Memorial Day Weekend Almost-Double-Feature: Avenging Dark Shadows

This weekend I had the rare treat of heading to the theaters not once, but twice: first was a date night to see The Avengers, then a small group outing to see Dark Shadows a couple of days later. Not quite a true double-feature, but for the purposes of semi-brevity here on the blog, the term will have to do.

I got settled in at The Avengers ready for your typical summer-blockbuster-action-adventure-popcorn-flick. I really wasn’t expecting a lot of depth of character or even a terribly convoluted story; keep it simple, show pretty people blowing stuff up, and you’re done. For once I actually walked in to a theater expecting NOT to blog about a movie, figuring I wouldn’t have much to say. Obviously, I changed my mind.

Yes, The Avengers had pretty people and plenty of action. And the story was actually somewhat character-driven rather than simply action-driven, which I always like. For disclosure’s sake, I’m not a rabid fan of Marvel superhero flicks–I still haven’t seen Captain America, Thor, or the latest Hulk movie, but I loved Iron Man and Iron Man 2–so at the beginning of The Avengers I felt a bit like I had been dropped into the middle of the story. It wasn’t hard to catch up, but it was still a bit disconcerting. I got over it. No biggie. But the thing I enjoyed the most about Avengers was the same thing I liked about Iron Man, which is the human element. Yes, Tony Stark is a jerk to many people, but there is more to him than that. And of course the Thor/Loki story (basic though it was, at least here) creates an interest dynamic and more conflict. The real heartbreaker moment for me in Avengers, though, was a single line delivered very simply by Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner: “That’s my secret, Captain–I’m always angry.”

In the split second before the Hulk emerged and wreaked havoc, that one line hit me right in the chest. Without dwelling on it in a cheesy way, this movie was able to give even the Hulk a very human face. We all know that Banner has a monster dwelling inside him, but we’re given this brief glimpse of what that life is really like. Just amazing. But then, it’s Joss. (You thought I’d forgotten about that, didn’t you?) The human side of our heroes is what makes this movie special.

Then there’s Dark Shadows. I remember just a little about the original tv show, having watched a handful of episodes many years ago. My mother is a die-hard fan, as were a couple of the friends with whom I went to see the movie. I had only seen one full trailer for this, which sadly looked like a terrible hack-job comedy, so I was a little worried. But it starred Johnny Depp, so really, how bad could it be?


I’ve read a couple of reviews and a lot of friends’ opinions, many of which maintained that Dark Shadows was just awful. I think it’s yet another case of misplaced expectations. People who are familiar with Tim Burton’s style of storytelling will enjoy Dark Shadows. Fans of the original show will most likely enjoy it as well, though apparently there were a couple of somewhat major discrepancies. I for one was not a huge fan of the development of one of the younger characters late in the final act. It felt tacked-on and fake, and I wasn’t surprised to learn that this was a deviation from the original character’s story. But in the end, this was a movie based on a soap opera, calling for lots of melodrama which in an extended story like a movie can end up looking rather silly–hence a few comic moments, some of which were nicer than others. I always enjoy watching Johnny on the big screen, so I’ll likely never say I actually hate something he’s in (crossing my fingers over The Lone Ranger). Dark Shadows was fun, and I did enjoy it. I’ve just seen better. I think my mom is still planning to wait for the DVD.

Tonight I’m squeezing in one more movie: Men In Black III. Sadly, I can’t remember if I’ve seen Men In Black II. But it probably won’t matter. Crossing my fingers again!


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