Review: ‘Dark Shadows’, Starring Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfeiffer

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When hearing the name Tim Burton, expectations rise because the man has a certain quality to turn anything unusually strange into a great cinematic experience. This is not the case with “Dark Shadows,” a movie re-imagining based on the 1966 TV show of the same name.

The Collins family, having moved from England to Maine to expand their business, found Collinsport and builds a large mansion to enunciate their wealth and power. Barnabas Collins, the son and heir, unfortunately makes the mistake of breaking the heart of Angelique Bouchard, a witch now intent on making Barnabas’s life as miserable as he’s made her. With a curse she bestows upon the Collins’ family, Angelique kills Barnabas’s parents and lover and sentences Barnabas to live eternally as a vampire forever locked in a grave. After 200 years, Barnabas awakens to find things in Collinsport have certainly changed and that Angelique has taken over the town he built. With all this in mind, he sets out to take back the town and protect his family.
Even people who have not seen the original TV show know that this “Dark Shadows” version is not up to par on any scale. The plot and pacing is all over the place and all the remotely funny one-liners are given away in the trailer, which makes it out to be a comedy movie. It isn’t. The movie is very slow going and its running time does not do it any favors in regards to plot and characters. Every scene feels like it lagged a little and there were several plotlines that did not work their way well into the overall story. The beginning started interestingly enough only to go downhill from there.
Helena Bonham Carter’s character, Dr. Julia Hoffman, seems forced and unneeded in the overall scheme of things. Roger Collins (Jonny Lee Miller) was uninspired as Barnabas’ relative and father of young son, David. Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote) is bland and boring. Her motivations and back-story are not divulged until the near end and are not really explained very well. Because they aren’t, Heathcote’s portrayal falls flat and doesn’t quite fit in with the flow of the movie. Also, the flashbacks to her past are out of place and seem almost strangely inserted in the final stretch of the movie.
Carolyn Stoddard (Chloe Grace Moretz) is a little over the top in her stereotypical portrayal of an angst-ridden teenager. While the end does explain a little of her moodiness, the information comes a little late and seems heavy handed in its inclusion. Even Michelle Pfeiffer, who is usually an esteemed actress, seems to play every character the same way these days: without much conviction or care.
Johnny Depp may be many things, but a good vampire he is not. His character sounds exactly like Jack Sparrow, only in a vampire suit. The romantic scenes he has with his beloved in the beginning don’t ring true and his courtship of Victoria later in the movie is awkward and fails to make the viewer care enough about the relationship. “Dark Shadows” is essentially Johnny Depp parading around in costume without any substance to his portrayal of Barnabas.
Eva Green, who plays Angelique Bouchard, is really the only entertaining factor in the movie. Green gives a crazy and obsessed performance as Angelique. She really brings the phrase “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” to fruition. Angelique is the only character in the entire movie whose motives are obvious and somewhat understandable. While it is a bit melodramatic, it’s fun to see her frolic around wreaking havoc on Barnabas and his family. The last fight is particularly fun.
Regardless of the failed attempt at a well told story and interesting characters, the production values are really good. The mansion’s interior alone is elegant and dark at the same time. The exterior is looming and intimidating. It speaks of power and wealth. The lighting is not overly bright but dim and gray, highlighting the not so happy story of Barnabas Collins.
Overall, Tim Burton fails to give the plot or the characters any flavor. There is no balance to anything and the flow of the story is erratic at best. What the movie fails to do is give enough time for the story to be fleshed out. It just goes from one thing to the next without any real purpose and by the time the movie is halfway over, you’re bored and hoping it ends soon
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About Author

Mae is a Washington, DC-based film critic, entertainment journalist and Weekend Editor at Heroic Hollywood. A member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), she's a geek who loves discussing movies and TV. She is also a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. If she's not at the movies, she's catching up on her superhero TV-watching, usually with a glass of wine in hand.

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