s been dyed blonde. A brunette actress playing a virginal blonde hero in a Tim Burton movie is as powerful as a Jedi. Depp will be somehow torn between the two women, even though the darker one will turn out to be some kind of evil witch, yet sexually irresistible. Also, any attempt at expressing sexuality will be embarrassingly awkward.
Let’s see, what am I missing? There’ll be some big, shapeless monster, an impossibly kind old parent figure, a vacant-eyed fat guy who is evil (or at least truculent), a girl who’s rebellious and punky in the way girls who shop at Hot Topic always think they are and everyone will complain that the best gags were in the trailer and that the movie devolves into an over-the-top special effects action set piece at the end — before the cute, humorous ending in which everyone gets to live happily because they’ve accepted the weirdo for the broken man-child that he is. There’ll be a great Danny Elfman score, and if not a great one, than at least a loud and very busy one, but nonetheless, any emotion you experience while watching the film will in fact be created by Mr. Elfman and not by Mr. Burton. No matter what lazy thing she does or how much like a bag lady she looks, Helena Bonham Carter will be overpraised for her performance, because having absolutely no energy at all since Howards End is apparently a brave acting style. People will complain that Tim Burton feels like he’s not very committed to the source material, because apparently people forgot that’s also true of everything Tim Burton’s ever made that was based on any story, previous film, TV series, comic book or trading card series.
People will forget the movie ever happened until the next time a Tim Burton/Johnny Depp movie comes out, and people will be excited because they loved Sleepy Hollow, which was the last good movie they made together, back in 1999. Yes, when it comes to making forgettable, hollow, repetitive, Danny Elfman-scored pantomime, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp are certainly … people who do that.
There, saved myself, shit, how much do movies even cost anymore? Are they thirty bucks yet? Anyway, I’m saving up to see Prometheus, I don’t have time for this garbage.
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org