Dark Shadows was originally a 1960s daytime soap which focused the cursed life of the Collins family and their everyday experience with vampires, witches, ghouls and various other paranormal entities. Tim Burton had spoke of a film adaptation for years, finally getting the thing going come late 2010. Numerous photos had leaked and expectations sky-rocketed, well at least for me anyway, being such a Burtonite and all. As a member of Generation Y, I really knew little to nothing about the original series other than it existed, and really the last thing I wanted was to sit through a two-hour soap opera in ear-splitting surround sound. So, how did it hold up? Patience, dearies – time for synopsis:
Dark Shadows opens with Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp), a spoiled aristocratic playboy whose family founded the town of Collinsport, Maine. After he breaks the heart of Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), a witch in every sense of the word, she turns him into a vampire and encases him in a coffin. Barnabas is awoken two centuries later (in the wacky era of 1972) and discovers his entire bloodline has felt Angelique’s wrath, and teams up with the remaining Collins’ family, lead by reclusive matriarch Elizabeth Collins-Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer), to restore the Collins name to its former glory.
Trivia: Keep your eyes peeled for a cameo by the late Jonathan Frid, the original Barnabas Collins.
Alright, just because a film is based off of a soap opera doesn’t mean it needs to be campy – even if it’s for the fans, it’s still not a good idea. Unfortunately, Burton made the decision to do so, as most evident in scenes between Depp and Pfeiffer – which such a shame, because they both could have done so much better.As if that wasn’t awkward enough, the ham trickled through to dear little Chloe Moretz, who must have had that sneer affixed to her face in makeup. Again, this is another decent actor – her skills should have been taken advantage of.
It was decisions like this which made me find all of these characters to be very one-dimensional (so I don’t know why people are saying they’re sick of Burton and Depp working together – Collins really could have been played by anyone). I honestly wasn’t sure of most of these peoples’ motivations, nor were we really given a chance to see them, or how most of the characters interact with each other. By focusing more on the industry aspect, we lose what the film’s story initially set out to focus on – family.
However, this film does have a much different feel from other Burton films, which was quite refreshing. I still can’t put my finger on what I mean by that statement, but for now I’ll say it was like watching Big Fish with a goth noir lens (now if only if it was as amazing). It really wasn’t that bad of a flick: there were still some funny bits that weren’t in the trailers, and it was really quite a different sort of story. All it needed was a bit of focus and perhaps some redirection.
Final Grade: B-