Can ‘Dark Shadows’ Be A Franchise?

'Hunger Games' fever has us wondering about the prospects for Tim Burton's adaptation.
By John Mitchell

Johnny Depp in "Dark Shadows"
Photo: Warner Bros

Everyone has "Hunger Games" fever, and it's understandable; the film is absolutely everywhere, critics are saying it's pretty good and star Jennifer Lawrence's candid, funny interviews are a welcome change from the uncomfortable sit-downs granted by, um, some other YA adaptation stars when their films hit the big screen.

Anyway, "Games" just crept into theaters, and talk of the sequel is already ramping up. Filming on "Catching Fire" is set to begin later this year, and a November 22, 2013, release date is already in the books. That got us thinking about our own little mini-obsession: "Dark Shadows."

While it's nowhere near as fervent or large as "Games," "Shadows" has a devout following too, and if the film is a hit at the box office, which seems quite possible if not bet-on-it likely, at least one sequel would be justified. And with an extensive catalog of 1,225 episodes, there is plenty of plot for, well, as many follow-ups as Tim Burton could come up with.

But the approach the director has taken with the film makes us wonder if it's the sort of thing that could sustain a franchise.

Let's talk this out. First, the direction Burton has chosen to take with the film has already divided fans. Over on MTV Movies Blog, we asked readers whether they liked the "Shadows" trailer, and the reaction was pretty much split down the middle. Just over half of those who voted (52.35 percent) were into the trailer, checking our "Love it! Burton knows what he's doing" box. That leaves 47.65 percent of respondents who instead "Hated it! Burton is ruining everything!"

It's a pretty radical reinvention, to be sure, and the trailer reminds us most of the big-screen version of "The Addams Family." "Addams," of course, was a sitcom to start with, and all director Barry Sonnenfeld really did was turn up the volume on the weird. Much of the humor derived from people reacting to the macabre-but-good-natured family of weirdos, and the film was a hit — a big enough hit to merit a sequel.

The "Addams" sequel didn't connect quite the way the first film did, perhaps because the shtick that was so fresh the first time around had worn out its welcome. So even if it's a hit, will people really want multiple "Shadows" films once the novelty has worn thin?

The thing about (good) sequels is that they generally require emotional investment from the audience to be successful. We want to know what happens next with Katniss in "The Hunger Games." There's an entire mythology attached to Bruce Wayne in the "Batman" films. It's hard to form that connection when the characters are hyper-realized and a little bit caricatured.

And though there is a definite mythology to "Shadows," Burton has opted to ignore it in favor of some brave, maybe even fun, stylistic choices he no doubt hopes will make the film unique and set it apart, both from the series itself and from anything else hitting the big screen this summer.

But zany absurdity is hard to maintain across multiple films. By the time the second "Addams" movie came around, the crux of the joke — playing off other people's reactions to the goth family — was a bit tired, so they had to put Wednesday and Pugsley into an awkward situation (summer camp) to try and keep it fresh.

Had Burton hewed a little closer to his source material, this wouldn't be a concern, but in taking such liberties with the style of "Shadows" he kind of backs himself into a corner when it comes to whatever comes next. He'd have to up the ante in some way for a sequel, but since he's already operating so over the top, is that even possible?

We're super excited for "Shadows" but we're just curious if — unlike "Hunger Games" fans — we should learn to quell our excitement that there may be more films coming. After all, maybe there's a reason we only ever got one "Beetlejuice" (hey, wait a minute ... ).

What do you think, "Shadows" fans? Did Tim Burton blow his shot at a franchise by making his "Shadows" so niche? Let us know in the comments below and tweet me @JohnMitchell83 with your thoughts and suggestions for future columns!

Check out everything we've got on "Dark Shadows."

For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit

Filed under: Movies


No Comments »

Leave a Reply

Back to Top