Despite the urge to critique Dorian Gray in relation to the source material, I refrained from allowing the book to inform my opinion in any way. Although somewhat dismayed at the bastardisation of a famous novel, I entered the cinema with an open mind, certain that I would at the very least be offered a throwaway piece of Victorian horror, be it good or bad. Well bad it most certainly is, although into what category this film should be placed is anybody’s guess, least of all the director whose inability to trigger even the most primary adrenal response from the audience renders Dorian Gray with a lower scare rating than Babe: Pig in the City (1998).
To condemn an adaptation purely for being unfaithful to the original is not normally my concern, but in this instance I must differ. The novel, as brilliantly written as it is, is not a good story. That is, it isn’t a story at all, at least not in Aristotlean terms. Oscar Wilde was far less interested in the implications of eternal youth within a progressive narrative than he was about unearthing the vanities of the upper classes. If this all sounds rather satirical, that’s probably because it is. Wilde’s book is a flamboyant work filled to the brim with sly witticisms, not the grim, haunting world that this film would have you believe.
And therein lies the error. The attempt to mould a satire into a gothic horror fails disastrously as there are simply no set pieces in which the desired effects may occur. It is akin to creating a Raymond Chandler-esque crime drama based on the adventures of Winnie The Pooh.
What remains is an experience so woefully disengaging one wonders if both cast and crew suffered the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning. The direction is bland and uninspired while the abundance of static shots suggest a camera operator afraid of his own equipment. Meanwhile the editor packs in so many half-arsed montage sequences and ill-advised jump cuts it is like watching a Goddard wet dream.
The eponymous hero as played by Prince Caspian looks the part but has no hidden charm as he delivers lines with about as much feeling as a Quantum Physics audio-book narrated by Stephen Hawking. The same can be said of Dorian’s immoral mentor Harry, a bearded Mr Darcy completely out of touch with his character who looks eternally pissed off even when he is enjoying himself. The general misery of everyone involved is indicative of how boring Dorian Gray truly is; as a character, a concept and a film. When the scariest thing a movie can offer is a CG painting groaning like an asthma sufferer, the reward lies not in knowing how it ends, but when.