Sweeney Todd is not a movie for the faint of heart; it is not a movie to which you’d take a child on a day off from school. The trailer for Sweeney Todd shows that the movie is a musical thriller from beginning to end.
After analyzing the trailer, I realize the importance of the statement, “You only have one chance to make a first impression.” When at a movie, I sit in the theater, watch the trailers, and give my friend thumbs up or down, already deciding to see the movie or not. As an avid Johnny Depp fan, I instantly fell in love with the trailer and the idea of the movie. I identified a logical appeal in which the trailer wasn’t aimed to be realistic, as the setting is old London and the costumes are old fashioned. I also experienced an emotional appeal when men unjustly tore Sweeney Todd from his family, sympathizing with the character and seeking revenge on those men who did Sweeney wrong. Additionally, I experienced fear, visualizing myself in the barber chair as Sweeney Todd prepares to slit my throat.
However, I noticed a great appeal to ethos in the credibility of the production companies, the easy actor recognition, and the typecasting prevalent. At the beginning of the trailer, the logos for Warner Brothers and DreamWorks pop up. In Everything’s an Argument by Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz, the authors discuss how company symbols convey authority and provide credibility that the trailer is well done and the movie is worth seeing (456). Both companies have the reputation of producing good movies, so the audience trusts their money will be well spent.
In addition, there are many recognizable actors, such as Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, and Timothy Spall and a recognizable director, Tim Burton. Many say these actors are typecasted, as Depp, Carter, Rickman and Spall have all acted in edgy, sketchy, mischievous roles in their recent films. Louis Giannetti discusses in Understanding Movies how typecasting began when “characters tended toward allegorical types rather than unique individuals and often were even identified with a label” (279). Along with their movie roles, the three actors have edgy personalities off screen, furthermore adding to the realism of their character in the dark movie. Furthermore supplementing ethos in the trailer is the fact that movie stars in Hollywood “attract the loyalty of both men and women,” and I believe this is why Tim Burton casted the actors as his characters (Giannetti 257). Depp, Carter, Rickman and Spall all have large fan followings, raising their ability to be cast and credibility as an actor. Lastly, Tim Burton has a large fan following. It is no wonder so many people awaited the release of this movie.
The genre of this movie becomes very apparent as the two-minute teaser progresses. The trailer has eerie, almost intense, music playing the entire time, setting the tone as a thriller musical. In addition to the music, the audience witnesses the musical theme when Johnny Depp sings to the villagers in London, inviting them to visit his barbershop. The thriller aspect comes from the rapid scene changes, building the anticipation for when Sweeney Todd claims his next victim. Through the use of digital effects at the end of the trailer, the audience deduces the musical thriller will be a bloodbath, although there is little blood.
However, the most important part of a trailer is the overall quality, and Sweeney Todd had a marvelous trailer, emphasizing color rather than comedy, music, thrill, or action. Research shows people “tend to accept color passively, permitting it to suggest moods” (Giannetti 22). The emphasis on color and the quality of the effects and costuming set the mood. This is seen in the trailer at the beginning, as vibrant colors and a halo effect display the happier past, only to quickly switch to dark sepia colors for the present in the movie. The dark colors are used for symbolic purposes “to desaturate [colors], especially if the subject matter is sober or grim” (Giannetti 24). All the vibrant, colorful scenes in the trailer display a happy past or dream, whereas the dark colors symbolize a dark, almost dystopian reality, focused on the corruption of society and want for revenge on those who did you wrong. Although color appears to be the main focus of the trailer, the rapidly changing scenes, in addition to the fast music, add to the intensity and the thrill of watching the serial killer, demon barber of Fleet Street.
In conclusion, though the quality of the Sweeney Todd trailer is fantastic, the trailer falls short in persuasive appeal, stemming from a small target audience. This trailer would appeal to musical theater junkies, thrill seekers, and maybe even Harry Potter fans, as three of the four main actors had significant roles in Harry Potter. This movie is not suited to those who are squeamish with blood or do not have a strong stomach. For the target audience, the trailer is effective and persuasive, but the trailer and the movie are not for all. Although I am not a big thriller fan, I wanted to see it…but hey! Maybe my Johnny Depp obsession makes me biased!
Watch the trailer at: