As a spectacle, this is more or less a successful piece of film. Nic Cage is at his Nic Cage-iest, and the dramatic, fiery special effects were all quite impressive. However, the story is not particularly engaging and there's far from anything remarkable about it. This felt like it belonged in a Grindhouse theater, but I think that may have been the intention. No one was expecting a masterpiece here, and the fact that the team from "Crank" and "Jonah Hex" was put at the helm is indicative of that. If you walk in expecting a decent narrative, you picked the wrong movie.
That said, the movie ultimately didn't feel as fun as it could have been or was intended to be. It seemed to lack key moments of badassery that make these movies connect with general audiences. So, even grading it on a grindhouse level, this wasn't quite up to par. That said, it is not as horrendously bad as the ratings and reviews place it. It is just another sub-par hollywood action/super hero movie.
This was not a bad movie, but it also wasn't a great one. The two biggest assets to the film over the stage here (the scenery and cast that only Hollywood can provide) would up being distracting. Jackman and Crowe seemed so wrapped up in their individual performances that they forgot the other was on screen. Other critics have accused Hathaway of chewing the scenery, but I didn't find it to be too much of an issue. The ensemble casting was hit or miss outside of the comic relief in my opinion, which did some damage to the pathos of the whole experience. Who were these kids we were supposed to mourn for? They came out as only vaguely familiar faces #'s 1-8. If you are a fan of the work previously, then no problem. But what about the walk-in moviegoer? Probably the least of my concerns, but Crowe was not particularly impressive as a singer. Overall, best for the dedicated fan over anyone else. 7/10, it is still leagues ahead of the usual box office schlock.
This was a movie filled with interesting and risky choices. The setting, the dialogue, the casting, the style: it all panned out superbly. The chemistry between both Foxx/Waltz and Jackson/Dicaprio was unexpectedly astounding, and the choices in ghastly imagery were more than mere exploitation. There were no gasps in my theater during the more grisly scenes, just a powerful silence. I've seen plenty of Tarantino violence, but it has never been so powerfully sickening. In my opinion, it was deservedly and rightfully so. The setting shouldn't be treated any differently. What Spike Lee describes as a 'Holocaust' should be depicted as such, with no blows held back in regards to stark and grim reality of the time. For a movie based on and expected to be mostly mindless action, much of the violence was more affecting and deep than I had expected. He went places in depicting the "Peculiar Institution" in film that has rarely (if ever) been dared. The fact he was able to get laughs out of his dialogue despite the tone and style of the movie says quite a bit for Quentin's penmanship. It is also worth noting that the dialogue flow and form didn't stick out with the setting, despite it being well out of Tarantino's comfort zone of the contemporaneous.