If I had one word to describe this film, it would be…..sigh. Just, sigh.
Just like most of the movies Burton has been churning out these days, the best I can say about is that “it’s just okay.” That is the absolute best I can say about it.
Based on the 60’s soap opera of the same name, Dark Shadows, the film follows Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) and his family in the 1800’s, after they leave Liverpool for the new world in search of fortune. As Barnabas enters adolescence, he makes the mistake of fooling around with one of his family’s servants, Angelique (Eva Green), who turns out to be a particularly vengeful witch. When Barnabas refuses to reciprocate Angelique’s love, she goes on an all out campaign against his family, killing everyone he loves. She kills his parents, his one true love, Josette (Bella Heathcote), and turns him into a vampire and arranges for him to be locked up and buried alive.
Fast forward 200 years to the 1970’s when Barnabas is accidentally awakened, and returns to Collinwood manor to find the dysfunctional remnants of the Collins family. His family’s house has fallen into ruin, their fishing business is declining every day, and his old lover Angelique is still alive and still holds a vendetta against him and his family. Now it is up to Barnabas to rebuild his family’s name and business.
I will not dedicate anymore time to the plot, because neither did Tim Burton. As a vampire movie, it was absolutely ‘toothless’, so to speak. Tim Burton seems to have been writing this movie as he went along, adding whatever came to his mind with absolutely no regard for the tone or setup of this film. The film starts off with a somewhat serious tone, but as soon as they jump ahead in time to the 70’s this film tries to become an “Edward Scissorhands” type of fish-out-of-water story, with a heavy comedy element. Now I wouldn’t mind this at all, in fact I was really into it during the first act, but the comedy soon degraded into extremely camp vampire jokes (worse than that “toothless” joke I made earlier….yeah, it was pretty bad), that not only had been done many times before (e.g. Barnabas brushing his teeth in the mirror, with only the tooth paste and tooth brush showing), but had been done better.
Tim Burton was grasping at straws throughout this movie, not knowing quite how to move along with the story line. He would toss in new plot elements, only to never revisit them throughout the movie. He introduces such interesting characters with important roles in the story, but neglects to show them for most of the movie, he introduces a character who is crowbarred in with no other purpose than to setup a sequel, and also throws in various supernatural powers other characters have at the end of the film, which add no substance to the story and serve absolutely no real purpose. This includes a moment when one of the members, who is a werewolf, mumbles, “Let’s not make a big deal about it.” Clearly a suggestion Tim Burton took to heart.
So what was good about this movie? I really enjoyed the first act, the initial moments when Barnabas is trying to comprehend technology and innovation foreign to him, like cars, television and even a McDonalds sign! I pretty much enjoyed every scene with Johnny Depp in this film. He was what kept me somewhat entertained throughout the film; he pulled off playing a gothic vampire from the 18th century the way only Johnny Depp can. The costumes, the colors and the cinematography were also excellent, as is expected with Tim Burton movies. But that’s as much as I can say about what was positive with this film.
At the end of the day this movie served no other purpose than to the oh-so-gothic clothes at Hot Topic, which Tim Burton seems to be a fan of. This movie showed so much promise with the first act, winning me over, but as the movie went on it lost me, and failed to win me back. I honestly wouldn’t recommend anyone go out and pay good money to watch this movie in the theater, if you really want to watch it, wait until it’s out on DVD and rent it.