DIR: Tim Burton • WRI: Seth Grahame-Smith • PRO: Tim Burton, Johnny Depp• DOP: Bruno Delbonnel • ED: Chris Lebenzon • DES: Rick Heinrichs • Cast: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Helena Bonham Carter
After his version of Alice In Wonderland netted more than $1 billion in the worldwide box office, Tim Burton was pretty much given carte blanche to do whatever he liked next. And in typically atypical Burton fashion, he decided to adapt a little-known and, truth be told, god-awful cult ’70s tv show.
When Barnabus Collins (Johnny Depp) breaks a witch (Eva Green)’s heart, her reaction could be considered over-the-top; she kills his parents, makes his new girlfriend commit suicide, turns him into a vampire and then has him buried alive for 200 years. He is dug up in 1972 to find his family name and business has been tarnished, so Collins takes it upon himself to bring together his distant relations and rebuild his fish-cannery business, which has suffered greatly due to the establishing of a rival cannery, owned and run by that still-smarting witch.
Burton has amassed an impressive supporting cast as the Collins clan; from the still-stunningly beautiful Michelle Pfeffier, to the slimy Jonny Lee Miller, as well as the embodiment of the ’70s Chloe Moretz, and the instantly lovable Gulliver McGrath. That’s not to mention sterling turns from Jackie Earle Haley as the Collins’ housekeeper and Bella Heathcote as the object of Barnabus’ affections. And that’s not to mention Depp, while adding yet another be-make-up’d freak to his CV, manages to turn this serial killer (Barnabus murders around twenty innocent people over the course of the movie) into someone quite relatable. What isn’t as relatable is the fact that the main problem of the movie is that Johnny Depp doesn’t want to have sex with Eva Green, who almost swipes the movie out from under Depp’s nose with her Grade-A bitch villain.
The 70s setting is properly realised and all the usual jokes are present and correct, with Depp’s fish out of water reacting to everything from electricity to lava lamps with an arched eyebrow of mistrust. Which, unfortunately, seems to be the point of the movie; Johnny Depp reacting to the ’70s. While there is some semblance of a plot, the movie itself doesn’t really seem to be about anything, with twenty minutes of set-up, over an hour of what felt like Johnny Depp-reacts-to-the-70’s montages, and then twenty minutes of climax. There are also some weird plot devices that never get fully explained, like if Barnabus was an only child, how is he related to these people? And what’s the story with Barnabus’ 1770s girlfriend and 1970s girlfriend being played by the same actress? And that’s not even getting to the biggest question of all, which is how did a film which is primarily four people talking to each other in an old house cost over $100 million to make??
Somebody needs to take Tim Burton’s budgets away from him. And while you’re at it, take away Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, too. Maybe if we take away all of Burton’s toys his imagination will return.
Rated 12A (see IFCO website) for details)
Dark Shadows is released on 11th May 2012