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Prognosticators of doom and gloom for Tim  Burton‘s latest effort, here’s your biggest opening to date. These are the first set pics of Johnny Depp on the set of Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, and at the very best, he looks like a dandied-up zombie version of Michael Jackson as he might exist in Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy.

What’s the context here? Is this how Depp will look as Barnabas Collins throughout the film? Is the makeup highly exaggerated for the purpose of lighting or effects? Has Collins smeared zinc oxide all over his face so he can withstand sunlight? And even if so, why does his hair look like an ultra-stylized flapper ‘do from what we can see under that fancy hat? The only question I can answer definitively would be this: “are these photos absolutely the wrong way to get a first look at this incarnation of Barnabas?” (That one gets a resounding ‘yes,’ by the way.) Regardless of answers, Tim Burton, why do you keep doing this to Johnny Depp?

See another photo after the break.

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And yes, I realize that in this case, the answer to ‘why does Tim Burton keep doing this to Johnny Depp’ is because Depp wanted him to; Barnabas Collins has long been one of his dream roles.

(Edit: One of our commenters wondered if the film is being shot for released in B&W. I don’t have any data to suggest that is the case, but the exaggerated makeup would make more sense for a black and white film.)

The Dark Shadows cast includes Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller (a new announcement for the cast), Bella Heathcote, Chloe Moretz, and Gulliver McGrath. Here’s the long official synopsis for the film, which opens on May 11, 2012:

In the year 1752, Joshua and Naomi Collins, with young son Barnabas, set sail from Liverpool, England to start a new life in America. But even an ocean was not enough to escape the mysterious curse that has plagued their family. Two decades pass and Barnabas (Johnny Depp) has the world at his feet—or at least the town of Collinsport, Maine. The master of Collinwood Manor, Barnabas is rich, powerful and an inveterate playboy…until he makes the grave mistake of breaking the heart of Angelique Brouchard (Eva Green). A witch, in every sense of the word, Angelique dooms him to a fate worse than death: turning him into a vampire, and then burying him alive.

Two centuries later, Barnabas is inadvertently freed from his tomb and emerges into the very changed world of 1972. He returns to Collinwood Manor to find that his once-grand estate has fallen into ruin. The dysfunctional remnants of the Collins family have fared little better, each harboring their own dark secrets. Matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer) has called upon live-in psychiatrist, Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), to help with her family troubles.

Also residing in the manor is Elizabeth’s ne’er-do-well brother, Roger Collins (Jonny Lee Miller); her rebellious teenage daughter Carolyn Stoddard (Chloe Moretz); and Roger’s precocious 10-year-old son, David Collins (Gulliver McGrath). The mystery extends beyond the family, to caretaker Willie Loomis, played by Jackie Earle Haley, and David’s new nanny, Victoria Winters, played by Bella Heathcote.

[Celebuzz]

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