Now Playing: Go Figure, Johnny Depp in Another Quirky Tim Burton Movie

When I first saw the theatrical trailer for ‘Dark Shadows’, I got really excited for Tim Burton’s new film. Even though I knew absolutely nothing about the old soap opera upon which it’s based, that wasn’t a stumbling block that impeded my anticipation for the movie. All I noticed was that Tim Burton finally appeared to be returning to his old ‘Beetlejuice‘ roots, so I looked forward to it. Upon seeing it, I can tell you that Burton does in fact get back to that old style he had seemingly forgotten. Unfortunately, the film has more flaws than any other Tim Burton movie to date.

‘Dark Shadows’ teams up (of course) Johnny Depp, Tim Burton, Helena Bonham Carter and Danny Elfman for a quirky little ride. Depp plays Barnabas Collins, a prestigious man in the late 1700s who is cursed by an immortal witch (played by a gorgeous blonde Eva Green) for not loving her. She kills his family and fiancée, damning him to the immortal life of a vampire after burying him alive. When an excavation team stumbles across his long-time resting place, he’s unleashed the world of 1972. Now, Barnabas must learn how to fit into the era, restore his family’s honor and destroy that wicked witch.

The world that Burton establishes is similar to that of ‘Edward Scissorhands‘ and ‘Beetlejuice’. People are either simple-minded or too caught up in themselves to notice the oddities taking place around them. For the first two-thirds, the movie really works. The comedy is smart and funny. Depp and company are great. Most importantly, the film is entertaining. Sadly, then we get to the final act where it all falls apart. What was once apologetically wacky and comical turns campy and corny. Everything good established in the first two-thirds is buried by the ending.

Honestly, if I was headed to the cinema this weekend, I’d pick ‘The Avengers’ – even though I’ve already seen it a few times. For those who haven’t seen ‘The Avengers’, it’s a must-see that’s far superior to the messy ‘Dark Shadows’.

Rating: ★★½☆☆


  1. HuskerGuy

    I’ve no interest in this one, but the wife does. Thankfully she’s still due to see the Avengers so I’m hoping we can put this one off long enough to just not see it.

  2. See Wacky and Comical usually is about equal to Campy and Corny to me, I really havent been let down by any of Burton’s movies and I’ve been enjoying his style lately, especially Alice and Charlie, so I’m guessing this will be right up my alley too 🙂

  3. EM

    When, at the beginning of the year, we did a discussion of our most anticipated movies of 2012, I posted a short list that included Dark Shadows. But I changed my mind the first time I saw a trailer for this movie. Sure, the original series had both intentionally and unintentionally humorous moments, but it was at heart a serious melodrama. I was hoping for something in that spirit, and the publicity has made quite clear that this isn’t it.

    • JM

      If you want to love ‘Dark Shadows’ but hate the trailer, read Harry’s review at AICN.

      This film is not the movie it’s being sold as.

      It is much more true to the source material than Hollywood wants you to believe.

        • JM

          That was the only ‘Dark Shadows’ review I’ve seen from a critic who loves the source material.

          Critics who do not love the source material are useless to me.

          Obviously WB is doing the best whoring they can, to work off the $150M budget.

          • EM

            In the first paragraph of the review, Harry Knowles says, “I’m not a die-hard on the show, but I was raised aware of it.” To me this does not sound like “a critic who loves the source material”.

            Be that as it may, why does that criterion matter to you, Jane? I could see it as important for someone who is also a fan of the source material. But the original Dark Shadows doesn’t strike me as your kind of show. Maybe I’m wrong.

          • JM

            First paragraph aside, the totality of Harry’s review felt to me to be very affectionate for the source material. Just some of the little things he said.

            The fact that he set up a screening with the screenwriter and they talked about the tone of the trailer vs the tone of the film is also comforting.

            This criterion matters to me, in this particular case, simply because I was curious to what degree this film was a labor of love, vs a paycheck movie.

            I had never heard of the tv show, and am not a Tim Burton fan, but I was hooked by the Johnny Depp and Eva Green unrequited-romance subplot in the trailer. I was even one of the few people who liked ‘The Tourist.’

            Sometimes, if a film is made with that extra bit of love, I’ll take a whack at it, even if it isn’t my exact cup of tea. Because my sensibility is still evolving.

          • EM

            Thanks for the explanation. It makes sense.

            It‘s funny that these dueling tonalities come in the context of Warner Brothers. I remember, years ago, seeing ads for the WB TV network’s airing of The Wizard of Oz (1939) which strongly suggested that the film was a spiritual sister to the WB’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other supernatural series then in vogue. Whether that bit of bait-and-switch worked for the WB, I don’t know.

            Despite my earlier opinions, I did read Knowles’ review with an open mind. It did change my notion of the film, but it did not change my desire to not bother seeing the film. Even if the film is not ridiculing the supernatural situations and characters constantly, it is nevertheless ridiculing them. Well, news flash—Barnabas and his situation are ridiculous and absurd; it takes no artistry to point that out. Artistry would be in building and maintaining a serious drama around such characters and situations. That was the power of Dark Shadows (the original TV series) at its best. It made you believe—even when you saw the boom mike!

      • EM

        It may not be the movie it’s being sold as; but if it contains the scenes in the publicity I’ve seen, it’s not a movie that interests me.

  4. I’m still going to see Dark Shadows…if only because there’s nothing else playing and I’m waiting for the crowds to die down before seeing Avengers again.

  5. My fiance and I were both big Tim Burton fans growing up (goth kids) but Alice in Wonderland destroyed the last shred of trust I have in him. I can’t get excited about any of his new projects as they all look the same. It’s like South Park is doing a parody of Tim Burton

  6. JM

    ‘Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter’ was written by the screenwriter of ‘Dark Shadows.’

    Which is kind of foreboding.

    Will Timur Bekmambetov be able to elevate the material?

  7. paramedic0112

    I saw Dark Shadows yesterday and really liked it. The tone of the movie reminds me of Beetlejuice. It’s got gross and creepy stuff, but also funny stuff. I thought it was better than Alice and Charlie. However, I have never seen the TV show so I’m just going off the movie itself with no reference from the TV show. It’s also got a great 70s soundtrack. I hope people go see it to support Burton and Depp. At least they are making movies for the art and fun of it, which is rare these days.