Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Film Review No. 35 The Greatest Showman (PG)

Strong Points:
Awesome songs - high energy, powerful and with meaning
Great choreography
Made me want to clap and stand-up at the end of songs
Some twists and turns I didn't guess
Great parallels between two groups
The critic
Good acting all around
Some lovely wide shots
The editing
Understands the effect of acting

Weak Points:
Some slight pacing issues at the beginning
Some jumps in relationships - you understand but it's still slightly off
Not too sure about Queen Victoria

Some spoilers ahead:

In-depth Review:
I went into this film thinking, okay, we're going to start with an introduction to the characters, probably as children or young adults, they'll experience troubles and manage to get to their destination ready for the big finale from the trailers. So imagine my surprise when the song The Greatest Showman song starts the film, instantly transporting us into the world of the film.

That's not to say there isn't an exposition song, it arrives shortly afterwards. It's pretty good as exposition songs go and encapsulates Barnum's spirit in the film and in all honesty, could have taken a bit longer. The film's relatively short in reality, being only 105 minutes, and that extra 20 or so minutes could have been used to make the beginning slightly less rushed. Barnum goes from meeting Charity to loving her in half a minute (another scene, showing that they have met before in the house would have been nice) and then he suddenly goes from having nothing to having everything in another 20 minutes. I know this isn't the part of the story they wanted to focus on but a slightly longer look would have been nice.

One thing which was done incredibly well though was the choreography of the songs. Three dancing styles were portrayed in the film, each as good as the other - the subtler but still vibrant ballroom duets, the quick cut and intricate show stoppers and the massive ensemble numbers. I have to give credit to the director, choreographers and editors - they managed to make something which could have been quite messy, slick and polished.

This was helped by the fact that not only did they get a main cast member who has done musical theatre before (which always helps), but the entire cast gave it there all in each number. By the end, when Zac Effron's character slides onto the stage, I wholly believed they weren't just playing characters anymore but simply enjoying entertaining the audience, both in the film and out of it.

I've mentioned the editing already, but I'm going to do so again. It was able to capture the slight of hand and trickery of the circus incredibly well, jumping from scene to scene throw the disappearance or change of character in a split second, such as showing a boy looking at the Barnam coat or Barnam disappearing from the curtain after dancing with Charity. The editing, coupled with the lyrics, allowed some great parallels to appear as well. During Never Enough, the song reflects the turmoil of Carlyle and Anne and the ending compares The Greatest Show on Earth with the greatest show for Barnam - his daughter's ballet dance. Finally, we also had some lovely wide shots (which have made a resurgence this year) which were able to show the isolation of some characters extremely well.

After noticing not one, but two Disney Channel stars helming 2/3rds of the main cast billing, I went into the film expecting some cheesiness and capped emotional ranges. I was proven wrong. Zac Effron effortlessly plays the confident Carlyle, complimented by his singing voice and Zendaya gets the emotions of Anne, a person ostracised not for physical deformations but for how she chooses to live her life. Hugh Jackman excels in another musical (don't worry Les Mis fans, you still get his trademarked fast run) and the supporting cast is all excellent as well. I can't think of a particularly weak performance which is surprising, given just how many cast members there are.

Now to finish up, I have to add the inevitable comparison to La La Land. The songs were written by the same duo, Pasek and Paul (who also wrote the stellar Dear Evan Hansen), and both musicals were released at around the same time, just in time for award season. However, they couldn't be more different. La La Land is gracious and flowing from the dancing and costumes all the way to the cinematography and editing. It allows it's technique to speak for itself and you appreciate it. The Greatest Showman is big and bold, relying on slight of hand and quick editing as well as pure energy from the cast to sell its show. You won't just appreciate this film, you'll love it.

Conclusion: overall this film, this 'celebration of humanity' in all its forms won me over. You should leave not with an 'ahh that was nice', but with ambition and inspiration thrust upon you.

Rating: 90%

Thanks for reading, Satamer.

P.S. reading some other reviews bombarding this film due to its use of artistic licence makes me wonder if they'd changed the names slightly and put it in a different era, would they have then rated the film higher? Let's try and rate films on the quality of the movie itself - if I wanted complete historical accuracy I'd watch a documentary, not a musical.


  1. The soundtrack is still in my head. I love almost every song from it. I hate how the critics are criticizing the movie for not being historically accurate. They should be reviewing the movie itself and the story it tells. They said the same thing about another movie I really like called Saving Mr. Banks.