This film was marketed as a fun Halloweeny comedy for fans of vampires and 70s TV show reboots. Instead its a drab, stale little drama full of hollow style and bored, boring cast and crew. And it thinks its oh so funny and above the source material. Maybe Tim Burton and company are pissed that they are reduced to doing film reboots of great TV instead of anything original or as great.
Tim Burton is still a talented director. But why he has remained a commercial director when he has little knowledge of commercial taste is beyond me. A rebooted Dark Shadows is a great idea and, in theory, Burton would be a dream director for the project. But instead of reimagining it as something modern and possibly going further, he makes a plaster death mask of the legendary TV series and does it with patronizing camp. He continues to take beloved childhood classics, give them bad scripts and then paint on the predictable Tim Burton style to always mediocre response.
Its the usual Burton stuff: nostalgia for the 1970s, an adoration of bitchy teenage girls, dysfunctional family comedy and hammy, hammy performances abound. But the energy in his filmmaking feels drained and draining to audiences. Why does this film go so slowly and refuse to throw any surprises or true fun? We get some dumb commentary on the 1970s and a spoofing of the soap opera format. But none of it works. It undermines the drama(?) the film set out to be. I don't know what genre this is supposed to be and neither does Tim Burton.
Dark Shadows fans will respect the visual elegance, the moody Gothic air and maybe the cartoonish 70s backdrop that is supposed to charm the fans by evoking the era most discovered the show. But there it is at war at itself. One moment its winking at 70s kids and confusing 00s kids, then winking at 00s kids and losing the 70s kids. It has a sort of hatred of modernity that is more sad and left behind than lovingly nostalgic or rebooting.
Almost all of the characters return and go untouched. And just about every actor and actress does a fantastic job of replicating the actors that preceded them. But the few changes harm instead of help. Combining Victoria Winters and Maggie Evans loses great potential for two characters to play off of each other and both once-great characters are reduced to one non-character. All of the sympathetic and rewarding characteristics of the characters are tossed out and replaced with cynical caricatures. Making Carolyn a snotty hippie slut provides a few jokes at the expense of losing an entire complex character. Eva Green's Angelique is an enterprising bitch that loses all power and horror that she should have. Angelique is the only character who throws away all source material and Green is forced to play a terrible SNL character. Does Tim Burton hate traditionally pretty women?
Worst of all is what Tim Burton makes of Barnabas Collins. Johnny Depp does his usual: a funny voice, bugged eyes, affected movement and lots of makeup. There's no real class or grace, but thats what they are going for. The character is a clown. The tragedy, the magnetism, the timelessness, the wit and the horror of Barnabas is all gone. And "HA HA! Baranabas smokes pot!". Burton's humor is so dated and dull. He gives bad facelifts to characters who never really aged. Thats ironic in a story about a vampire.
There's a big "comical" sequence of vampire/witch sex. It doesn't get laughs. Its overly polished and conventionally lifeless. It stands as a testament to everything Dark Shadows shouldn't be. The romance, the drama, the life, the style is nowhere to be found, while injecting pointlessly flashy camerawork and action in a story steeped in slow Gothic traditions. There was more comedy unintentionally placed in one episode of the original series than can be found in this film's bloated 2 hour corpse. Tim Burton goes through the motions and shows no respect to the project. You have to wonder if his career will ever resurrect itself. Or if, like Dark Shadows, its best left in the past.