by John Mitchell
Have you ever been so relieved that no matter what else is going on in your life, no matter how hectic your day, you pause and breathe and everything is just right?
That is how I feel right now. Earlier today, Entertainment Weekly unveiled an official first look at the full cast of Tim Burton’s hotly anticipated big screen take on the classic Gothic soap opera “Dark Shadows,” and coming just weeks after paparazzi shots of star Johnny Depp looking ghastly and weird in heavy white makeup leaked online and sparked a massive (and generally negative) fan response, the image is a sight for sore eyes.
I grew up watching reruns of the late-60s melodrama and have been excited about this film since I first heard it was being made. The dark aesthetic that made many of Burton’s best films pop made him seem like a good fit to direct for “Shadows,” and the cast, from Depp as vampire Barnabas Collins to Michelle Pfeiffer as family matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard and Jackie Earle Haley as groundskeeper Willie Loomis, was perfection.
Then that first photo of Depp leaked and our hopes were dashed. Depp’s heavy makeup made it seem like Burton’s “Shadows” would have more in common with his vividly colorful takes on “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Alice in Wonderland” than his wonderfully dark “Batman” films and “Sleepy Hollow.” And that was just wrong.
As it turns out, I was the one who was wrong. I put my disappointment into words, shooting off a missive admonishing Burton for the direction I thought he was taking. Now, as this image clearly shows, Depp’s look for the film is pretty much right in line with Jonathan Frid’s styling from the original series. The makeup appears to have been overdone to counter the macabre filters Burton is shooting with and everything looks perfect.
And when I say perfect, I mean it. Burton even took brunette bombshell Eva Green blonde to play Angelique Bouchard, the witch who turned Barnabas into a vamp. Then there’s Pfeiffer’s Elizabeth, who I worried, after seeing Depp’s styling in the paparazzi photos, Burton would reinvent as some eccentric borderline crone. He didn’t, and Pfeiffer looks troubled-but-regal as Elizabeth.
Lest you think we are ignoring orange-haired Helena Bonham Carter in our praise of Burton’s restraint, fear not … because, she’s the one who is supposed to be a little on the bizarre side. The character is, after all, a sometimes-out-there psychiatrist who in the series tries to cure Barnabas of his vampirism (and everybody knows that’s one disease only a stake through the heart can cure).
Even the interior of Collinwood Mansion looks right. It’s as imposing, dark and gothic as I remember it being on the series.
I am now, once again, so excited for “Dark Shadows” I can barely contain it. Now that I feel safe that Burton is moving in the right direction, with the right style and the right actors, I can go back to counting the days until May 11, 2012. There are 232, by the way.
“Dark Shadows” fans, are you relieved by this first official look at the movie? Sound off in the comments section and on Twitter!