starring Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Bella Heathcote, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Johnny Lee Miller
directed by Tim Burton
screenplay by Seth Grahame-Smith
based on the TV series by Dan Curtis
Warner Bros. (2012)
Either it's a stroke of genius or of desperation that Johnny Depp saw fit recruit Tim Burton to adapt a 60s-era gothic soap opera to the movie screen. And after watching Dark Shadows recently, I think it might be a bit of both genius and desperation.
Barnabas Collins (Depp) is the dashing heir to a fishing magnate in eighteenth century Maine whose life is quite literally dashed upon the rocks after breaking the heart of a witch (Eva Green). After the witch kills his fiance, curses him to become a vampire, and turns the town against him, she buries him in the woods where he remains until his coffin is discovered nearly two hundred years later. When he returns to the family mansion, he's shocked not only by the drastic cultural shifts that exist in 1970s America, but by the fact the family fortune is gone and the estate is populated by a motley crew of family eccentrics.
Johnny Depp is ... well, at his usual best. It's the supporting cast that manages to chew the scenery, though. Michelle Pfeiffer plays the matriarch of the sinking ship that is the Collins family, with a cool demeanor and fiery devotion to her dysfunctional family. Elizabeth. Chloe Moretz plays the brooding daughter, who along with her younger brother, seems unfazed by the macabre family reunion. Helena Bonham Carter is the family's live-in alcoholic/psychiatrist, with enough emotional baggage of her own for an army of shrinks. And Jonny Lee Miller, the Americanized Sherlock himself, as the absentee father of a young boy who sees ghosts, in a performance that is deliciously sleazy.
Then there's Eva Green. I remember her from Casino Royale, in which she gave a sultry and subdued performance in the James Bond style, so the contrast was striking when her maniacally obsessed performance really got warmed up.
While the performances were a treat to watch, the plot languished. I think it may have been due to this being an adaptation of a soap opera, as there were plenty of moments where the story's momentum practically collapsed for the sake of dramatic pauses and momentary asides. By the midway point I started wondering if the whole project would have been better suited as a mini-series rather than a feature-length film.
In any case, great performances and incredible set design and costumes--it was set in the 70s after all--made up for the weaknesses in story. The movie makes for a good distraction and fun bit of tongue-in-cheek nostalgia, but I think I'll stick with movies like Dazed and Confused if I want a time-warp back to the far-out era.