It isn’t very often that I go to the cinema. I managed it when I watched Avengers Assemble and I very nearly managed it again for this film, but instead I was able to get hold of a piss poor illegal copy and watched it that way instead. That’s right folks, I am a pirate. Yarrrr! Speaking of pirates, Johnny Depp played a pirate a few times if you remember? Well, this week he’s playing a vampire, complete with Nosferatu fingers and greasy Emo fringe. That’s right folks, the Johnny Depp Tim Burton love affair is back on for the eigth time in the comedy reimagining of classic US TV show Dark Shadows.
Wealthy landowner come fishing tycoon Barnabas Collins finds himself locked inside a coffin and buried for two hundred years when he is transformed into a creature of the night by a vengeful ex-lover.Accidentally exhumed in 1972 by construction workers building a McDonald’s, Barnabas returns to his family home only to find it in ruins and occupied by his present day relatives and their lacklustre staff force including some old woman (who should’ve been played by Liz Smith), drunken groundskeeper Willy (not that one) played by Jackie Earle Haley, and future love interest Victoria who looks remarkably like Barnabas’ deceased (murdered) ex-missus from 1752. Oh, and there’s also a small role in the movie for Burton’s wife Helena Bonham Carter as the family’s resident shrink. No surprise there then, eh? After what seems like very little convincing the family’s matriarch (Michelle Pfeiffer) agrees to let the long-dead blood sucker move back into the house in exchange for his services in breathing life back into the family empire, which has dwindled and died a slow, agonising death. But what will happen when Depp’s delightful vamp comes face to face with his primary business rival, the very same witch that killed his ex and turned him into Dracula’s campest cousin?
Despite telling the press that this is no comedy, Depp’s latest offering is played entirely for laughs with Johnny Depp shining as always as the only interesting character in the entire movie. Sure, Bonham Carter’s pisshead quack is worth a peek, and Eva Green’s witch is great eye candy, but as Dark Shadows lacks that certain quality that made the Deetz family so appealing in Beetlejuice there are no standout characters within the Collins clan beyond Barnabas. Criticism can also be found in the distinct lack of actual plot. Sure there’s the love story with Victoria but that seems secondary to the revival of the family fishing business. In fact the majority of the movie feels like a bunch of skits thrown together for a quick laugh with a half arsed finale thrown on to the end. Furthermore, the use of 1970s rock music seems out of place in a Tim Burton movie if you ask me. Maybe it’s because I’d rather here a score created entirely by Danny Elfman or perhaps it’s because I can’t quite imagine Burton actually listening to mainstream sounds of the ’70s in his youth. Or ever. Miserable boring bastard.
I have always been a vocal critic of Burton’s work, despite my once unwavering loyalty to him growing up, but even I don’t need to point out that Burton has lost some of his spark when it comes to telling a story. Beautifully crafted gothic fairytales with a beginning, middle and end are a thing of the past for Timmy boy, replaced by commercialised curios such as this and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Ensuring his wife is the last image you see before the end credits seems higher on the directors list of priorities than living up to the reputation that spawned that massive ego of his. That’s not to say that this movie isn’t worth a look – and not just because you want to drool over its star. There are some genuinely funny moments, especially as the two and half century old vampire struggles to come to grips with modern life, as well as great set pieces but it really isn’t enough to make Dark Shadows a classic example of Burton’s work.