Bringing Les Mis to the big screen was ambitious, to say the least. No one could doubt the magnitude of the project after seeing the cast line-up. But even with so many star actors and actresses, bringing the popular musical to the movie screen was a dangerous gamble.
When Les Mis the musical first appeared in London in 1985, critics disapproved of turning a piece of literature into a musical production. But following record box office sales, the production has run continuously since that time, making it the world’s longest running musical.
Similarly, it’s hard to imagine a musical, intended to be performed with all the emotion that comes with live performance, being turned into a big-screen hit. But Les Mis met with great success as a movie as well, grossing hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide and winning three Golden Globes as well as eight Oscar nominations.
Sure, Les Mis has its problems. Not all the characters were played by Broadway singers, and not all the songs followed Les Mis the musical. But in the end, Les Mis is a success, just like the musical and just like the book, because it effectively captures Valjean’s passionate cry for grace in the face of the law. Singing need not be perfectly in tune or in time for us to recognize Fantine’s desperation, Javert’s hate, or Eponine’s love.
In a way, Les Mis’ imperfections demonstrate exactly what Victor Hugo wanted us to realize: that forgiveness of fault is greater even than obedience to the law.
Les Misérables, the story of multiple characters from all walks of life each yearning for purpose within the corruption of society, was released on the big screen this past Christmas and has acquired an overwhelming positive reaction from the public, mostly for the ability of the movie industry to overdramatize drama, if such is possible. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of musicals becoming movies for a few simple reasons. First of all, theatre is meant to encapsulate the audience with an alternate world in which they become apart of the production and sense a connection with the actors on stage. Within a movie, the connection is less personal for we become more prone to being numb of feeling for the movie industry simply feels, universally, less pure in principle. Most importantly, a theatrical performance varies with each showing, which portrays the indeterminate qualities of theatre and legitimate emotions that are evoked from these performances.
I humbly respect the cast and producers for their attempt at a “raw” creation where there is little sound editing or vocal auto-tuning. However, I question whether this can justify the movie’s existence. It seems that people are more entranced with the fact that “Wait, Russell Crowe can sing?” (Which I still question even after watching the movie.) And then they worry less about the themes of social injustice and the necessity for love and compassion that is intended to test the audiences’ perception of society. To add, the special effects merely diminished the original purpose of the musical and the novel by Victor Hugo in its overproduction. Overall, in my opinion, this movie seemed unnecessarily made and did more injustice to the musical then justice. (pun intended)