Release Date: May 11, 2012 (2D theaters and IMAX)
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Tim Burton
Screenwriter: Seth Grahame-Smith
Starring: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Eva Green, Chloë Grace Moretz, Bella Heathcote, Gully McGrath
Genre: Gothic Comedy
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for comic horror violence, sexual content, some drug use, language and smoking)
Official Website: DarkShadowsthemovie.com
Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and Danny Elfman seem to be the main ingredients for Burton’s kooky cinematic cauldrons for the last few years. In turn, we can assume that the Burtony trade marks, such as pumpkin heads, pale faces, an overabundance of gothic backdrops that seem to come straight out of a scary bedtime story, and a clever usage of color, makes us wonder if Burton’s style is too much for a modern, 2012 audience, or if he’s just what the doctor ordered.
I have a secret to tell…I’m named after a Dark Shadow’s character. Although my mother’s love of the 1960′s TV show compelled her desire to name me Barnabus, it didn’t go over well with my father, (I guess he’d be afraid I’d be nicknamed “Barney” or “Barn”) and he very quickly shut that idea down. However my middle name, Quentin, (named after the werewolf from the show) stuck and has become a defining feature of my personality – something I take great pride in.
Needless to say, I was VERY excited when I heard in early 2011 that Burton was putting together a Dark Shadows film starring Cap’n Sparrow himself! My expectations were high, hopeful for a film that would produced the gothic angst, drama, cheese, and suspense the Soap Opera was known for. The only legitimate poor choice Burton has ever made was in choosing Michael Keaton to play Batman, so I didn’t have many reservations or fears about how the film would turn out…that is until I finally saw the trailer…
As the trailer hit the viral airwaves, skepticism and fan-boy pissiness ran rampant. Dark Shadows, not being very well known in the 60′s and 70′s, has grown to be a cult classic and gained its popularity after the show was cancelled. Would I be lying if I said I wasn’t included in this worried/hate filled group after seeing the trailer? Indeed I would. However, there was still enough intrigue left in in me to see the film, the number one reason being the Burton acting duo of Depp and Bonham Carter.
The two carry the film quite well despite Carter’s lack of screen time – her role as the twisted Dr. Hoffman is as perverse and dark as any character she’s played in the past, with exception to the Oscar Award winning film, the King’s Speech. And Depp performs to his usual high standards, giving us a Barnabas Collins that is worthy of his name’s sake.
Likewise, the rest of the supporting cast, like Chloë Grace Moretz, Jackie Earle Haley, and Michelle Pfeiffer, all of which are very familiar to to cinematic world of sci-fi/horror/comic book genres, bring life to the screen just as well as their protagonist counterparts. The big surprise for me, however, was Eva Green playing the role of the evil Angelique Bouchard. Images of the old TV show ran through my head as the film rolled on, and I can’t remember Laura Parker (the Angelique of the 1960′s show) being creepier than Ms. Green’s rendition of the witch.
Enough about the actors and actresses however, we already know of Burton’s excellent cast selecting abilities, let’s dive into the meat of the film. It’s a classic tale of time traveling…minus the Tardis. Barnabas Collins is locked away by Angelique in a jealous rage, pitting the town against him, in a coffin deep beneath surface. It isn’t until years later when TV and pop music have become the modern form of entertainment, that a construction crew accidentally opens the coffin…and dies shortly there after. Barnabas finds himself in a world of unfamiliarity, and his family’s name tainted by the unrelenting Angelique whose witchcraft has allowed her to live for so long. Barnabas is now compelled to protect his descendants and rejuvenate the name of Collins in a more positive light amongst the towns folk.
As stated above, the trailer had my fears at an all time high, causing me to wonder if the old Soap Opera would be given a film worthy of its gothic tastes and design. Without given too much away, the trailer presents a tale that is exactly like the film – its gothic prelude helps the film to start off well, peaking early and wonderfully, then falling into a pit of comedic relief and random one liners that are so cheesy and out of place, they’re funny. Grahame-Smith (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) has a blast in channeling his experience with classic literature, weaving it into the eloquently high diction script for Johnny Depp in awkwardly humorous moments of discovering hipsters, TV, automobiles, technology, and tiny songstresses.
The movie does go a bit overboard with the number of climactic scenes that seem out of place, only being there for the sake of shock and alarm. I won’t give anything away, but if you were wondering why Carolyn was such a defiant and awkward teenager, the result will bewilder you. And the off-the-wall sex scene (literally) will make you dip down into your seat in embarrassment and humility…unless you’re like me, you’ll laugh until your sides hurt. But the ending is where the film’s biggest flaws lay, as many of the questions and mysteries were revealed but left me wondering if I missed something or not. But, of course, Burton has set up for a sequel, so who knows what answers and explanations could be revealed in the future.
Dark Shadows, however, is a great representation of what film can, and should be – an extension of one person’s imagination. No doubt, Tim Burton’s style is an acquired taste, but he is also one of the more unique film directors in history. Having grown up watching the Soap, and with his experience in creating wonderfully gothic tales, he was the perfect man to bring Dark Shadows to the big screen, reminding us that one generations interpretation of a story isn’t the universal end-all, but rather an interpretation of something that is ever changing and amalgamated…depending on whose imagination takes hold of it.
Dark Shadows will upset fans, but will also make them laugh in the process. As it turns out, high expectations CAN ruin a film for so many people. It’s a joy to watch despite its confusing plot devices and awkward character developing techniques. This wont go down in history as a great representation of what the Dark Shadows Soap was like, nor will it be a film people remember years down the road, but it is written well and entertaining none-the-less. My recommendation? Go into this movie with your pre-conceived notions and ideas left back at home and enjoy Dark Shadows for what it is, and nothing more.