It's no surprise that the director who has decided to take the dark musical Sweeney Todd to the big screen is Tim Burton. The director of many a dark tale, including the musically inclined The Nightmare Before Christmas, seems a natural fit for this macabre tale of a wrongfully convicted barber who takes his revenge on society after he is released from prison by slaying his customers left and right. While his vision of Victorian London is decidedly dark and gothic, he has shown some restraint in resisting the temptation to turn the city into a nightmare of gargoyles and parapets; Sweeney Todd's London is more Sleepy Hollow than it is Batman's Gotham City.
The restraint shown with regards to the scenery has not been similarly applied to the violence, though. Sweeny Todd is by its nature a very violent tale, but rather than leave the violence as implied Burton has decided to bring it to the forefront in all of its graphic horror. While there is indeed a lot to be said for the cinematic effect of the bright red of the splashes and pools of blood against the dismal grays and blacks of an Industrial Age London, the graphic nature of the violence is such that it will certainly be too much for many viewers to bear and prove to significantly detract from the story for others. Sweeny Todd is definitely not for the squeamish.
Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd and Helena Bonham Carter as the meat pie baker Mrs. Lovett do a surprisingly good job with the songs in the musical, although they're work may not be up to the discriminating standards of the Broadway critics. They are however both excellent actors and they handle the dramatic elements of the story with great skill. Depp is particularly impressive as the murderous revenge driven barber, playing Todd as a man consumed by obsession rather than as a simple sociopath.
The wit and intelligence of Sondheim's lyrics coupled with the macabre vision of Burton make Sweeney Todd an interesting and decidedly entertaining film. This particular marriage of Broadway musical to gothic horror may not appeal to everyone, though. Those who enjoy musicals may be put off by the graphic violence, while those seeking a horror movie may find themselves squirming in their seats during the numerous musical numbers. Even so, Sweeney Todd is an excellent adaptation of the musical and it's hard to imagine anyone better suited to bringing it to life as a movie than Tim Burton.
The Blu-ray version of the film features excellent picture quality and sound,
the latter bringing a full and rich sound to the musical numbers. There is
an extensive collection of special features on the disk, many of which are
presented in HD. Of particular interest are the documentary features on
the real Sweeney Todd and the London of his day. It would have been nice
if these had gone into more depth, perhaps running at closer to an hour, but
they still do provide some nice background information to those who watch the
feature and have their curiosity piqued as to who this Sweeney Todd really was.