a few things about dark shadows (the movie)

Johnny Depp is as good as you'd expect (which is very good), but the role is pretty squarely in his wheelhouse. Johnny Depp playing Barnabas Collins is about like Orson Welles playing Falstaff – it seems surprising it took him so long to get around to it. The best part of the movie for me was Michelle Pfeiffer. She is magnificent as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, the head of the Collins family (and clearly the most intelligent character in the movie). Pfeiffer dominates every scene she's in, which is all the more striking because in some of the later scenes she's playing the only character without supernatural powers.

I do wonder who is the intended audience for this movie. It's not really the wacky comedy that the trailer promises (most of the "fish out of water"/"weren't the 1970s weird?" jokes are in the trailer, in fact), and it's not really clear what it's trying to do or why. Which was also true of the show at times, of course. But the movie tonally all over the place, which the show never was (the show was mostly relentlessly serious).

The plot has some holes in it, and there are a lot of things which are hinted at and then dropped abruptly, but so what? It's Tim Burton. Relax and enjoy it. Sometime I need to check the credits for his movies to see if he even uses a continuity supervisor. I would guess not.

The movie seems set up in a lot of ways to lead into a sequel, which is unusual because Burton is not exactly Mr. Sequel, but maybe that's just what happens when you're adapting a soap opera. It is difficult to imagine that the movie will be so popular that there will be demand for another one.

The movie continues a grand tradition, which is that Barnabas inexplicably falls for wide-eyed, dewy innocents, while cruelly spurning the infinitely more interesting (and fun) Angelique, just because she turned him into a vampire (and perhaps because she was a servant 200 years ago). As she says to him in the movie, "Oh, Barnabas, get over it!" He really should, but he never does (though he is willing to have some very active sex with her). Some guys just don't have a clue.

There is a nice gag based on the breakfast scene in Citizen Kane. Who would be more likely to be down at the far end of that long table from the rest of her family than the surly teenager? (And what teenager wouldn't be surly, growing up in this family?)

The movie looks great, of course, and the music is good. There is a heavy use of 1970s pop, but it's always appropriate and enjoyable, even including an appearance by Alice Cooper, which works really well.

The cameo by the original cast members is quick, but very nice. It's good for a moment to see Quentin, and Maggie, and the real Josette, and the real Angelique, and, for one last time, the real Barnabas Collins.

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