Tim Burtons latest directing project, “Dark Shadows” (2012), seems to have failed to win over viewers. This is due to two main reasons: firstly, people seem to be getting tired of Johnny Depp starring in Tim Burton films and secondly, avid viewers of the television series from the 1970s, which the film is based on, are disappointed in Burtons’ lighthearted take on the supposedly dark tale. Nevertheless with a star studded cast and Burton being in his cinematographic comfort zone surely the film can’t all be that bad?
So here’s the basic plot: Johnny Depp plays Baranabas Collins, the son of a wealthy family who move from England to America to make their fortune. The Collins family set up a small fishing village called Collinsport in Maine where they also build the family home, Collinwood. Barnabas initiates a relationship with the enchanting maid Angelique (Eva Green) who unfortunately turns out to be a witch. Baranabas falls in love with another woman, Josette. Angelique, in a jealous rage, puts a curse on the Collins family, and turns Baranabas into a vampire, imprisoning him in a coffin and forcing him to live with losing his true love, Josette, for all eternity. A century passes, it’s 1972, the Collins family has lost their power in Collinsport and Angelique is now running the town.
There are some strange characters now residing in Collinswood: Michelle Pfeiffer plays Elizabeth Collins Stoddard who is having trouble maintaining her grip on the family, Chloë Mortez plays her daughter Carolyn Stoddard, and Helena Boham Carter plays the resident psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman. There are some other characters, but all in all the family is dysfunctional and ‘quirky’. Some construction workers accidently stumble on Baranabas’ coffin and free him. On his return to Collinwood Barnabas is on a mission to return the Collin’s family business to its former glory whilst trying to bring down Angelique. Depp, Pfeiffer, Green and Boham-Carter do a fantastic job playing their assigned characters, but I wouldn’t have expected anything different, and Chloë Mortez does a questionable portrayal of a 1970s teenager who seems to be constantly stoned without smoking anything. Yet it is clear why Burton choose these high profile actors, as without them the film would have flopped completely.
The plot is weak, in no way ‘dark’, and falls down some obvious pitfalls that have led the film to receive only two or three stars on review sites. The narrative maybe does start of bleak and mysterious like the television series; there’s tragedy, death, murder, black magic and the viewer feels Baranabas’ pain as his world crumbles around him. However once the story moves into 1972, the serious tone projected in the television series is forgotten and the film becomes lighthearted with the viewer being subjected to hearing script lines that are silly and moronic, written by John August and Seth Grahame-Smith. The change in tone could be due to Grahame-Smith not wanting “Dark Shadows” to compete with the other ridiculous vampire film released this year, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”. Safe to say the witty lines, mainly used in the trailer, are spread thinly over the course of the film. Another pitfall is the use of the very obvious 1970s soundtrack. With a mix of music composed by the Grammy Award winning, Danny Elfman, who took inspiration from the original television score, and 1970s jukebox classics that creates an omnipresent cheesy mash-up that contradicts the dark vampire tale of blood thirsty love and revenge. The songs chosen are songs that are too obvious and even an appearance from Alice Cooper doesn’t seem to add any vibes to the film, apart from begging the question: when will this film end?
Nevertheless, the main reason “Dark Shadows” fails to make any impressions is because it is not memorable, it simply has no imprint on our mind. Overall it is boring and followers of Tim Burton’s work will not see anything new. I myself, am usually a fan of Tim Burton’s directing exploits but even for Burton standards “Dark Shadows”, I’m sorry to say, fails to deliver. So, in the words spoken by Johnny Depp in the film: “I’m terribly sorry, you cannot imagine how thirsty I am”, well, I’m thirsty for Tim Burton to sink his teeth into something fresh that will astonish me. However with the announcement of a production of “Beetlejuice 2” on the cards, it seems Burton is resorting to going even further back to his roots and proves that he is not ready to leave his comfort zone, just yet.