Movie Review: Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows (2012)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham-Carter, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Johnny Lee Miller
Directed by: Tim Burton

First things first, I had no intentions of seeing Dark Shadows. However, I realized last Monday that Mother’s Day was coming up, and seeing as how my mother is a Shadows fanatic, I decided to offer to take her. Perhaps it was because I had very minimal expectations, but I didn’t find Dark Shadows to be that bad, even if it doesn’t live up to such past Burton/Depp team-ups like Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, and Sleepy Hollow (yeah, I said it).

Based off of the television series from the late 60’s, Dark Shadows follows Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp), a human cursed to become a vampire by the witch Angelique (Eva Green) after he has an affair with her.  Driven out of the Maine town by the locals, he’s encased in a coffin for two hundred years, until he is accidentally released by construction workers in the year 1972. After brutally slaughtering the workers, Collins heads off to his old manor, Collinwood, where he meets his modern-day relatives.  There’s Elizabeth (Pfeiffer), her daughter Carolyn (played by Cloe Grace-Moretz), Roger Collins (Miller), and a host of others, including the new governess, Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote), whom Barnabas believes is the reincarnation of his beloved Josette, the woman whose death a jealous Angelique caused.  The Collins family has seen a noticeable dip in their fortunes in the community, and Barnabas makes it his mission to return his family to prominence by kickstarting their run down fishing business, which he started back in the 1700’s. Of course, this would all go a lot smoother if Angelique wasn’t still around, running a fishing company of her own….

First off, the trailers for Dark Shadows present a much campier movie than what the audience actually gets. Sure, there are plenty of humorous moments in the film, but there are also some moments that are fairly dark and surprisingly violent. However, while I was pleasantly surprised that this movie wasn’t completely rated “ARG for pirates”, the movie is a little all over the place. From what my mom told me after the film, the sub plot of Victoria being the reincarnation of Josette was played out over several years of the show, so when it’s crammed into a two hour movie it obviously doesn’t work as well. It also probably doesn’t help that this plot wasn’t nearly as fleshed out as it should have been. There’s more of a focus on the Angelique/Barnabas relationship than many of the others, and with so many characters in the cast, it’s kind of a shame. Michelle Pfieffer does a really good job here, as does Chloe Grace-Moretz and Helena Bonham-Carter, but there’s simply not enough time in the movie to accommodate all of them.

Despite this, Johnny Depp is reliable as always. His turn as Barnabas is really fun and of course, quirky. The scenes directly after he busts out of the coffin and is wandering aimlessly through Collinsport, clearly stunned and horrified at the world around him, were my favorite moments of the film, but I’m glad that it didn’t dominate the entire movie.

The Burton/Depp train isn’t slowing down anytime soon, but I wouldn’t mind if they took a break after Dark Shadows. While the final product isn’t nearly as bad as the trailers made it seem, it’s still a bit of a mess tonally. However, if The Avengers is sold out and you absolutely have to see a movie, you could do worse than Dark Shadows. And besides, my mom, the Dark Shadows super-fan, really enjoyed the movie, so there’s that.

Final verdict: 2 1/2 out of 4 Danny Elfman musical flourishes

Posted on May 14, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I would be distressed if I woke up in the 70s too.

  2. Definitely has its moments of fun, but they all start to go away by the last act when the tone shifts from goofy comedy to campy melodrama and takes all of the steam out of its story. Very lazy direction by Burton but definitely not terrible. Good review Jonathan.

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