Johnny Depp and Tim Burton started off as a classic cinematic partnership. Like Uma Thurman and Quentin Tarantino, and Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe – they seem to stick together, no matter how….unappealing the project seems to be.
After the lacklustre Alice in Wonderland, you should wish that the two would take a more original concept for their new feature. Unfortunately, they took the premise of a 1970’s soap opera that Depp idolised as a child.
Dark Shadows is about Barnabas Collins (Depp), an orphan of a wealthy family who breaks the heart of secret witch Angelique (Eva Green). As revenge, she entraces Barnabas’ fiancée to suicide and then transforms him into a vampire. He is then locked in a coffin, only to be released in 1972 – two centuries later, and resolves to save his descendants from economic ruin.
The original soap opera lasted six years with varying ratings and plans of its revival in the early nineties were unsuccessful, so why the concept of a 1970’s vampire is used in 2012 is strange. Especially with the Twilight, The Vampire Diaries and True Blood backbone of vampire pop culture, do we need another one? Charismatic as he may seem, Barnabas just looks too dated to keep up with the vamps of the day, from the Lego hair to Max Schreck-alike skin and nails.
The screentime for the cast is also disjointed – as is the problem with ensemble casts. Impressive as the cast is – Michelle Pfeiffer as the head of the 70’s Collins family, Chloë Moretz as her moody daughter, Helena Bonham Carter as the live-in psychiatrist – it is tough to cover the bases when you have Tim Burton at the helm and Depp in the main role. The number of different characters in this film brought a lot of untied ends and hope of promising story developments, which seem to have ended up on the cutting room floor. The plot itself is predictable and reinforces the idea of a fun film a bit too much.
After the success of Pirates, Depp needs a new challenge. Unfortunately, the role of Barnabas doesn’t raise the bar and only adds a new profile in his ‘quirky and the reluctant hero’ cinematography. However, the chemistry between him and Eva Green (who seems to be relishing the role, regardless of her wavering accent) is great. Both bounce of each other in a brilliant love-hate relationship – ranging from flirtatious threats to heartfelt encounters – and this, coupled with Pride and Prejudice vs. Zombies writer Seth Grahame-Smith’s entertaining script, is the silver lining in an otherwise disappointing outing.
Burton could have done so much more with this film. He could have strayed away a bit more than his poor adaptations in recent years or even bring in something else to his established formula of Depp, Bonham Carter, composer Elfman and a Christopher Lee cameo – but unfortunately, it fails to bring anything new.