Jungle
Les Misérables

Les Miserables

Movie
Studio(s): 
Director(s): 
Genre: 
On Blu-Ray: 
Friday, March 22, 2013
Grade:
B+
Running Time: 
2 Hours, 38 Minutes
Did You Know?

Recording the actors' singing live as they're acting may not be a first for this film, but the scope, and especially the manner in which it's being done, is: The actors wore ear pieces which fed the sound of a live piano being played off-stage, to keep their singing in key. The main novelty here is, there's no count-in or predetermined tempo and the piano is following the pacing of the actor, not the other way around - a first for a filmed musical. Orchestral music was added post-production. ~ IMDB

Tom Hooper’s (The King’s Speech) Les Misérables has been the center of much praise and equally as much ridicule. No one in the history of cinema has attempted to do what Hooper has done on such a grand scale. From omitting the usual tradition of film musicals, where the actors would perfect their songs by recording them in studio and lip-synching during production, and instead choosing to allow the actors to sing directly on the shoot, to editing the film opera, to some fans disagreement. Hooper’s work, regardless of what side of the fence you sit on, is commendable.

I’ve never seen the opera live. I loved the 1998 film version starring Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush and watched the 25th Anniversary Concert Blu-Ray. Call me crazy, but I preferred the 98 film version. When I found the 2012 Film Musical in my workload I tried to clear my head and go at it as if I had never seen any version of the play. I also had to do a lot of mind scrubbing to get both the praise and negative reviews of the film out of my head. I wanted the film to either please me or disappoint me on its own merits.

So right off the bat I am stuck on the menu. Yeah, that’s right, the menu. One of the numbers from the film kick in with clips of the film playing behind the menu screen. The actors are singing in an ominous union and I have to force myself to forget the incredible war scenes from the 98 version. I press play.

The film opens on Valjean and his fellow prisoners as their being forced to pull a massive ship into the docks. The sheer scope of the set their standing in, with the water splashing in all around them, the look of utter despair, tiredness, and anger on the prisoners faces completely realistic (Hugh Jackman’s eyes, gross). The prisoners break out in song and I’m already hooked. The sheer size of everything is enormous and the audio track for the Blu-Ray capturing the performance as if I’m there on some great stage is amazing.

A little bit further down the line the edge is starting to wear off. Hugh Jackman’s vocal work is not what I had expected. Really, I hadn’t been expecting anything. I don’t follow the awards shows where Jackman frequently performs, and I’ve never seen him sing anywhere else. So I head into his first solo performance, having just been set free by Colm Wilkinson, Valjean begins his number on turning over a new leaf and beginning anew. Jackman, as the actor, puts on an incredible performance, but as a singer…well, I didn’t like it. Maybe it would have been great for the stage, but when he’s forced to hold a note or hit high notes, forget it.

Despite trying to avoid the negativity surrounding this film, I have to admit that the singing, aside from Anne Hathaway, and a majority of the bigger numbers where the songs are sung by the entirety of the set cast, it was hard to love. I didn’t exactly hate it, I just didn’t enjoy sitting through nearly 3 hours of it. For me, it’s a film I’m glad I saw, but I don’t see myself watching it again anytime soon.

PICTURE QUALITY:
Universal has disappointed me in the past, several times, but this Blu-ray is nearly perfect. Mind you I said nearly. It should be a crime to be in charge of a picture of this magnitude and not create the perfect visual transfer. Makes me want to really dig deep to find out just what makes a perfect Blu-Ray picture look the way it does and why some studio’ don’t follow suit.

Les Misérables is amazingly brilliant in up close shots but when the film pans out to show a broader view of the world the picture tends to suffer a bit. It also doesn’t help that color is manipulated a bit as far as screening goes. The world is intentionally made to look bleak at times giving the picture a depressing blue hue. It’s instances like this that take the fun out of the picture. One minute I’m so captivated by the amazing life like world of the film and the next I’m transported back to my couch by manipulative  interference. Don’t get me wrong, the film looks brilliant most of the time, but you will find yourself a little disappointed when the picture dips out for a quick second.

BONUS FEATURES:
~Commentary by Director Tom Hooper
~The Stars of Les Misérables
~Creating The Perfect Paris
~The Original Masterwork: Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables
~DVD, Digital, and Ultraviolet versions

BLU-RAY EXCLUSIVES
~The West End Connection
~Les Misérables On Location
~Battle At The Barricades
~Les Misérables Singing Live 

AJ Garcia
Review by AJ Garcia
Follow him @ Twitter
Friend him @ Facebook