DARK SHADOWS (Tim Burton, 2012)
Collins (Johnny Depp), the dashing heir to the family fishing empire,
picks the wrong woman to spurn in DARK SHADOWS. Angelique (Eva Green), a
servant at the Collins manor, reacts badly to his decision to break off
their romance. As a witch, she’s more than capable of getting her
revenge. She causes the deaths of Barnabas’ parents and his beloved
Josette (Bella Heathcote). As if that isn’t punishment enough,
Angelique turns him into a vampire and then sees to it that he is locked
in a buried coffin.
two hundred years later--1972, to be exact--Barnabas is accidentally
freed. He returns to the coastal town of Collinsport, Maine and finds
it to be much different than what he knew. The changes aren’t just
technological and societal. The family estate is in disrepair and
inhabited by eight strangers, as is apt to happen when one is gone for
nearly two centuries. Now calling Collinwood Manor home are matriarch
Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her daughter Carolyn
(Chloë Grace Moretz), Elizabeth’s brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller) and
his son David (Gulliver McGrath), the boy’s psychiatrist Dr. Julia
Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), groundskeeper Willie Loomis (Jackie
Earle Haley), maid Mrs. Johnson (Ray Shirley), and newly arrived
governess Victoria Winters (Heathcote), who bears a marked resemblance
to the love of Barnabas’ lifetime.
is the only one who knows Barnabas’ secrets, so in exchange for being
permitted to stay at Collinwood, he promises not to indulge his vampiric
impulses on anyone living there. Barnabas then settles in to restore
the family business to its former glory only to realize that the
competition is headed by the very woman who cursed him so many years
ago. She’s going by the name Angel now and is a pillar of the
community. Worst of all, her desire to call Barnabas hers has not
1966 to 1971 the soap opera DARK SHADOWS ran for more than 1200
episodes. With so much material to choose from and only 113 minutes to
fill, director Tim Burton’s film is best described as being based on the
TV show rather than a remake of it, although screenwriter Seth
Grahame-Smith does his best to shove as much plot in as possible. DARK
SHADOWS has a lot to establish and does so with clarity, but it feels
like half of the film is prologue. (Ironically, the opening scenes in
the mid-1700s are efficient in setting up Barnabas and his eternal
dilemma.) Once everything is finally laid out, the narrative struggles
to gain momentum. DARK
SHADOWS gets stuck in neutral because of the uncertainty as to what
kind of a film it wants to be. In keeping with its soap opera roots, it
overflows with doomed romanticism and heightened drama. Long stretches
pass in which events and relationships are treated as being deadly
serious. Not enough is invested in these characters, though, to feel
the big emotional scale DARK SHADOWS wishes to pull off.
matters is that the film is also intended to be a comedy. Burton
appears more at ease in acknowledging the ridiculous elements of the
story and simply having fun with the supernatural twists and turns.
Depp handles his role with composure and sufficient restraint, making
him a humorously refined but still lethal bloodsucker. Sinking her
teeth into the villain role, Green charges her scenes with Depp with
sex, danger, and playfulness that the rest of the film resists. For all
of the good these two leads do, the jokes in DARK SHADOWS mostly
consist of easy targets related to Barnabas’ puzzlement by modernity.
Director and screenwriter settle for arriving at the mildly amusing
when the obvious destination is camp territory.
production and art design and Colleen Atwood’s costumes help Burton
create a familiar but no less dazzling gloomy world. Visual effects are
put to spectacular use when Green’s skin looks like cracked eggshell.
Burton has lavished a lot of attention on the surface and it shows. No
matter how good it looks, DARK SHADOWS is missing a soul and a heart
despite no lack of wanting them.