Tim Burton’s latest movie Dark Shadows has all the ingredients you would expect; the customary gothic mansion, the dark and magical characters, and of course, Johnny Depp. However, there is unfortunately no denying that this once perfect combination has become a little tired in Burton’s recent work, and Dark Shadows is no exception.
Based on the hit TV show, the story chronicles the life of Barnabus Collins (Johnny Depp), a wealthy and handsome playboy who loses everything after romantically rejecting a witch named Angelique (Eva Green). The ultimate jilted lover, Angelique curses the Collins family, turns Barnabus into a vampire, and buries him alive for nearly two hundred years before he is inadvertently released in 1972. Rising from the grave, Barnabus returns to his former home, Collinwood Mansion, to find it radically changed by the modern age, and his family’s fishing business failing. He becomes determined to restore the family name to its former glory, whilst struggling against the schemes of Angelique, who is not best pleased to hear that Barnabus is back in town.
The film is a bit of a mixed bag in terms of its entertainment factor. Shot in typical Tim Burton style, Collinwood is reminiscent of the castle found in his earlier work Edward Scissorhands, and just as beautiful. Burton also successfully portrays the 70s culture through close attention to detail regarding fashion and soundtrack, giving the film an authentic feel.
As usual, Johnny Depp is also excellent in his role, perfectly capturing the sense that Barnabus is a total fish-out-of-water in 1972. There are subsequently many hilarious moments in the film, as we watch Barnabus mistake a passing car for the Devil, and appear bemused by modern day inventions such as lava lamps and the McDonalds sign.
Likewise, Eva Green shines in her role as the malevolent witch, oozing with both charisma and sex appeal. However, not every member of the cast is such a pleasure to watch. In particular, it is nearly impossible to understand the diction of the family’s enduringly drunk butler Willie, (Jackie Earle Haley), something which grows increasingly frustrating as the film progresses.
However, both plot and dialogue are ploddingly slow at times, and the storyline occasionally unsound. Despite Barnabus constantly pushing the moral that “family is the only wealth”, the audience are left a little unclear on how he and the inhabitants of Collinwood were even related; the fact that Barnabus himself was buried underground and his parents and his lover were killed doesn’t exactly make for ideal procreation, after all.
The worst point of the film, however, is its climactic battle scene, which is tacky and over-the-top. One of the characters even bizarrely turns into a werewolf, provoking a palpable “Huh?!” from the audience. It’s simply a big, confusing mess.
As the film closes, Burton optimistically leaves it open for a sequel. The trouble is, after this, I’m not sure anyone will be rushing to see it.