Movie Review: "Dark Shadows"
Published: Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 03:05
Tim Burton's “Dark Shadows” is very much a “Tim Burton film”—it provides what is expected of the director, but nothing more. Its strong introduction establishes an intriguing premise, which ultimately ends in an unfortunate realization that the film failed to deliver up to its potential. Too much of the film focuses on creating the romanticized fantasy-gothic atmosphere that Burton is known for and too little into actually develops the plot.
The film begins by introducing the Collins family, English natives who settle in Maine to start a prominent fishing business. They grow in wealth and success until Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) breaks the heart of the witch Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green). As revenge, Angelique kills Barnabas’ parents and causes the suicide of his lover, Josette DuPres (Bella Heathcote). In a moment of tragic romance, Barnabas throws himself off a cliff to take his own life only to realize he cannot die. Angelique had cursed him to be a vampire and suffer for all eternity. After spending nearly two centuries buried in a coffin, Barnabas is freed in 1972 and decides to help the modern Collins family return to its former glory. The problem is overtaking the current top fish cannery company, owned by the familiar witch.
The story continues with an impressive cast including Michelle Pfeiffer as the matriarch of the Collins family, Helena Bonham Carter as the family’s physician, Jackie Earle Haley as the caretaker and Chloë Grace Moretz as the daughter. Noteworthy appearances also include Alice Cooper as himself and a cameo by Jonathan Frid, the original Barnabas Collins actor.
The problem with “Dark Shadows” ultimately comes from the fact that the movie tried to take on too much. Burton attempted to make it a comedy, a fantasy, a romance, a drama and a campy horror story. The director never quite revealed whether the film should be taken seriously or as a parody of the original 1960s American gothic soap opera. This left no room for character or plot development.
As the plot progresses, motives become less clear. Crucial moments, such as the governess Victoria Winters’ (Bella Heathcote) description of her parents’ abandonment, mean nothing, as there is no emotional attachment to the characters.
The climax suffers from a similar problem. The build-up is too sudden and no proper chance is given for the gravity of the situation to be explored by the characters. The conclusion is quite predictable, even though a handful of rather insignificant plot twists occur within minutes of the ending. The majority of these twists have little to no foreshadowing, making them less than satisfying.
Burton managed to craft a visually beautiful world and populate it with actors who gave fantastic performances. Their actions, however, have little meaning and the actual development of the story leaves much to be desired. Fans of Burton's work, especially his recent remakes of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” will be pleased to know that he stuck to the formula he is known for. Those expecting something new will likely leave disappointed.