*******www.innovativecommunications.tv On paper, the combo of Johnny Depp and director Tim Burton in a movi...
*******www.innovativecommunications.tv On paper, the combo of Johnny Depp and director Tim Burton in a movie version of “Dark Shadows” seems like a perfect fit. In reality-not so much. I’m Keith Kelly, and my thoughts on “Dark Shadows” are coming your way right now.
Movies by Tim Burton always have a unique way of looking at the universe. Thru Mr. Burton’s eyes-it’s usually a cooky, creepy weird world full of dysfunctional characters, alienation, outlandish situations and great imagination. “Dark Shadows” has all of that-but it’s still missing something. Based on a gothic soap opera that ran from 1966-1971, “Dark Shadows” has all the ingredients found in a typical Tim Burton/Johnny Depp collaboration, and seemed like it could be another great addition to the partnership which gave us Alice in Wonderland, Willy Wonka, Sleepy Hollow, and Edward Scissorhands. I was excited when I first heard about this project because I was one of the many kids who ran home from school back in the day to watch it on our black and white TV. It was live TV that featured vampires, witches and werewolves. But being a soap opera, it was also melodramatic, featured lots of bad acting, and had plots that stretched on forever. Still, it had a certain kind of weird magic.
The film version almost succeeds in making a watchable full-length feature of the creaky old TV show-it’s got all the elements, but unfortunately very little magic. It’s not slavish to the source material, but instead uses the original as a springboard to unleash the talents of Depp and Burton. If you haven’t seen the previews-the plot involves Barnabas Collins as a man cursed to be a vampire, then buried alive for almost 200 years. He awakes in 1972 as a creature out of time and out of place.
“Dark Shadows” never really nails the tone. It’s not quite a remake or a parody, not an all-out comedy or a horror film, but ends up sort of stuck in the middle. The visuals, costumes and sets are all pretty cool and up to par for a Burton movie, but the film feels hollow and, unintentially, a bit lifeless. Characters seem to exist just to conveniently move the plot along. The theme is o.k.-“blood is thicker than water”, but never delivers on the promise. Depp is interesting to watch, but his bad community theater-like make-up is an over-the-top distraction.
“Dark Shadows” is not a complete disaster-it’s got solid, interesting actors in all the major roles, great set design and attention to detail, some soap opera like moments and a few decent laughs-it’s just not a 4 star masterpiece. The biggest issue for me was the central character of Barnabas Collins. The original vampire, played by Jonathan Frid, was an iconic character with depth and substance that has grown a legion of fans over decades because of Frid’s magnetic portrayal. The Johnny Depp version is more like a watered-down cartoon version, with a healthy helping of Willy Wonka mixed in.
Wait for the DVD on this one folks-I give “Dark Shadows” a grade of “B-“. I’m Keith Kelly.
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