Bloody is not usually the first word that comes to mind when one thinks about musicals, but Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is filled with revenge, tragedy, mayhem and bloody meat pies that creates one of the goriest musicals ever made.
While Sweeney Todd is unconventional and takes a new turn, it hits some bumps along the way.
Sweeney Todd takes place in London, where there lives a barber named Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp) and his sweet young wife and child, whom he loves dearly. However, one day the wicked Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) sentences Barker to jail in Australia on fabricated charges in order to capture Barker’s wife and child for himself.
After escaping from jail, Barker returns home to his barbershop, where the landlady, Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), sells the worst meat pies in London. She informs Barker about his family’s demise at the hands of Judge Turpin. Barker moves upstairs to his former shop and changes his name to Sweeney Todd to do business again. Yet, this time he is out for revenge on the injustices against himself and his family.
He has such a profound passion and anger that he starts slicing the throats of his customers, so Mrs. Lovett can cut them up and make them into her pies. With the new secret ingredient, she has the most appetizing pies around.
As a musical, the most important factor is naturally the music. Some of the songs in the movie did not work. For example, “Johanna” sung by Anthony Hope (Jamie Campbell Bower), is too sweet and light for a movie this dark. It didn’t help that songs like “Johanna,” were repeated continuously throughout the whole movie, which, after hearing it for the third time, created a sense of unneeded repetition.
Other songs worked exceptionally well, such as “Epiphany,” where Sweeney Todd roams the streets in pure frustration and outrage showing the audience his true inner demons.
The songs in the film are more plot-driven and bring out a sense of the character’s confessional anguish. The words in the song are used to convey something much greater than just a melody.
Sweeney Todd’s set design is one of the film’s most amazing aspects. With narrow alleyways and small rooms, director Tim Burton creates a claustrophobic feeling and a lack of breathing room. Even the CGI backgrounds, costumes and the pale makeup stress a world dominated by shades of gray, to create a gloomy and cryptic atmosphere.
Nevertheless, people may argue that the set design is one of the film’s major overall flaws. This is the sixth Depp/Burton collaboration. Almost all of them have the same morbid characteristics. Burton has not done anything new in this film to stand out from all of the other ones that he has made.
Depp plays the role the way he has played every part in his career for Burton. There’s a little Edward Scissorhands here, a little Ichabod Crane there and a dash of Ed Wood jumbled in. Depp is perfect for this role because he has played it a dozen times before.
Sweeney Todd is good for audiences sick of the usual musical. Yet, what the film achieves in originality it lacks in overall music. Hearing the same songs over and over again might bore viewers.