I braced myself for the worst after this film’s almost exclusively negative reviews, and although there were the odd moments that succeeded, overall Dark Shadows was largely a disappointment. Burton appears to have tried to pay homage to the original TV series by featuring a large collection of characters, which isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but in this case means multiple underdeveloped and slightly lacking stories. The cast is solid with people such as Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Chloë Grace Moretz, Jonny Lee Miller, Michelle Pfeiffer and Eva Green featuring, but a number of these feel rather wasted, Jonny Lee Miller being the extreme example of this. The film’s plot about a 18th century vampire being locked away until the 70’s and then having to deal with his extreme culture shock does have a sense of fun to it which often works, and it does play around with its setting in entertaining ways such as including a guest appearance by Alice Cooper as his 1970’s self. However in this case pretty much all of the best jokes are contained in the trailer I’m afraid.
Nobody gives a bad performance here, but then no one is great either, they all just feel a little tired and lacklustre. I say that, I will make an exception for Eva Green who here delivers a performance that’s far more interesting and developed than those given by her fellow cast members. I understand now why there was such a particular public rush towards saying that Depp and Burton should spend some time apart after Dark Shadows – the film does just feel a little weary, strangely even uninspired. It isn’t all out terrible, it’s enjoyable enough, but when you think back to some of the great work done by this team before, then it can’t help but pale in comparison.
Unfortunately Dark Shadows is a case of missed opportunities; it has a lot going for it with a great cast, the amusing prospect of the vampire trapped in the 70’s, and what could have been a moving storyline, but as often as a joke goes down well or a sequence plays out nicely, there’s another one waiting around the corner where it will just fall flat.