‘Dark Shadows’ is the latest Tim Burton directed film to star Johnny Depp with a script penned by the suddenly hot writer Seth Grahame-Smith, the film is also based on the extremely popular long running TV show of the same name from the 60s and 70s which spawned well over 1,000 episodes back in the day. The film follows the story of Barnabas Collins (Depp) in 1782, the owner of an established and rich business who breaks the heart of the witch Angelique (Eva Green). Unfortunately for Barnabas, the witch curses his family, murders his new love and curses him to be a vampire for the rest of his life and buries him alive to boot. Fast-forward 196 years and Barnabas is accidentally released from his chained coffin to find his family in ruin and his house in tatters and the witch who cursed him still alive, well and prospering fro, his absence. Is the latest collaboration between Burton and Depp as good as their previous efforts? Read on…
The answer to that question is quite simply no, in fact it might be one of their weakest efforts but that is not for want of effort by Burton or Depp but in fact the really weak script and story employed in the film. ‘Dark Shadows’ does a lot of things right and in all the areas that you would expect both the director and lead actor to excel in but unfortunately no director or actor can make a slow and drab story appear more exciting and fun than it actually is.
For the Burton fans out there the aesthetics and tone of the film are pure Burton and you get exactly what you would expect from one of his film and they look fantastic even for the casual fan. The costumes, the town and the mansion all look great and they are all utilised very well, it would have been interesting to see more of the gigantic mansion owned by the Collins family but I it leaves it open for future films or TV series to explore. The performances of the cast are very much in line with how the film looks and nearly every member plays the part well, Depp is great as Barnabas and Eva Green can be one menacing villain when put to the test. As for the side cast the best of them is simply Chloe Grace Moretz, she is growing into a fantastic actress and she embodies the spirit of a young girl in the 70s brilliantly, if you had not taken note of her yet do so now! Though the one part that is performed poorly and exudes no sort of interest or confidence is that of the love interest of Barnabas played by Bella Heathcote, whenever she is on screen, and it is not that much to be honest, she is one dimensional and bland.
|Depp as Barnabas Collins|
As mentioned despite the great performances and look the film fails to hit any gear higher than second and uses out of place crass humour to get its laughs, this is pretty much down to the actual story of the film and its plot lines throughout. Though the back story of Barnabas Collins is interesting and sets it up well the entire story from his re-emergence in the 70s is convoluted and mixed up with minor plot lines that are not that interesting and detract the significance from one another. At one point this is a film about Barnabas falling for a woman in the 70s who is identical to his former love but then for a significant amount of time we see nothing of the woman and nothing of Barnabas and her getting close, 45 minutes later they are in love. At another point it is about Barnabas reinstalling the success of the family business and then another bit is about his trying to be human, it feels like Seth Grahame-Smith had all of these interesting ideas for a story and could not choose between them so mashed them together. I have no doubt Smith can be a future writing star but he may be suffering from a little inexperience. All in all these strands of story draw the film out a little too long failing to make any plot line appear the most significant resulting in a lack of interest of what is going on.
|Your less than average family…|
As for the comedy and the action it is hit and miss. Burton did not get famous on the back of action scenes but on interesting and unique stories that capture the imagination of many though when action does occur he pulls it off well. The last act which has a battle in the mansion is really good and much better than what happened at the end of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ despite being smaller in scale. As for the comedy there is a strange mix of humour that you might expect to come from a film that Burton has directed or produced which is good but also contains odd sexual based humour that is completely out of place, unnecessary and just not funny. To be honest at times it was a little awkward knowing that it was a 12A with younger children in and we have Helena Bonham Carter going down on Depp…
Overall ‘Dark Shadows’ is a good looking film with an interesting premise that has a flat story and fails to keep your full interest or produce much excitement. Though its not Burton and Depps worst collaboration it is one of their weakest but not because of there own efforts. The comedy is at times subtly funny and draws a giggle or two but is not overall as funny as you might expect from the trailers. The aesthetics and acting keep the film from being worse than it could have been and make the film worth watching but not much more. Expect your typical Burton film but not much more