Dir: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green
Chloe Grace Moretz, and Bella Heathcote
Dark Shadows limps to finish line
MONTE YAZZIE ~ THE FOOTHILLS FOCUS~ 6/13/2012
This is the eighth collaboration between director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp; a relationship that spans more than 20 years. Across that time these artists have crafted some truly memorable films, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, and Sleepy Hollow are just a few. While Depp has grown ever comfortable in all manners of costume, makeup and accent, Burton seems to have grown slightly content with rehashing past efforts, and though at times that isn’t always a bad thing it has become expected with his recent films. With Dark Shadows Burton and Depp again coolly combine gothic elements and interesting characters. However, though the film starts off strong, building wonderful expectations, the final result is uneven and feels simply like a good attempt rather than a solid execution.
Dark Shadows is based on the 1960s supernatural soap opera, dredged in melodrama and poor production value, of the same name. The film begins in the late 18th century with Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) rejecting the love of a witch named Angelique (Eva Green) in favor of true love with another woman. Angelique curses Barnabas and his true love, turning Barnabas into a vampire and burying him alive. Fast-forward to 1972, in all of its clichéd glory, and Barnabas is found and freed from imprisonment and returns to the decrepit Collinswood mansion where his distant relatives still live. In these few short beginning minutes Burton weaves his signature style and creates a fabulous introduction for the film. Burton again utilizes Danny Elfman for original compositions, but also offers a great classic rock soundtrack that creates some clever transitions. The set and costume design are pitch-perfect while the cinematography only accommodates these elements.
Once Barnabas returns to Collinswood mansion, his motivation turns to restoring the once respected name of the Collin’s family, however Angelique is still alive and still very much infatuated with Barnabas. If Angelique can’t have Barnabas no one can, and she plots to ruin Barnabas and his family once again. Burton assembles a well rounded, though seldom challenged, group of actors in which Michelle Pfeiffer, in particular, shines as Elizabeth Collins. Chloe Moretz is good in the few scenes she has as stubborn teenager Carolyn, as is Helena Bonham Carter as the alcohol loving in-home psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman. However, the film hinges on the performance of Depp, who’s “fish out of water” Barnabas makes the most of every scene in a nuanced yet mannered presentation.
The most glaring flaw with Dark Shadows is the script. The film starts out with such potential, offering captivating characters in Barnabas and the supporting staff but fails to utilize these elements beyond the ordinary. There are nice touches that play with the melodrama of the original soap opera and the humor of the 1970’s, but these also feel restricted and underused; even Depp’s performance seems restrained by the end. It’s as if Burton seemed indecisive, which is unusual considering his clear view of past projects. Burton pays such attention to art direction it’s surprising that the script wasn’t given the same enthusiasm. Altogether, Dark Shadows starts out with great expectations however doesn’t quit achieve the potential it hinted at.
3.00 out of 5.00