Dark Shadows written by Seth Grahame-Smith (screenplay) and John August(story), directed by Tim Burton (Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, Infinitum Nihil, PG-13, 113 minutes).
Starring Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Eva Green.
What Is Good?
My wife and I rented Dark Shadows against our better judgement. The popular movie rating site, Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie a whopping thirty eight percent, meaning, thirty eight percent of the people that watched it would actually recommend it. Thirty eight isn’t a good number; it’s discouraging, and it means that the movie is probably awful.
This got me thinking. What makes a good movie, really? The problem with art, any medium therein (visual, oral, or aural) is incredibly relativistic. What makes a movie good should be really only one thing: entertainment value. This entertainment value, of course, can be split up into several different ideas ranging from plot to visual effects.
Dark Shadows begins with great promise, inspired from the TV cult classic of the same name. The early scenes in the movie tell the story of the Collins family, which moved to the new world to build a fishing /canning enterprise. Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) is the son of the family who is in a dysfunctional relationship with a witch named Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green). Collins refuses to return Angelique’s affections, and instead falls in love with a girl named Josette DuPres (Bella Heathcote). Angelique gets envious, curses the Collins family, and causes everyone that Barnabas loves to die. She then curses Barnabas to live forever as a vampire wallowing in anguish. To add salt to the wound, she locks him in a coffin and buries him deep underground.
The gripping early scenes fade away as we find ourselves in 1972. The Collins family is all but disgraced, their cannery is all but bankrupt, and Angelique Bouchard (witch extraordinaire) has taken over as the most powerful person in Collins Port. Freed from his entombment, Barnabas find a different world, and aims to repair it for the good of his future ancestors. Even though Angelique ordered that Barnabas be buried forever, she inextricably is still in love for him. Romantic tension is added when the 1972 version of Josette, Victoria Winters, is the new governess of the Collins estate.
Does it Entertain?
Then, with no surprises, Barnabas finds a way to fix everything and gets love in the end.
So, the question becomes this: does the movie entertain? I found it entertaining, to be certain. But the first part of the movie was lightyears beyond the 1972 portion. What held the 1972 portion of the movie was Barnabas’ reactions to seventies circumstances and slang. It added some humor to an otherwise dull plot. It felt as though director Tim Burton only really cared about the genesis of the story, and left some intern to finish the rest of the movie. Dark Shadows was entertaining, had a decent plot and some good humor within. But, then again, it could have been better.
Verdict: 3 out of 5