For the past decade or so, since the sentimental Big Fish, Tim Burton has been honing his previously odd, gothic-kitsch aesthetic, into a rich, pristine gloss.
And yet, while 2010’s Alice In Wonderland was both Burton’s most expensive and most successful film to date, it also found the director, who was once hailed as the most distinctive of modern Hollywood visionaries, slipping towards tedious mundanity.
Given that, a lot of people were none-too excited when Dark Shadows was announced – and while it finds some success in its gothic campness, it’s yet another in the growing line of disappointing collaborations between Burton and Johnny Depp.
Depp leads his fifth Burton film in a row (and eighth overall) as Barnabas Collins, a 200-year-old vampire who, previously cursed and buried alive by a spurned witch (Angelique, played by Eva Green), is exhumed in the 1970s.
As he adjusts to his groovy new surroundings, Barnabas resolves to restore his family’s honour, as well as take down Angelique.
Fairly light in the plot department, the film once again relies almost entirely on an enjoyable (if not particularly fresh) performance from Depp, with entire scenes hinging on his immaculate deadpan or aghast expressions.
The supporting cast are much less interesting though, as none really offer anything more than sounding boards for Depp’s antics. Each is given a bit of Burton’s trademark oddball style and flare but there’s a lot of wasted potential.
Burton also makes excellent use of the 1970s time-frame, especially when it collides with the overarching gothic visuals. Again, most of this relies heavily on Depp’s portrayal of Barnabas, but there is a distinct charm and sense of humour to the film that comes about as a result.
As with other recent Burton films though, the script is the principle weakness.
The screenplay is a subplot-heavy mess, veering wildly from romance to horror to dopey comedy, before eventually falling apart at the seams as it pursues an unnecessarily action-packed climax.
Ultimately, Dark Shadows is yet another Depp/Burton collaboration that is entertaining enough, but fails to present a memorable storyline or intriguing non-Depp character.