‘The Greatest Showman’ is one of the most anticipated films of the festive period. A host of huge name stars is topped by Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron and Michelle Williams. Bill Condon has co-written the screenplay, following successful involvement in the films ‘Chicago’ and ‘Gods and Monsters’, getting an Oscar nomination for one and a win for the other. Seamus McGarvey is involved as cinematographer, a man whose successes are so great its hard to list.
One thing is distracting me when watching the trailers though. For all the brilliant theatrics, set pieces, costumes and star power, there appears to be no mention of the fact this is a musical. Well, that’s not strictly true. There’s a brief mention right at the end of each trailer to “music from Academy Award and Tony Award winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul”. Not much of a way to sing the praises of the central crux of the film.
My question is: why? In 2017 we’ve already had proven to us that cinema-goers love musicals. ‘La La Land’ achieved a global box office of $445,669,679 (as of 25th November 2017), based on a budget of $30m. Admittedly, this may be an exceptional and unexpected success, but it sets a precedent that there is certainly an appetite for a well-delivered musical.
It’s not as if this hasn’t bitten other films before. When Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd was released in 2008, cinema-goers in the UK were seen to walk out of screenings due to the misleading nature of the trailers. Complaints were made to the Advertising Standards Authority. It looked like a horror film but turned out not only to be a musical, but a faithful version of a Sondheim musical. Guess what? Sondheim famously makes his musicals extremely musical-y, with seemingly the entire film being delivered in song form.
It just feels incredible that a studio would make the same mistakes again. The craziest thing is that the music is absolutely brilliant and should be being trumpeted to help sell the film. The lead cast are all seasoned musical professionals – a huge improvement on the likes of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘The Jungle Book’, which featured the more experienced musical performers in minor roles.
You can listen to a couple of tracks below and make your mind up yourself.
I’m a great believer that audiences are intelligent enough to make their own decisions. We hate to be lured into an auditorium under false pretences.
I guess we’ll find out if there’s any backlash this Christmas.