Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloe Moretz, Gulliver McGrath, Bella Heathcote
Running time: 113 minutes
Synopsis: Imprisoned vampire Barnabas Collins is set free and returns to his ancestral home, where his dysfunctional descendants are in need of his protection…
Say what you want about ALICE IN WONDERLAND. Despite all of the hatred, bad reviews, and countless bitching on our own THN podcast The Hollywood Booze, the film made a lot of money… a hell of a lot, and it opened even more doorways for its already successful director, Tim Burton. So many doorways that the legendary goth filmmaker could have walked through any one that he wanted to. So, what does he do? He opts for a big-screen remake of the American soap opera that ran every weekday from 1966-1971. Burton has publicly mentioned that he was a massive fan of DARK SHADOWS as a child, as was one Johnny Depp, who has for years stated that he wanted to play the lead Barnabus Collins. His dream comes true as this was the project that Burton chose for his first post-Wonderland movie journey, and he brought longtime collaborator Johnny Depp along for the ride.
I admit to knowing very little about DARK SHADOWS prior to the screening this week, and to be honest, expectations were very low as I headed into the showing at a packed London cineplex on Tuesday. The reason for that is possibly Fordy’s constant negative ramblings on the subject of Burton’s movies, or indeed my own experiences of his more recent work. I’m not a huge fan. I hated what Timothy William Burton did with CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY and the aforementioned ALICE IN WONDERLAND. I didn’t mind SWEENEY TODD to be honest, and I kind of liked BIG FISH, but his track record post ED WOOD really hasn’t been great…
The basic jist of the story is that Barnabus Collins (Depp) has had a terrible curse put upon him by the witch Angelique (a very busty Eva Green) after he spurns her love. She basically turns him into a vampire and banishes him to a shallow grave for a couple hundred years in the Maine seatown that he helped found. Collins is finally freed in 1972 Collins Port after a group of out of town road workers stumble across his bound coffin. After a quick ‘meal,’ Collins heads to the old house at the edge of town, which he built himself back in the late 18th century. There, he is united with his modern day family in the form of Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), her daughter Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz), Roger (Jonny Lee Miller), their ‘butler/ servant’ Willie (Jackie Earle Haley) and live-in doctor Julia Hoffman, played by Helena Bonham Carter, surprisingly. Then there’s young Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote), who ventures across country to Collins Port following a ‘calling’ to look after the youngest member of the Collins household, David. The family are in a bit of trouble as their bread and butter fishing business has been overshadowed by a huge corporate machine, headed by fellow immortal Angelique, and only Barnabus has the ability to save it, and indeed stop her…
All good stuff? Well, no. The problem is that there’s not really much of a movie here. In some circumstances it seems that there is too much going on, but in others not enough. There are a lot of characters in this film, and arguably a lot of star talent; the problem is that bar Depp’s Barnabus, who is, as always, quite excellent, there’s not much depth to any of the characters. Eva Green does her best as the villain of the piece in Angelique, and she shares some of the finer moments of the film, but all of the others aren’t given enough time or material to work with. You get the feeling that these are characters being set up for potential sequels in the series, and this DARK SHADOWS is merely a vehicle to establish them, then be developed more in future movies. Moretz is possibly the only other exception. She’s as always excellent in her role, which again, very much like her Hit Girl in KICK-ASS, very sexualised and at times really quite inappropriate, which you kind of get as to why she is this way as you witness a reveal towards the end (which by the way saw both me and my colleague Joe frowning and then throwing our hands in the air as it to say – ‘eh?’). Quite unexpected and misjudged.
Burton’s direction is again heavily flawed. The film suffers from a few pace issues. I was really quite bored post opening credits, all of the way up until about two thirds in when things start to really get going. There is a peak around 80 minutes or so into this 113 minute movie, and some of the content from this section genuinely raised a few laughs and interest – but then it’s all down hill towards a very abrupt, unsatisfactory ending that again makes you think as the credits roll. ‘What?’ It’s not as if it’s Burton-weird, which we like, it’s just Burton-awful, which we obviously don’t. There is an obvious set up for a sequel at the very end which points to a direction a potential follow on could go, but if that does happen, I don’t think I would want to see it go that way? At all. No, Tim. No.
It’s campy, not scary. It’s funny in places, with most of the laughter coming from Depp’s one-liners and not his ‘fish out of water’ predicament. My senses were blighted by a superior second act which you could allow forgiveness the first, but not the final dull, unsatisfying climax. This one sits not quite as low as CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY and ALICE IN WONDERLAND awfulness, nor is it as good as say BIG FISH, which itself is not Burton’s best. It’s very below-par Burton despite a very solid Depp.
It’s just… ** shrugs**. Burton as we have come to know him in the last decade. Average. A very low three star rating indeed. Must do better.
DARK SHADOWS opens in the UK on Friday 11th May 2012.