By Steve Mesa
What happened to Tim Burton? He has made some good, perhaps even great, films. But there’s been an air of complacency in his films as of late.
Just compare a film like the wonderfully inventive Big Fish to the bloated Alice in Wonderland. In one film, you see Burton trying to handcraft a thoughtful film on the nature of tall tales. In the other, you can almost see Burton selling out his style to make a textbook “Burton” film. Burton seems more focused on how stylish his movie looks rather than telling a comprehensible story.
Based on the 1960s British cult television show, Dark Shadows begins in the 18th century where Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp), a gentleman dandy who has rejected the love of the witch Angelique (Eva Green) who, in return, curses his family, turns him into a vampire and buries him alive in a steel box.
Two-hundred years later, Barnabas wakes up in the year 1972 where he returns to his beloved mansion to find his descendants living there. Little by little, Barnabas becomes aware that the world has changed since being buried, except that Angelique is still around trying to ruin the Collins name.
There are some decent parts in the film with some good off-beat moments in this fish-out-of-water story as Barnabas tries to blend in during an era seemingly dominated by hippies, lava lamps and old televisions. In terms of sheer craft, this film is fantastic, featuring dazzling visual effects, along with great production design and costumes (the cornerstone of any Burton film).
There is no doubt that both Burton and Depp are talented individuals in their respective fields. Just as they bring out the best in each other with films like Sweeney Todd and Edward Scissorhands, they also seem to bring out the worst in each other, which shows in their eighth film together.
The story itself is wildly uneven and bi-polar as if it can’t decide whether it wants to be a comedy or a horror. The pace of the movie drags even though the movie is under two hours. The third act gets even more ridiculous when the battle between Barnabas and Angelique eventually takes place with several revelations that seem lost in translation when they occur.
Johnny Depp seems to love playing eccentric characters with an accent and Dark Shadows is no different, but this has to stop. It just feels lazy that he is playing the same character over and over again. Eva Green is good as the diabolical and deliciously evil Angelique, but there should have been more done with the character.
On paper the casting seemed quite promising: Helena Bonham Carter, Michelle Pfeifer and Jacky Earl Haley, among others.
Carter and Pfeifer try their best to bring something to the table, but its almost as if their characters are brushed aside in favor of showcasing Depp hamming it up.
Ultimately, this film is another disappointment made by an incredibly talented but frustratingly lazy duo. If you are looking for something gothic and want to spend money, you are better off going to your local Hot Topic store than seeing this movie.