Director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp have teamed up once again and this time they are tackling one of the most popular movie genres of recent years, this of course being vampires. This marks the eighth time that this duo has teamed up. Dark Shadows is based on the 1966 soap opera of the same name. Other directorial credits to Burton’s name include Alice in Wonderland, Beetlejuice, and Edward Scissorhands. Can Burton bring a breath of fresh air to a watered down movie genre?
The year is 1760 and Barnabas Collins comes from a rich family with everything he could want. However, Barnabas crosses paths one day with a woman named Angelique Bouchard, despite frequent attempts Bouchard cannot get Barnabas to fall in love with her.
Bouchard becomes so obsessed that she places a spell on Barnabas’s true love and curses him which causes him to transform into a vampire. Following his transformation Bouchard convinces the town to capture Barnabas and bury him underground.
Two hundred years later Barnabas is dug up by accident. Barnabas sets out to re-kindle his relationship with his now distant family that is living at his old house. The conflict begins when he realizes that the one who cursed him is still alive and she has her own dark secrets.
Despite how silly a film premise might be when you have Depp on board you know that he is going to bring his best to the table. Dark Shadows is no exception Depp plays Barnabas in a way that is both comical and serious. Depp also has great chemistry with Eva Green (Bouchard) and Michelle Pfeiffer, Pfeiffer plays Barnabas’s distant relative Elizabeth Collins.
Burton has always been known for his ability to shoot scenery and he does a great job here for the cinematography is fantastic and so are the costumes. Burton also brings his darker tastes to the forefront and the fish out of water story of Barnabas living in the 1970’s does work and it is entertaining.
Burton has always had an issue telling a story and his problems continue with Dark Shadows. The movie has no focus it is uneven and all over the map. At time it wants to be a comedy but then it wants to be a drama and then it wants to be a horror film. Films have managed to make this work but they need to have a clear direction and this movie does not have that.
Burton randomly inserts plot points and situations that take the audience out of the movie. Furthermore, Burton under utilizes one the biggest young actresses in the world right now that being young and talented Chloe Moretz (Hugo, and Kick-Ass). Her character is so underdeveloped and so underwritten that she becomes reduced to a simple plot device which is sad considering her talent. If you were to take her character out of the film then the audience would not have even noticed.
I think Burton has always been a talented art visionary director but he has always had issues bringing his ideas together in a coherent fashion. Burton has a great story and great performers at his disposal this time around but he just cannot help but show off his ideas with any clear purpose, (an example of this is a forced plot point which the movie does with Moretz’s character at the end of the film) although his ideas are unique they take the audience out of the film.
It has been a long time since I have strongly liked a Burton film; the last one I can recall is Sweeney Todd which was made back in 2007. Despite his best intentions and Depp’s best efforts Dark Shadows cannot overcome the lack of an incoherent plot and wasted supporting characters.