I was quite tempted by the trailer for Dark Shadows, it looked as if although Tim Burton may not have shaken off his gothic sensibilities, he may have created a good comedy with which to expose the genre Beetlejuice style. Unfortunately that is not the case.
Dark Shadows is based on a little seen (outside of America) 1960′s TV series and sees Burton stalwart Johnny Depp play Barnabus Collins, a 18th Century fishing magnate who is turned into a vampire by a jealous witch and awakes in the 1970′s to find his family destitute and struggling to hold on to the family mansion.
The narrative is all over the place and as the witch who cursed him Eva Green is still in town and running a more powerful fishing business, Collins sets out to plan her downfall while dealing with his dysfunctional family tree. Burton gets a lot of mileage out of the fish-out-of-water clichés as Ichabod Crane, sorry Barnabus Collins struggles to adept to life in this strange 70′s world. Sequences with Collins struggling to adapt are the strongest in the film, but as all of these gags were in the trailer there is nothing new here to enjoy.
Burton’s problem here seems to be focus, Seth Grahame-Smith’s screenplay just throws too many things into the pan. Characters come thick and fast and none of them are given time to develop or to really explore why they are even there in the first place. It is a problem that would not have occurred in a TV series with several hours to develop characters but here its a huge mess of undeveloped ideas.
So to those characters, Michelle Pfeiffer plays the matriarch of the family and seems the most confident in her role, being required only to stand and look stately. Jonny Lee Miller plays the elder male in the home, neglecting the junior male played by Gulliver McGrath, there is one scene in the final third of the film that deals with Lee Miller’s entire character arch in less than 15 seconds. Added to this is an unattached psychotherapist who lives at the house and is played by Helena Bonham Carter (Burton must get terribly lonely on set) her role is a punctuation mark if anything else, and a segue to the sequel which seems ambitiously hopeful at least. Also present is a love interest for Collins played by Bella Heathcote in a role that calls for a vacant, faraway look. That was probably good casting.
Bringing in the final elements of the family are the caretaker played by Jackie Earle Hayley who’s constant look of surprise is hard to define as acting or just confusion as to what he is supposed to be doing in this mishmash of a movie, and Chloe Grace Moretz. Since Kick-Ass Moretz has been massively disappointing, and again it is the case here, she sulks and snarls through her role as the teenage girl of the family in a performance that is so broad it really is astonishing that no one has found out yet that she is really a terrible actress. Her performance is entirely one-note and she seems to have little grasp of the subtlety needed to perform comedy or show anything approaching a human emotion.
The saving grace of the film is Eva Green, or more specifically Eva Green’s breasts. Green has found the heart of her character somewhere in her corset and uses it to the full effect. It is amazing that in parts Green is able to distract from her strange accent, the clumsy plot and appalling character creation with a quick flash of her ample cleavage. It is a noble skill.
Of course as a Burton movie it look’s fabulous and the styling and design, especially the 1970′s town, are second to none, it’s just a shame that he hasn’t put as much work into making an engaging, interesting and inventive plot. Try harder Tim, it’s all getting very tiresome now.
- Johnny Depp Makes Waves in Tokyo on Dark Shadows Opening Weekend (popsugar.com)
- Seth Grahame Smith Talks DARK SHADOWS, the BEETLEJUICE Sequel, Tim Burton’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING, UNHOLY NIGHT, and More (collider.com)
- Download The Dark Shadows apps for mobile (phonesreview.co.uk)
- ‘Dark Shadows’ (japantimes.co.jp)
- Movies: Can Depp and Burton Recapture Old Magic with ‘Dark Shadows’? (towleroad.com)