Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

May 18, 2010
I've been avoiding this movie for quite some time now. Not because of anyone involved with the project, but I feared how different it seemed to be from the original musical. The original Sweeney Todd was a dark comedy with sequences of seriousness, while this new adaptation seemed to be the exact opposite. Not only that, but Johnny Depp (who plays the demon barber in this version) didn't seem to have the same level of power and emotion that George Hearn - from the 1982 adaptation - had. So, because of the huge tonal shift and the idea of a brooding Sweeney Todd, I wasn't too big on seeing this movie anytime soon. Curiosity, however, has the habit of drawing you in eventually. In a twist of irony, after seeing the film, I thought the entire thing was great. Though I still wasn't a huge fan of Depp's portrayal, he was still pretty good and the rest of the film proved to be a dark and artistic pleasure that evoked the spirit of the old silent horror films.

In the film, we follow the vengeful barber Sweeney Todd (formerly known as Benjamin Barker). Finding his way home after a trumped-up charge, Todd finds his home inhabited, his wife dead, and his daughter living with the man responsible for all of this misery - Judge Turpin. Aided by the eccentric Mrs. Lovett - the pie-maker who's inhabited his old home - Todd vows revenge on those responsible for his losses.

The characters still remain truly fascinating, even if you've never seen the original play. The whole experience makes for great gothic fiction, and the source material is treated with the utmost respect by Burton and his crew. A few things are omitted and added, granted, but the end result is so well-executed that it doesn't really matter. From Sweeney himself to the supporting cast, it's virtually impossible to be uninterested in the narrative of Sweeney Todd.

Moving on, the visuals in this movie are just *amazing*. Everything drips with a fine darkness, and the way these visuals set the mood is just cinematic heaven. It's simply a feast for the eyes and the imagination, with a bit of the macabre thrown in for good measure. not only that, but the film gives a lot of throwbacks to the old silent horror films. The sets, the costumes, and the expressions are overblown (in a good way) in a way that's similar to films like Nosferatu. Really, the film feels like a silent movie with music.

As far as the music goes, it's never been better. Though this adaptation is vastly different in terms of style, the music shines as it always has. The songs aren't meant to be blockbusters or dance numbers (ala Oliver Twist), instead being more plot-driven than anything. The melodrama in this version also adds a bit of a confessional feel to some of the songs, such as "A Barber & His Wife". This really works with the tone and adds further darkness to this setting. This IS Tim Burton, however, so it's not exactly a surprise. However, I found that some songs didn't work that well with the newer, darker, and more brooding style. For instance, one of my personal favorite songs in the musical - "Little Priest" - has gone from being a macabre celebration to a dull and monotone contemplation. Thankfully, however, these unfit songs are few and far between, as most of the songs do fit the new style (especially songs like "MY Friends" or "Johanna").

This movie's brilliant pacing is evident in how quickly it seems to go by. The runtime's roughly around two hours, but not a minute of that time can be felt during the film. You'll be too enraptured in the tale of Sweeney Todd to even notice the time, thanks to the film's many great aspects.

Beautifully dark and filled with fantastic characters and visuals, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a great film that's got a lot going for it.

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ZadaRox101 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 24, 2010 at 10:23 am
I read the play after watching the movie and I thought it was pretty much the same. I was kinda upset they left out the ending, but it was really good. None of my friends who have seen the play want to watch the movie though. :/
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