This film doesn’t know what it wants to be, one thing is clear and that is that this film is one of Tim Burton’s weakest. The plot follows Barnabas Collins(Johnny Depp), who after spurning the affections of his main Angelique(Eva Green), he sadly finds out she is a witch. She makes the love of his life kill herself and then transforms him into a vampire so he may suffer forever, then leaves him buried in a casket. Two hundred years pass and it’s not 1972, he is dug up by some unfortunate construction workers who Barnabas feeds on once he is freed. He returns to his family home which is now belongs to the family matriarch Elizabeth(Michelle Pfeiffer), her brother(Johnny Lee Miller) and his son David, her daughter(Chloe Moretz) and their psychiatrist(Helena Bonham Carter). He finds our Angelique is still alive and has been tormenting the family for the last two hundred years.
The movie was based off the wildly popular 70’s soap also named Dark Shadows. The film though could have been a great movie if it didn’t have so much on its plate. There is simply too much here. The film starts off like a fish out of water comedy, but has horror elements, action elements and everything else all jammed inside. It’s so much to bounce off of that the movie never settles down, it just rushes to the third act and then it ends. They needed to decide what the film was instead of trying to give us a full plate. The sad thing is that there is a lot of good within the ramble.
Johnny Depp is hilarious, he plays this character just so right that it’s simply fun to watch. Eva Green is also a joy to watch as she eats up her over the top villain dialogue. Visually the film is beautiful and fun to look at many times. This is not enough to hold on to though, the film should have just focused on the family, they were fun and interesting. Instead we get them only in little snippets, at no time does it feel like a family. Depp and Green are so good together it’s hard to say that I almost wish that story line was cut out. A simple gothic fish out of water/family comedy would have really worked.
The worst part of this film is the “love story” which is so badly done it just brings the movie crashing to the ground. We meet Victoria who I guess is a reincarnation of his lost love, but yet she and Depp get less than I’d say five minutes of screen time together. First off they are odd looking since she looks like she’s around twenty years old and Depp is forty. But they never give the love story any time to grow, yet we’re suppose to care. It’s so badly handled and just a waste of time.
Another huge problem is Barnabas is not very sympathetic, he sleeps with women and doesn’t care. He murders over twenty people. The movie simply shrugs this off which I found odd. Like I said before there is no balance. We get jokes, then death, then a cute set piece, than a third act filled with action. It just never really works. I really wish Burton just picked one direction and stuck with it. If he did we would have a beautiful and most likely great film. As it stands you’ll find yourself scratching your head at many scenes.
It’s a shame because with all the talent in front of and behind the camera, this should have been knocked out of the park. Instead it’s just a mess. Now there are bright spots, some set pieces are great, Depp and Green are a lot of fun. The film even winks at a possible sequel which I doubt will ever see. I say that because even though it’s a Burton film, it doesn’t feel like he put everything into this. It’s a shame really it could have been so much more.