Perhaps it’s because the film represents the first three books in a much longer series, but A Series Of Unfortunate Events comes across as just that: a series of events, each with their own structure and climax, but little in the way of an overall story arc or plot. The underlying mystery is only hinted at–X-Files style–but not explored in any depth; that will be the task of subsequent films. It will probably leave fans of the books hungry for more in the future, but I wanted more out of this one now.
For a film that desperately wants you to think of it as “dark”, there is too much surface spectacle, and not enough sense of the complexity and depth of the world in which the story takes place. It’s certainly very pretty, and Jim Carrey makes for a wonderful half sinister, half clownish, almost competent villain, but the fantasy never becomes real, if you see what I mean.
(If you do go to see it, make sure you stay for the fantastic, Tim Burton-eqsue end credits. It’s one of the best sequences I’ve seen in a long time.)