I’m running out of title ideas, ok?
So, Tim Burton is releasing a film this year as most of us know. Why does this matter? Well, Tim Burton is a bit of an interesting individual. At the start of his career, he was creating new worlds and interpreting modern day gothic fairy tales that many of us grew up with and hold an understanding with. I’m of course talking about films like Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and The Nightmare Before Christmas (the latter of which he wrote initially but did not direct). Now, people have been saying he’s been washed up for years. How can that be? He’s made a wonderful adaptation of Sweeney Todd and his film Big Fish was magically captivating. Sadly, he still may be. I’ve grown up watching a vast majority of his films as a teenager and loving most of them. Watching them now, most of his films aren’t perfect, but like children’s stories we still believe in them despite their flaws. So, he’s coming out with Dark Shadows this year, and this is possibly his do-or-die when it comes to staying relevant in Hollywood.
First off, what is Dark Shadows? This paragraph will lead into one of the reasons why Burton’s magic on cinema is disappearing as well as a descriptive look on the original source, so allow me to stop being unprofessional and get to it. Dark Shadows was originally a gothic soap opera from the late sixties until the early seventies. Much like shows like Doctor Who and Star Trek, Dark Shadows was more of a cult based show, where fans saw the show as, well, more than a show. Also, the fact that it was a soap opera doesn’t help with this, as soap operas are in of themselves a craze that won’t die (why won’t it die, dammit?). Dark Shadows, in a nutshell, is a soap opera about vampires. The character Johnny Depp is playing in the adaptation is called Barnabas Collins, originally played in the show by Jonathan Frid (oddly enough, this character only appeared a year into the series).
Sounds like a perfect concept for Tim Burton to touch upon, right? Well, Alice in Wonderland seemed that way. Remember that film? Millions of us all over the world were excited for this. We were shown teaser photos, including one of Johnny Depp looking weird as all hell (as the Mad Hatter). We waited and waited until the film finally came out and we were all severely disappointed. Burton and Carroll, a match made in heaven, and the film didn’t work out too well. The visuals were great and the acting was alright, but the story was incredibly lacking and rushed. Least to say many of us were disappointed. So! Burton’s back to show us his new creation, and so far the promo shot we have is… Johnny Depp looking weird as hell.
Now the cast looks promising but so did the cast for Alice in Wonderland. Hopefully what we’re seeing here is not déjà vu but that may very well be the case. Will we be surprised and have something new and refreshing on our plates? That’s the problem. There are two main reasons why Dark Shadows may be Burton’s last chance at staying relevant.
The first reason is that he is remaking too many old films/series/stories. Before he took story ideas he had come up with or others had come up with and brought them to life. We’d never seen anything like Beetlejuice before. It was a brand new concept. It was around the time he remade Planet of the Apes that we caught a glimpse of a Burton that could do wrong (very, very wrong), and that was one of his first adaptations of a popular source (Mars Attacks was based on a card game, and Sleepy Hollow was based on the book “how the hell do you not know this book). Needless to say that not all of his adaptations are bad. Sleepy Hollow was fairly good, Big Fish was brilliant, and Sweeney Todd was also a spectacular film. It just means that Burton is beginning to dish out stories we already know with his own style. At first it was very interesting, but is it getting tired?
That leads me to point two: His style may be getting tiresome (wow, what a terrible connecting conclusion and intro). Firstly, let it be known that his style is a tribute to the old German expressionist films and experimental films that came before him.
Burton’s style is exactly that: A style. What do styles do? They go… well, out of style. There’s a reason why a lot of his films do well in the merchandising department, and that’s because his films can be associated with style (especially with the teenage demographic. What a shock). In fact, Burton is often one of the first directors people learn about because his style is so recognizable. Can there be too much, though? Should Burton try something new? Even Scorsese has dabbled in new genres, and most of those turned out pretty well. I’m not saying that Burton should never make a dark, eerie movie again, but maybe he should try something else next. I mean, he did that with Ed Wood. Ed Wood, probably his best film, was a biopic that told the story of the “worst director ever”. It didn’t just open our eyes to the passion of Ed Wood (that doesn’t sound wrong at all), it also did so in a style Ed Wood would have loved. It was a great homage and a well put together story. You can say “oh but directors like David Lynch stick to the same style”, to which I reply that most of David Lynch’s movies are original ideas and not adaptations.
Now, hopefully I am wrong and Dark Shadows ends up being a great movie. Who knows? Maybe I’m just bitter about Alice in Wonderland still. Like I said, I grew up with Burton’s films and I think he’s a good director. The thing is I think he could be great but he is slowly starting to limit himself. Who knows. Unlike the other adaptations, Dark Shadows was an entire series so a whole different story could be put together (or elements of various episodes), which could either be a great thing or a terrible thing (ala a failed Frankensteinian creation. Yes, I made that a word). I know I will for sure see it once it comes out, and I’m sure most of us will. Until then, we can only speculate and wonder how this will turn out. Until then, I may or may not still be bitter about Alice in Wonderland