Film review: Dark ShadowsBy Kim Francis
May 16, 2012
Just when you thought the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp thing was done after the tepidly received Alice in Wonderland, along comes another collaboration between the out-of-his-tree director and off-the-wall actor in Dark Shadows – a big screen update of the late 1960s American TV show.
Perhaps better served as a signature stop motion animation, Burton transfers the look of masterpieces The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride to the live action arena – Johnny Depp’s character and the story itself are both straight out of the frames of these films.
So what of the story?
Well, Depp is Barnabas Collins, heir to a successful fisheries cannery in the town of Collinsport, so named as a result of the family’s success.
When he spurns the beautiful Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) and she turns out to be a witch, she puts a curse on him, turning him into a vampire and burying him alive so that he may suffer for all eternity.
When he is accidentally released 200 years later, he finds himself in the year 1972. Returning to his estate, he discovers his descendants and a world very different to the one he left behind. Angelique, however, remains…
Dark Shadows is a visual treat. Tim Burton is great at assembling and crafting gothic imagery on screen and though creatively it may lack a little innovation and flair (its big budget is presumably to blame), there are moments that make your mouth fall open, such as Eva Green’s skin cracking like china, which is beautifully, seamlessly realised.
Sadly, its visuals are among the limited outstanding parts of a film that is otherwise quite ordinary.
Dark Shadows is a pedestrian comedic gothic horror tale that brings nothing new to the table that, say, The Addams Family and Burton’s own back catalogue haven’t already served up in far more interesting and imaginative ways.
With make-up, costume and a tone akin to Burton’s stop motion fare, it’s difficult not to make comparisons, the conclusion you draw being that this would have possessed more charm and elicited more fond laughter as another animated delight.
As it is, the humour frequently fails to raise a titter – partly due to uninspired writing but also through the actors’ performances.
Watching Dark Shadows is like realising once and for all that Burton has lost his mojo. Jonny Lee Miller as Roger Collins is the under-used highlight in a film that fails to exploit its cast’s talents – there’s Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter and Chloe Moretz here – who all disappoint.
Miller, by contrast, is priceless with his hilarious expressions and pitch perfect delivery, and he’d surely steal the movie if his role was bigger.
Perhaps it’s time for Burton to drop Depp and his other collaborators and look to a new muse instead. Are you available, Mr Miller?