10 May 2012

Dark Shadows

Johnny Depp is shown in a scene from "Dark Shadows."
"Dark Shadows," a daytime soap opera that aired from 1966 to 1971 on ABC, was popular in its time, adored by some (now forgotten by more) and unique in that after its run began, it introduced ghosts, vampires, werewolves, zombies, witches and other sorts of supernatural happenings. It might seem a weird choice for a feature film in 2012—but not for director Tim Burton and star Johnny Depp. For them, teaming together for the eighth time, it feels routine, safe.

After all, Burton has been mining "weird" at the movies for more than a quarter century, while Depp has become one of the world's most popular actors by disappearing into outrageous costumes, makeup and hair, and speaking in different variations of an English accent.

So there is a been-there-done-that feeling permeating all of "Dark Shadows," no matter how entertaining it might be at times.

There also is the not-so-small matter of the movie's soap-opera origins, which Burton, a devoted fan of the TV show as a child, lovingly translates to the big screen. It might be unfair to fault a film for being what it is supposed to be, but scene after scene of two characters standing in a room speaking to each other isn't exactly cinematic—what a waste of the beautiful, Gothic sets that make up musty old Collinwood, the mansion that houses the Collins family.

Depp is equally devoted to his character, the vampire Barnabas Collins, getting some laughs of the fish-out-of-water variety (reminiscent of "Edward Scissorhands"), but refusing to pander and endear himself to the audience. I suppose 200 years in a coffin would make one a little cranky.

Barnabas ended up there thanks to Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), a servant girl whose affections he spurned. Too bad for him she's a witch who murdered his true love, cursed him to be a vampire and buried him under ground until, in 1972, an unfortunate construction crew unearths him and lets him out.

From there, it's back to Collinwood, where he intends to reintegrate himself into his family and his descendants, including matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer), have fallen on hard times thanks to Angelique's Angelbay Seafood doing its best to ruin the Collins' fishing business.

The supporting characters—including the new governess with a mysterious past, Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote), and Julie Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), the psychiatrist trying to help Elizabeth's young nephew (Gulliver McGrath) cope with his mother's death—are woefully under-developed. So it falls on Depp to virtually carry the movie alone. But even he can't overcome a plot that feels unimaginative even by daytime TV standards.

Greg’s Grade: C+

(Rated PG-13 for comic horror violence, sexual content, some drug use, language and smoking. 113 minutes.)

1 comment:

Dan O. said...

Definitely had some moments of pure fun and originality, but when it comes right down to it, you can't get past the fact that this story is just a little too serious with Burton's approach. Depp is once again, fun in this role but he can only do so much to elevate it. Nice review Greg.