The Tim Burton film is based off the cult classic Dark Shadows television series (1966-1971) and follows Barnabas Collins, after his unexpected return from the grave.
The beginning of the film demonstrates why we all love Tim Burton, with his gothic interpretation of a family whose ventures take them from Liverpool, England to the new found land of America of 1752, settling along the abundantly thriving seas of Maine. We watch the town prosper and grow with the Collins family, whom the fishing village soon becomes named after. At the height of their good fortunes, a manor is constructed, while their young son Barnabas (Johnny Depp) emerges into adulthood. Toying with the affections of a young maid (Eva Green), Barnabas soon after declares his love for another woman (Bella Heathcote) named Josette, much to the young maid’s disapproval. Scorned, the young servant uses her witchery to murder his parents and place a curse on his lover, causing the young woman to inexplicably plummet to her death, while damning Barnabas to become a vampire forever. With hatred running through her veins, she continues to torment him by finally abolishing him to a tomb, burying him in the ground for all of eternity. That is, until he is unearthed by construction workers. The year is 1972.
By far, the tone set in the beginning of the film is the best. Dark, and wonderfully constructed, the initial storytelling of how Barnabas came to be is Burton’s peak of the film. I could have watched the entire story, based off the spirit of the intro. But, once we enter the world of the 70’s, the story sort of settles into a less magical, more benign mood. Still, it’s not that bad. Though the film tries to employ some humor, it lacks any real identity and the story sort of feels childlike in essence but not unbearable. Depp however, does do an amazing job of portraying Barnabas and his vision of a stifled vampire dealing with the changes of a modern world is quiet humorous at times and really carries most of the film. But, his counterparts unfortunately, were not quite as exciting.
Michelle Pfeiffer plays Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, matriarch of the manor and alongside her are her impudent daughter Carolyn Stoddard (Chloe Moretz), her self-serving brother Roger Collins (Johnny Lee Miller), his young son David, who also sees ghosts (Gulliver McGrath), the son’s drunken therapist Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helen Bonham Carter) and his new governess who looks exactly like Josette, Victoria (Bella Heathcote). They are quintessentially, a hot mess and financially broke.
Much has changed in the centuries since Barnabas has been gone and it becomes his goal to restore the family fortune and honor within the town. But not without a fight from his family’s fishing company competitor, owned by none other than Angelique, the witch who was betrayed. And so the Beetlejuice antics begin.
In summary, the film was not quite as dark as I would have liked it, but thankfully, not as comedic as the trailers led us to believe. It is because of Depp’s performance, that I admit made the film enjoyable and ultimately a fun movie. And don’t be dismayed by anyone who may claim this is Burton’s worst film to date. Worst film? I can assure you not. That will always remain with his Batman renditions (sorry, I hated them!)
So though I would have preferred a really gothic, dark and brooding film, I think Burton did a great job. The characters might not have lived up to their potential, but Depp did. And even with a lighthearted plot, it’s still worth seeing. It’s Tim Burton for goodness sakes! Have fun and see the movie.I'm going to go ahead and lean toward the four stars, because who am I kidding, I enjoyed the film.
Dark Shadows opens in theaters May 11, 2012.
UPDATE: (I apologize for the misspelling of Barnabas. It has since been corrected.)