Friday, March 16, 2012

Trailer: "Dark Shadows"

Despite being in a state of completion for quite some time, Tim Burton's Dark Shadows, an adaptation of the famous cult TV series has been kept, well, in the shadows. Until recently, only a handful of production still have emerged, with nary a poster or trailer in sight until last night. It might seem like a bad sign, considering that the film opens just under two months from now (May 11th), but to an extent it makes sense. May marks the high-gear kickoff to summer blockbuster season, and May 2012 looks pretty stacked with big, more widely appealing films, namely Marvel's The Avengers. So, in a sense, Warner Bros. is playing it smart by aiming for a short, powerful burst of marketing right before the film's release, so they don't end up spending a bunch of money on a film that, on paper, shouldn't provide much financial competition against the likes of Marvel's super-hero orgy.

Thankfully, the trailer actually seems pretty promising, though I do have a handful of reservations. I've never seen any of the show, so I can't judge whether or not Burton's darkly farcical tone clashes with the show or not. Still, said darkly farcical tone is right up Burton's alley, and Dark Shadows looks like an opportunity for the director to make something in the vein of Beetlejuice, which certainly wouldn't be a bad thing. I'm not sure most of the jokes are supposed to be gutbustingly funny, but I thoroughly enjoyed the laughs that the trailer showcased, particularly the bits with Eva Green, who looks like she's having an absolute blast as the film's villain. And, as per any Burton film, the production values look marvelous, and the generally higher amount of on-location and/or studio set-photography is a welcome change of pace after the nauseating CGI mess that was Alice in Wonderland.

All the same, there are a few shots in here that feature a sort of cheap, weightless-looking VFX look that contrasts with how nicely filled out and tangible the other sets come off. I'm hoping that these scenes are only a brief portion of the film's runtime, and that they're merely vestiges of Burton's work on Alice, because the man really does know how to work with his creative departments to create wonderfully textured worlds.

As for the cast, apart from Green and Helena Bonham Carter, I am a little worried about some of the other players, including, unfortunately, Johnny Depp. Burton and Depp have a great history together, but lately they've been slipping, to the point where I think it might be time for Burton to find another male muse (Bonham Carter is more than welcome to stay as his female muse, however). I'm also a little nervous about Michelle Pfeiffer, because her role seems a little too straightforward and stiff. The above-mentioned actors are all gifted at stylized performances, and it's unsettling that some might be getting past their prime and doing the same old thing (Depp), or not being properly utilized (Pfeiffer).

Finally, there's the plot. Frankly, I'm not expecting anything revolutionary, though I'm sure there will be fun in seeing Depp's Barnabas try to figure out the world of the 70s. What worries me more is whether the genre trappings and tone will elevate the "save the family business!" story line, or whether said story line will drag down the genre elements. I'm crossing my fingers for the former. Either way, though, I'll still be there first in line on May 11th, since it's been too long since Burton's last film, Sweeney Todd (now that this trailer is out, I'm going to start pretending that Alice never happened). And if this doesn't work, I suppose there's always Frankenweenie later this year.

Trailer Grade: B

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