Prior to the release of Tim Burton's highly-anticipated, big screen adaptation of TV's Dark Shadows, I admit I never come across this popular cult series before. But this four decades-old classic gothic soap opera proves to be personal favorites for both Tim Burton, Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfeiffer when they were young. And it's no doubt that Tim Burton is a natural choice to direct DARK SHADOWS. After all, (nobody) does quirky gothic elements better than Burton himself. Too bad his eighth collaboration with Johnny Depp proves to be another creative misfire since their last outing in 2010's ALICE IN WONDERLAND. Not only that, DARK SHADOWS is also their worst collaboration to date. It's really hard to believe, especially given the source material that they suppose to pull it off with relative ease. Instead what you get here is a listless gothic drama that doesn't really goes anywhere (read: interesting).
The movie opens with a brief prologue as we learn how 18th century fishing mogul Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp), who is also the master of Collinwood Manor, located near the seaside Maine town of Collinsport, is being cursed with a stroke of bad luck by a jealous witch named Angelique (Eva Green). It begins with the unfortunate death of Barnabas' parents and also caused his true love, Josette DuPres (Bella Heathcote) plunges to her death down the ocean cliff. Angelique also ends up cursing him into a vampire and subsequently left buried deep in the earth by the angry community.
Cut to some 200 years later in 1972, Barnabas is finally awaken from his chained grave after being dug up by a construction crew. He makes his way back to Collinwood Manor and discovers that his home is now resided by Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer), live-in psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), rebellious teenage daughter Carolyn Stoddard (Chloe Grace Moretz), Elizabeth's widowed brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller) and a young governess named Victoria Winters (Heathcote, again) who is hired to look after young David Collins (Gully McGrath) to get over the mysterious death of his beloved mother. As Barnabas gets acquainted with his distant ancestors, he also learns that Angelique has nearly driven his family out of business and turned the townspeople against them. But he pledged to restore his family's once-successful fishing business to its former glory. At the same time, he also falls in love with Victoria, which is ironically looks identical to her beloved Josette who died two centuries ago. When Angelique discovers that Barnabas is back, she vows to make him suffer again at all cost.
It's a shame that Seth Grahame-Smith's adapted screenplay wastes a lot of time going around in empty circles with nothing much going on in the story. Most of the movie here are all unnecessary fillers that it takes its sweet time to get to the point. Even though the movie does have its (short) moments of fun parodying the 1970s pop culture especially when Barnabas is trying to adapt to the particular era, the jokes are average at best. And by the time the story finally gets its act together during the climactic finale (ramped-up action scene and unexpected twists), it's just too little and too late to redeem its wasted potential altogether.
Cast-wise, Johnny Depp is typically good when comes to his trademark hilariously deadpan performance. It's just too bad the lackluster story doesn't gives him much room to improve his character further. In the meantime, Eva Green almost steals the limelight out of Depp with her perfectly diabolical turn as Angelique. The rest of the supporting cast, however, are mostly wasted here. Not even the highly-anticipated presence of Michelle Pfeiffer (who supposed to return big-time here) is actually worthwhile. The less said for Jonny Lee Miller and Chloe Grace Moretz the better because their presence here are merely fillers.
As for the technical credits, DARK SHADOWS is gorgeous enough to look at. From Bruno Delbonnel's eerily atmospheric cinematography to Rick Heinrich's elaborate production design, all the visuals here are nevertheless a feast for the eyes.