Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Single blade technology

As a public service, I feel that there are two things you all should know about the new film version of Sweeney Todd. First, it's bloody. Second, it's a musical.

It's a bloody musical! People come in thinking it's Edward Scissorhands with slightly more mishaps. Sorry, no. The actors start singing from the get-go, and let's just say a lot of red corn syrup gets used. I figure many audience members will still walk out, but really, it's their own fault. A little mental preparation can go a long way toward making an informed ticket purchase.

As for the movie itself: there is much to like, but not a lot to love. Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp) returns to London and seeks revenge against the wicked judge (Alan Rickman) who tore him from his family many years ago. He teams up with meat pie maker Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter) to set his plan in motion.

There's a clear disparity in the singing talents of the two leads and the rest of the cast, but I didn't mind. Depp has a sort of pop-rock voice that actually worked well with Rickman in their duet. Bonham Carter has a sort of whispery voice, but her lyrically loaded songs played to her strengths. It all flows well, but I have no great desire to check out the soundtrack.

Depicted here is a London that is both perfect for the film and well within the borders of Tim Burton's world. The principal characters wear a skin that's practically gray. The collective attitude is sufficiently dismal. The streets are harsh and dirty. The factory belches filth into the sky. It really is an ideal combination of director and material.

That said, I know a lot of Tim Burton fans are breathlessly waiting for some Oscar recognition, but I just don't see it happening. It's a much darker tale than you'd expect, faithful in spirit to the source material. Burton has always struck me as a director who delights in the macabre, but prefers his violence off screen. Not this time. The deaths can be downright visceral at times, and the blood spray almost gets a little silly.

A final note to Alan Rickman lovers. Sweeney Todd has the same problem as his other films: not enough Alan Rickman. Sorry.


Angry Pregnant Lawyer said...

I'm looking forward to seeing this. I saw Sweeny Todd years ago at Arena Stage, and I loved it.

Mainline Mom said...

Hmm...I did want to see it, but now I'm not so sure.

ZenDenizen said...

Johnny & Alan, what's not to like? I can't wait to see it... It will be a solo outing since my friends are too squeamish.