ByKarly Rayner, writer at
Movie Pilot's celebrity savant
Karly Rayner

After Transcendence gracelessly flopped at the Box Office last weekend, Johnny Depp's once invincible star seems to be plummeting. But, just why is it that the actor continues to be a plague on A-list profits?

Best loved as a quirky character actor with a taste for whimsy, Depp seems to be in danger of being typecast as a tired cliché of his former glory, or being thrown in at the deep end with roles that drown him.

Reviews of [Transcendence](movie:703173) paint the 50-year-old actor as an awkward, aloof figure who cannot convey a tangible presence from the screen that he is imprisoned in. The star's understated acting has been panned as relentlessly as the pretentious and far-fetched plot, which leads to the question: which roles are Depp actually cut out for?

Johnny Depp in Cry-Baby
Johnny Depp in Cry-Baby

Since he first cut into our collective conscience with his razor sharp cheek bones in 1990's Cry-Baby, Depp's diverse portfolio has been peppered with a confusing mosaic of success and staggering failures. He was described by the late Marlon Brando as "the most talented actor of a generation", but few would agree that to be the case in these dark days.

Four recent films Depp has starred in have failed to make a dent on their predicted box office profits, with [The Lone Ranger](movie:24568) being a particularly miserable low point. Depp faded away into weak gothic stereotypes in [Dark Shadows](movie:19043) and, although his performance in Rum Diary wasn't the stuff of nightmares, the actor failed to get cinematic hearts pounding with vigor.

Despite the enormous pulling power of his illustrious name - and face - Johnny Depp seems to be stuck between a rock and hard place in his career. But what should he do about it?

Depp burns his brightest in well written, off-beat character roles. The actor's sublime performance as the tortured innocent Edward Scissorhands was pure cinematic gold - not to mention that Depp's manic glee as a barber taking the concept of a 'close shave' to another level in Sweeney Todd won him an Oscar nomination.

The razor edged Sweeney Todd
The razor edged Sweeney Todd

Despite the apparent similarities in these roles, notably their Burton connection, if you scratch the surface, the differences become clear. Depp's performance as Benjamin Barker relies on an inner darkness rippling with mischievous malice, whereas Edward Scissorhands is a scared, deformed man-child in leather.

As Depp ages, this distinction becomes achingly important. The fey, naive innocence that a younger Depp excelled at, simply does not translate to an older man. With these roles well and truly behind him, Maybe Depp needs to channel his inner darkness in a way that is more R than PG-13.

There is no denying that 2010's Alice In Wonderland dodged the curse of the flop, but that had nothing to do with Depp's jaded, cringe-worthy performance. The actors technicolor outing as Willy Wonka in 2005's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was plagued with the same pitfalls. His performances seem somewhat childish and oozing with a poisonous 'forced fun'. Depp's slightly creepy Wonka looks like wet lettuce compared to the genuinely terrifying performance by Gene Wilder in the 1971 version. This older Wonka exemplifies to me exactly the sort of character Depp should be playing.

Depp's washed out Willy Wonka
Depp's washed out Willy Wonka

Maybe Depp's foray into sci-fi territory with [Transcendence](movie:703173) was an attempt to harness a dark and brooding eeriness - of being the untouchable ghost in the machine - but unfortunately the actors performance had as much impact as cracking television static.

It is almost as if when Depp steps into a 'straight' role, he is cringingly apologetic for his more well known, lovably brash performances such as the hilarious Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean. Instead of being explosively larger than life, Depp shrinks into himself in an attempt to convey subtle nuances. Unfortunately these nuances are so subtle that the audience barely notices them at all.

Maybe Depp's acting isn't to blame though, maybe the movies he chooses are so weak that nobody could save them. Would any actor be able to salvage a racist depiction of a Native American with a crow glued to their scalp? And, could anyone survive such a parade of off-kilter, colorful whimsy unscathed? I am inclined to think not. Depp might be guilty of some sub-par acting, but for me it is his poor decision making that is clearly the true kiss of Depp.

I have forgiven Johnny Depp for many things - including his hideous fashion sense and his ear bleeding South London accent in From Hell - but soon I will be unable to pardon any more terrible film choices.

Do you agree that Depp's career needs a shake up, or is the actor still on top of his game?


Is Johnny Depp's Hollywood star falling?

(Source: The Telegraph, The Guardian)

(Images: Weebly, IGN, NSMBL, Zimbico)


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