Firstly, if you are here for a comparison with the U.S. T.V. series of “Dark Shadows”, I am afraid I had never heard of it until this movie was made.
A Moment with James Joyce
On my way to the cinema I passed the James Joyce Centre in Sandycove and looked across the sea that makes up Dublin Bay. It certainly was living up to Joyce’s description of it from Ulysses. A cloud bank was being pushed rapidly across the sky and cast a dark shadow that rushed towards me. Then, it was gone as quickly as it had arrived. I stood there for a moment taking in the deep vivid green of the water between me and Dun Laoghaire harbour before leaving to chase a very different type of Dark Shadow.
IMC Dun Laoghaire and the Trailers
I settled down in the IMC armed with a packet of M&M’s and a bottle of water. Two of the trailers caught my eye. I had watched GI Joe: Rise of the Cobra recently on television and it must have been the cheesiestly (?) scripted movie I had seen in a long time. But the action sequences and special effects were great fun so when I saw the trailer for the sequel GI Joe: Retaliation I was impressed because they have upped the ante with the big name inclusions of Bruce Willis and Dwayne Johnson.
But it was the trailer for The Dark Knight Rises really got my blood pumping and predicted a future blog.
Only Tim Burton can make a movie about a vampire that includes multiple murders, suicides, sex scenes, drug references, etc. and still manage to hold onto a 12A classification.
As I left the cinema my first impression of it was disappointing. But I have to stop going to Tim Burton films and expecting another Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands or even Ed Wood.
In the 1770’s wealthy Barnabas Colllins (Johnny Depp) is cursed to become a vampire and awakes nearly 200 years later to be reunited with what is left of his dysfunctional 1970’s descendants.
Instead of the usual solo character in his movies who are misunderstood (“Batman”, Lydia in “Beetlejuice”, “Ed Wood”, “Edward Scissorhands” etc.) here Burton plays with a whole cast of twisted misfits.
Johnny Depp, who camps it up as Barnabas (with a couple of Captain Jack Sparrow traits), is a very apologetic and human vampire.
A sizzling Eva Green is his nemesis/lover Angelique.
Michelle Pfeiffer is resigned (and somewhat wasted) as Elizabeth the head of the modern day Collins family. Johnny Lee Miller leaves a trail of slime behind him playing the sleazy Roger Collins, Elizabeth’s brother (a character the film could have done without).
Helena Bonham Carter drinks her way through the role of the resident psychiatrist brought in to help the youngest Collins, David (the splendidly named Gulliver McGrath you may remember from “Hugo”) who claims that he sees the ghost of his dead mother. Thrown into the mix is a young governess played by Bella Heathcote who has secrets of her own.
As these characters and more bounce off each other with a true Tim Burton flair. The production values are wonderful and mix his gothic stamp with the style of the 1970’s, there are a few laugh out loud moments and the film is entertaining.
But that is where it ends. Despite casting away my my high expectations of Tim Burton movies, Dark Shadows certainly isn’t his best. He doesn’t bend the generally accepted vampire lore he breaks it. For instance inside the house Barnabas avoids a shafts of sunlight and yet manages to walk outside during the day armed only with a pair of shades and an umbrella.
The film is visually perfect and all performances are more than adequate but the main problem is that none of the characters are really likeable. Sadly not even Tim Burton quirks can completely save the movie. It may not be the sum of its parts but I still managed to be entertained trying to add them all together.
On the upside Jackie Earle Haley who has made his name by playing sickly warped characters like Freddy Kruger and Rorschach in Watchmen manages to be most sympathetic. A nice Burton twist.
Unless you are a die hard Burton fan there is no need to rush to the cinema for this one.