Monday, June 7, 2010

Attend the tale of...

This won't be a very articulate post. I'm mostly here to get out some of my feelings on the hatred I see for Tim Burton's adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. I won't get into specifics of comparing the two because that's actually what I'm trying to avoid with the point I'm making. If you'd like to discuss a certain aspect just for the heck of it, then leave a comment and I'd be more than happy to oblige. I love talking about a good musical. :) But for now, I just want to get into why I feel some fans of the original stage show are too wrapped up in the original to enjoy a well-made film and one of the best movie adaptations of a stage musical. We all know that is not an easy feat!

The main complaint I often see is about the lack of joy in the scene where Depp and Carter perform "A Little Priest", which brings Act I to a close. I personally would have despised watching the movie's characters laughing and dancing all kooky-like. And I don't think that proves the point that it was therefore not carried out properly in the film. There are plenty of comedians/people who present humor in a flat/dry manner. Maybe it's not to a lot of fans' liking to be presented in a way that's not identical to the stage show, but critics and new viewers alike who weren't familiar with the original didn't seem to have an issue with it. It's not a bad way to present it. You may not personally like it, what with everyone having personal tastes and whatnot, but it doesn't make it any less appropriate.

Actually, I'd like to make a brief comment about that. The first time I watched the stage show, I was actually quite surprised to see Sweeney enjoying himself in such a "big" way, laughing hysterically and dancing about with Mrs. Lovett. I always felt that came out of nowhere. Sure, he's ecstatic to finally get his revenge and finds Lovett's suggestion darkly humorous. But I never made an issue of it with musical fans, because I just assumed it needed to be big for the stage. Fans of musicals learn to let go of that restricted access to one's emotions. If it needs to be big for the last row to see the emotion via arms outstretched, then that is what they're going to get, and the first row might feel as though it was overkill.

Burton's version isn't suppose to be a definitive movie version of the stage musical. It's a film adaptation of a stage musical. Key word: ADAPT. This is what artists do; They are inspired by something and then they put their spin on it. Anyone who doesn't is lazy and uninspired, really not much of an artist at all. Can we please look at the A Little Night Music movie adaptation? Someone tried to put the musical as is on film. Actually, what was worse was they made it appear MORE staged. Let us now recall when some people, critics and audience members alike, picked on Joss Whedon's Buffy because they claimed the show relied on his quirky dialogue. He then made "Hush" to challenge himself. The episode (only 2% spoken dialogue) turned out brilliantly, earned him an Emmy nomination, but was his style of humor still there? Absolutely. Even without words, it still rang true to Joss' humor. So you only have yourself to blame if you were familiar with both Burton's films and the stage musical. Directors are hired to get their specific style stamped on a film [or a television show]. The most sought after directors all have a definitive style. Take note of all the ones who seem to put out movies every year, they all cover a specified genre [or two], do they not? Burton is the most theatrical and he does dark films well, and I truly believe that no other director would have made a better film. Though, I would love to see Joss Whedon attempt Sweeney Todd as he has expressed an interest in doing so. When asked what musicals he'd want to adapt onto film, he even said he loved Burton's adaptation, but that he would personally do things a little differently, assumingly shifting the focus on another aspect of the show. We know Joss can do the fun/quirky and incorporate melodrama easily, but he'd probably let go of other aspects. Namely the horror - and that is, after-all, WHY Sondheim set out to do the show - to scare people. Ever think about that Sondheim geeks? (No offense meant, I am a proud Sondheim geek.) But before all that, Joss needs to learn how to be a movie director. He's not too good at that, yet. I'm a huge Joss Whedon fan and I definitely recognize he is no movie director. Serenity worked well enough because he simply went for a more spiffy/mature look from the way he directed his tv show.

Lastly, I know plenty of people who loved the film and then watched they original version because they assumed as much it'd be a different experience simply because they were aware that it was an adaptation. After doing so, they didn't compare the two and try to sort out which was superior. They loved that they were different in tone and appreciated them both for what they were.

I'm not trying to say people who despise Burton's version are wrong. That'd be ridiculous of me to claim. But I don't care for the lack of respect for a well-made film. It makes me scratch my head a bit to see so much hate considering the film was critically acclaimed. Some of the critics weren't familiar with the musical and others were well aware of it and even fans. Actually, more were familiar with it as critics are usually very cultured in most aspects. Do I think some Sondheim fans are just a bit too snobby about it? Absolutely. lol Sorry. But you know it's true. If you can't recognize a well-made film and would rather focus on the lack of laughing in a scene or the omission of your favorite song, well... there you are. Burton made a film because that is what he does. And yes, it was partially to feed an obsession of his. HIS. Not yours.