With me being something of a fan, a lover if you will, of The Beatles, this has been a film I have put off watching for quite some time. The reason was really due to reviews I had heard from other Beatles fans that felt that this film was flat, unoriginal, and butchered songs that have changed the idea of this world. Being bored, I decided to give this film a shot and, to sum it all up, this film has a very bad reputation. I am not going to sugar coat it: this is a gorgeous film that, while it has a cliched plot, does treat the material in a fresh way, gives new life to such classic songs that we have all adored, and presents it in a rather interesting way.
One thing that came to mind while watching this was the jukebox musical 'Moulin Rouge!'. In a way, both films are the same in terms of structure, how everything is set up, and the extremes it treats it's music. Only difference here is that all of the songs are by the same artist and there is a somber tone from beginning to end. Yes, the main plot and story is one we have all heard countless times (two youths from different backgrounds falling in love while fighting a cause), but then again, what do you expect? With the plot in mind, it does fit to use The Beatles as the main back drop simply because The Beatles were all about peace, love, and freedom among people in nations corrupted by hatred.
The main surprise for me, while watching this film, was the interpretation of The Beatles's music and how they are presented. There is something funny about art: no two people will have the same opinion of a piece of music. To some, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony tell the story of a great war while to someone else they believe it tells of death, destruction, and hatred. Same with The Beatles. For the most part, this film did not show how I imagined the songs to represent, but that was what was so interesting about this film: you get a new perspective on almost an entire separate genre of music and, in doing so, the songs build a new meaning.
Another shock was how talented and random the cast is. Among the main people we are with, my personal favorites include angelic Lucy (Evan Rachel Woods), Sadie (Dana Fuchs), and Jo-Jo (Martin Luther McCoy). The main reason is due to how they represent their songs and the power of their talent. But when you throw in random people in like Bono from U2 and Eddie Izzard (in my personal favorite scene in the entire film), what you are left with is one cast that is abnormal, odd, but so fun to watch.
Rethinking about this film, this is a musical that goes perfectly with the sub-genre of musicals I have given a name to called 'The Bohemian Musical'. Basically, the plot is simple: random people meet up, they start fighting for a cause, and it ends either in tragedy or in a very bitter sweet format. Musicals that come to mind include the formally mentioned Moulin Rouge! and Rent. But with 'Across The Universe', it takes this structure in a way that is new, fresh, and beyond fun to watch.
Okay, to get this out of the way: this is a Beatles musical that is perfect for those that want to know about why The Beatles were so good, the impact it has left, and a sample of the timelessness of the music that was made over the period of eight years by four young men from Liverpool. Now, as a Beatles fan, I adore this film. As a film fan, this is a flawed film at times. But, the flaws this film does have (like the slow pacing, kind of wooden characters, cliches) can be excused by how gorgeous this film is.