“And all that was real is left behind…”
The Greatest Showman oozes the cheesiness of a classic musical but makes for a weary affair with not as much pizzazz as its characters are trying to achieve. By no means is this a bad number but it’s nowhere near the heights of the love I shared for La La Land. In fact, The Greatest Showman feels like a poor man’s version of La La Land because of the unoriginal elements in the story and the questionable production choices. Perhaps for those who love gigantic musical numbers, as there are some notable songs, but not enough to warrant my money to go see it.
Though I was happy to see the plot not heavily rely on the idea that real beauty comes from within, I could still see other unoriginal elements that dragged the story down. By this, I refer to the main character betraying their true friends in search of superficial notions and popularity. It’s a trope that’s often used with films set in high schools such as Lady Bird or 21 Jump Street, and I was disappointed to see it used in the environment of a boisterous circus. Especially since The Greatest Showman was doing well to not force feed down my throat the celebration of diversity given I was expecting it to based on the Oscar-nominated song from the film “This Is Me”. Yet the story still chose to follow a formulaic and very predictable plot. I found my engagement factor slipping as such and my interest in each new musical number slowly diminished as time passed on.
From a technical standpoint, the songs were also questionable; there were a few songs that weren’t as catchy as others and most of the tracks appeared to be mixed poorly. There were often times where I could barely make out the lyrics the singers were bombarded by the loud musical background, which is strange given that there were songs that worked well and the music was balanced, so the inconsistency was puzzling.
I also thought that the special effects and certain set design elements were blatantly fake. Animals such as lions or elephants were poorly animated and there were even setting backdrops that didn’t look very real. This was also reflected in several of the circus acrobatics that I could tell used a green screen and animated in the effects later on in the post-production. Was it difficult to hire real trapeze artists to use in the film? Couldn’t the scenes that were trying to display the wonderful acrobatic nature of the circus be done as the real thing? This film could have been great for showing the talent of those in the circus by taking the time to invest in utilizing practical effects. The use of post effects only makes sense when it’s portraying something that isn’t practical to show i.e. two lions leaping through fire and roaring at the crowd in perfect sync. So, either remove those scenes entirely or improve on the talent to avoid producing those effects digitally.
I also wasn’t a fan of how the musical numbers were edited together as there were a lot of unnecessary cuts added in to make it feel more dynamic. I would have enjoyed if the choreography spoke more for the volumes of being exciting instead of what then became just a music video about the circus. There were some talented dancers and choreography on display, but they were often robbed by a cut that would take away from their performance only to show a different angle of someone else dancing. It’s not necessary to use these edits to make the scene more energetic when visually I’m getting enough eye candy to enjoy on their own. A wide shot would have been perfectly fine to let the dancers do what they’re good at and instead could have let me take in the entire scope of the number.
I also thought there were times where a musical number had just finished and then soon after another would begin. Musicals work well when there’s enough silence in between the songs to make their presence feel more powerful instead of becoming one gigantic musical affair. It’s the same with any action film that uses too many action scenes that you soon forget what it’s like to be quiet when you’re being barraged with excessive amounts of noise. There’s no need for another musical number to happen even if it is moving the story along because I’ve just enjoyed the first one that you showed me. So, allow me sometime between the songs and then I can begin to feel their power which would also make them more memorable.
The Greatest Showman isn’t as great as its title alludes to but it’s not a terrible film in its own right. The qualms I’ve brought up are the reasons why I see it as just an average film because that’s exactly what it is. I’d argue that it’s not worth spending your money on to see it. Watch this only if you’re a huge lover of musicals because aside from a few catchy songs and nice looking costumes, The Greatest Showman is very shallow. Skip it.