Thursday, January 1, 2015

Into the Woods

I have never seen the play from which this movie stems.  I don't know the songs.  At least among many of my friends, this ignorance is unusual.  It allowed me, though, to come to the film as a fresh viewer, one with no preconceptions of what it should be.

I left wondering what all the fuss was about and fundamentally disliking what little message it has.

Let's deal with the message first.  Yes, I know that fairy tales were originally darker than the versions that most people know today.  I have read original versions of many fairy tales.  I think it's telling, though, that the lighter versions have far outstripped in popularity the darker ones.  In the course of showing us the dark sides of some of these fairy tales, this film basically delivers the message that life is hard and will beat you down.  Okay, we'll all die at some point, and life often is hard, but I find little value in art that tells me only that.

The music was pretty, though often repetitive.  The lyrics were clever.  The actors did a fine job.  All the ingredients were there to make a fine film.

I still left feeling that the film was overly long, having been bored in many spots, and ultimately being dissatisfied with the message.  If you loved the musical, I assume you'll enjoy the film, but for me it was a bust.


Eric said...

I know the show pretty well, and while I liked the movie well enough for what it was. However, it's fundamentally different from the musical. The movie adapts the first act of the play well enough. However, there's no demarcation between the action of the first and second acts, so the whole "this is what happens after happily ever after" aspect of the play is missing. The second act is compressed into the last half an hour and is so butchered that it's an incoherent mess.

With the exception of Johnny Depp, I thought the performances ranged from good to excellent. However, the characters have been simplified a lot, giving the actors much less to work with. The Witch, in particular, is so caricatured by the end of the movie that the climactic "The Last Midnight" no longer makes any sense. Streep sings the hell out of it though.

I've always thought the ending of the musical says that we can go and rebuild after devastating loss - a timely message for a musical written when AIDS was ravaging the Broadway community. Not sure what the movie's message was, except that Disney probably wanted to stop at the wedding, but felt obliged stick some darkness onto the end.

Fans of the musical will go see the movie. However, if you don't know the play, you'd be better served to wait till you can see a good live production.

Mark said...

Perhaps I should at some point go ses a live production.


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