DARK SHADOWS Blu-ray Review

     October 2, 2012

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Where did Tim Burton go exactly? There was a time when Burton was one of our greatest mainstream auteurs, someone who could imbue films like Batman Returns and Edward Scissorhands (both huge commercial films) with his personality and still appeal to audiences worldwide. Now we get stuff like Alice in Wonderland and Dark Shadows. It’s like his directorial tank is on empty. Dark Shadows adapts the soap opera with Johnny Depp leading the cast as a cursed vampire. It’s a mess. Our review of the Blu-ray follows after the jump.

The film starts by introducing Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins and his tortured history. He rejected a witch (Eva Green) so he and his whole family were cursed, the woman he loved fell off a cliff, and he was turned into a vampire, and buried for centuries. His love is then re-introduced in the film’s then-modern period of the 1970’s as Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote), who goes to the Collins estate hoping to get a job as a nanny. This sets up one of the film’s biggest problems. Before the film even “begins” we’ve got two introductions to two characters that suggest both are our protagonists, and unfortunately the film abandons Heathcote for most of the film.

chloe-moretz-johnny-depp-dark-shadowsAround this time Barnabas is freed by construction workers, and returns to his estate. There the house is run by Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfieffer), who holds court over the remains of the family. There’s the kids Carolyn (Chole Grace Moretz) and David (Gulliver McGrath) with David a peculiar type who sees ghosts. There’s also Roger Collins (Jonny Lee Miller) a weak willed sort, and the psychatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), who is reduced to being a lush, and groundskeeper Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley).

Barnabas hopes to return his family to their previous glories, but standing in the way is Angelique Bouchard (Green), the same witch who cursed him back in yonder days. As the Collins try to regain power, they fight with Angelique every step of the way.

Though the period detail and sets give the film a kick, the plotting of the film is at once too elaborate and not interesting. The only person who seems to get to have fun is Eva Greenm, while everyone else feels a bit mannered and less interesting. Worse still, Burton seems bored. There’s an interesting idea that Angelique still loves Barnabas, and that it’s about scorned love, but the film never finds the right tone, and the editing seems a bit choppy. It’s sad to watch Burton flounder, and here he isn’t as in your face terrible as he was with Alice in Wonderland, but that makes this all the more disappointing. This material should be something he would show interest in, but he can’t even manage mediocrity.

Warner Brothers Blu-ray presents the film in widescreen (1.78:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. It’s better to watch this at home as the presentation is that much better, and allows you to appreciate the set design. You can watch the film with focus points, or watch them by themselves (37 min.). They walk through the behind the scenes, and pay homage to the original TV show. And though you can watch the Focus points by themsevles it seems in feature version has even more footage. There’s also five deleted scenes (6 min.), which are negligible. The Blu-ray also comes with a DVD and digital copy.

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