Weekend Forecast for May 11-13, 2012
By Reagen Sulewski
May 11, 2012
After last weekend's earthquake of a start to the summer movie season, this week, and maybe the whole rest of the summer, seems kind of anti-climactic. But still we soldier on, with what might be one of the stranger wide releases of the summer.
Dark Shadows feels a bit like the cashing in of a chip for both Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, who reunite for the umpteenth time for a bit of weirdness. The film is an adaptation of a '60s/'70s soap opera filled with supernatural elements and practically constructed out of camp. Mainly remembered for how terrible it was, it's maintained a cult following all these years, and now we all get to indulge Depp and Burton in their fascination.
Depp plays Barnabas Collins, a Victorian-era vampire who was cursed by a witch (played by Eva Green) after rejecting her advances and buried in the ground until the modern age of 1972 – giving us the opportunity to relish in some oh-so topical “weren't the '70s weird?” jokes. Upon being unearthed, he seeks to bring his family estate back to its former glory, but there's still that pesky witch hanging around. There's also the modern Collinses, an Addams-esque collection of oddballs and bored screwups. It's a nice collection of actors that they've collected – including the now de rigueur Helena Bonham Carter, we also have Michelle Pfeiffer as the current Collins matriarch, Jonny Lee Miller, Chloe Grace Moretz and Jackie Earle Haley, with a bit of Christopher Lee thrown in for good measure.
The gist of the movie's advertising seems to be based on “Johnny Depp has a weird haircut and talks strangely. Isn't that *funny*?”, and while that's not the strongest thing to build a campaign around, it has worked before. That's almost totally the appeal of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, for instance, with a little sword play thrown in. Switch it up for vampires and you're pretty close to Dark Shadows.
The last collaboration between Burton and Depp was 2010's Alice in Wonderland, which shocked the world with a $116 million opening weekend, and over a billion dollars worldwide. That was in part due to it being on the forefront of the new 3D trend, which Dark Shadows won't be taking advantage of. That also had a huge in-built familiarity for the vast majority of movie-goers, who didn't have to have the premise explained to them. With Dark Shadows, there's almost a feel like we're being pranked, and the real movie's going to be revealed at some later date.
Still, when Burton and Depp try for blockbusters, they usually get them, after a fashion. Perhaps the only outright failure on Burton's part is Mars Attacks!, which topped out at $37 million. Neither Sweeney Todd nor Corpse Bride were really all that big, but budgets were kept smallish on those. Depp is a little more inconsistent, but also makes more smaller movies, like The Rum Diary, which was a personal project that was never destined for big things. I think the weirdness of this one falls onto the “bad Burton” side of the equation, which is going to keep it from huge status, but it should still start out with a decent $35 million.