Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Dark Shadows Movie Review

Many year ago there was a television soap opera called Dark Shadows, that ran from 1966 to 1971. While originally not intending to have supernatural elements in it, the show eventually featured ghosts, vampires, werewolves, witches, zombies, time travel, and parallel universes. Directors Tim Burton and Quentin Tarantino have publicly stated they were fans of the TV show. Johnny Depp was obsessed with the show as a child and wanted to be the prominent vampire character, Barnabas Collins. Well, if Tim Burton and Johnny Depp liked Dark Shadows so much, a movie (2012) was inevitable.
In 1772, Barnabas (Johnny Depp) has the world at his feet until he makes the grave mistake of breaking the heart of Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green). A witch in every sense of the word, Angelique dooms him to a fate worse than death: turning him into a vampire and burying him alive. Two centuries later, Barnabas is inadvertently freed from his tomb and emerges into the very changed world of 1972. He returns to Collinwood Manor to find that his once-grand estate has fallen into ruin. The Dysfunctional remnants of the Collins family have fared little better, each harboring their own dark secrets; the inhabitants include Elizabeth Collins (Michelle Pfeiffer) who runs the family fortune, her teenage daughter Carolyn (Chloe Grace Mortez), Elizabeth's useless brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller), Roger's Disturbed son David (Gully McGrath), and a live-in psychiatrist named Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter). Even after centuries have passed, Angelique shows up to wreak havoc on the Collins family and tear them apart.
I think Tim Burton films are fun and I love watching Johnny Depp perform. The director and actor duo tend to produce movies that are fun to watch, even if a little strange. Dark Shadows was chockful of Tim Burton's signature Gothic style; weird angles, vividly contrasting colors, elaborate sets and costumes, a variety of wacky characters, and often dark humor. If you're a fan of Tim Burton, you will not be disappointed by the rich and strange visuals Burton is known for.
Since the role of Barnabas Collins was a childhood dream of Depp's you can rest assured that his performance is pitch perfect and intense. You'd think that with the dark and often strange roles Depp portrays, he would have been a vampire at least once before, but this is a first for him. Barnabas is a 18th-century  Englishman who has awakened in the 1970's; he treats people with elaborate courtesy. Depp's performance is haughty and mannered, as it probably should be for the character. But on the other hand, so is the performance of every other actor. This creates a sort of strange style in the movie's overall presentation that seems to teeter between satire and being snooty to the audience. That may have been intentional to captivate the  melodramatic quality of the original TV show, but it felt a bit weird to me.
A problem with trying to capture all the fun stuff from the TV show in a movie is that the movie seemed rushed. The back story in the introduction, while very well done, probably could have been a movie all by itself. The Dark Shadows movie had a huge cast and never seemed to give enough screen time to any of the characters other than Barnabas and Angelique. So when some of the Collin's family secrets come into play, it seem to be an all too convenient plot device rather than a logical twist in character development. I don't even know why Barnabas's love interest developed; the two characters have maybe two short scenes together.
Dark Shadows was really fun. It was highly stylized in a classic Tim Burton fashion and we had a great performance from Johnny Depp. While the story started out promising, it seemed rushed and didn't seem to know where it was going most of the time. The humor mostly centered around Barnabas's reaction to 1970's pop culture, which is usually good for a few laughs. It averages out to be a fun movie, but not necessarily a good one. If you're a fan of Tim Burton or Johnny Depp, Dark Shadows is worth owning. But even if you're not a fan, I still recommend renting it at least because it's so fun.

Is there a TV show you'd love to see made into a movie? I think a Gilligan's Island movie might be cool, or possibly Blake's 7. Comment below and tell me what you think!

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