Some stories are so timeless that they are adapted and evolved over time. It is not uncommon for a book to be written which is so popular that it is adapted into film. These films will then sometimes be adapted to the stage for a Broadway play. These plays can occasionally be adapted into a musical format. These musicals will carry on the popularity of the source material and once again make it back onto the silver screen. While this cycle can be a little rare, as truly excellent stories are hard to come by, they do happen from time-to-time. What can easily indicate the timeless nature of a story is how often it is retold and how global its reach can be. Hollywood certainly loves its remakes and reboots, but when the story is truly good, other countries will make their own versions as well. This week’s two films look at popular stage musicals that were adapted into movies.
Length: 158 minutes / 2.63 hours
While the Victor Hugo novel that started it all is considered to be a masterpiece, it does tend to ramble and take quite a few detours unrelated to the main plotline. As such, many of the film adaptations are of the abridged version, since a movie’s runtime can only get so long before the audience tires of it. Even so, there were eight film adaptations of Les Misérables before 1980, the 1934 French film even going so far as to be nominated for Best Picture. However, most people today associate this novel with its 1980 musical. Even if there were three more film adaptations after the musical, it wasn’t until 2012 when the musical version of the book was brought to the big screen. With this musical adaptation, the number of American adaptations surpassed the number of French adaptations, the ratio now being 6 to 5.
The main plotline of Les Misérables centers around former convict, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), who has turned over a new leaf after being shown forgiveness, grace, and mercy by a Bishop. As a part of his new life, he has adopted Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), a girl whose mother, Fantine (Anne Hathaway), died as a result of her poverty. Still evading police inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) after many years of good behavior, Valjean and Cosette head to Paris. Growing up into a woman of wealth, Cosette falls in love with a revolutionary by the name of Marius (Eddie Redmayne). As the revolution heats up, Javert finds Valjean again, but is shown the same mercy that the Bishop showed Valjean many decades ago. Valjean’s mercy also extends to Marius, whom he saves by dragging him through a sewer so that Cosette can marry him. Unfortunately, by the time they are wed, Valjean’s life has ended.
The Phantom of the Opera
Length: 143 minutes / 2.38 hours
With the exception of many of Shakespeare’s plays, The Phantom of the Opera is perhaps the most adapted piece of literature ever written. Once again, this French story has spawned nearly thirty films of varying length, format, and faithfulness to the original plot. There have also been numerous radio broadcasts, comics, and TV adaptations as well. The character of The Phantom has permeated all corners of popular culture and is seen referenced almost everywhere. Heck, there’s even a pinball machine based on the story! Other authors have taken The Phantom of the Opera and written their own stories about it, while musicians find its gothic themes ripe for lyrical adaptations. While there have been many stage and musical adaptations of this story, the one that stands above the rest is that of the 1986 musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The 2004 film adaptation used this musical as its source material.
Richard Firmin (Ciarán Hinds) and Gilles André (Simon Callow) have just come into possession of an opera house, but are unaware of its sinister history. While preparing for the next musical, the lead singer is almost killed by a falling sandbag and Christine Daaé (Emmy Rossum) must fill in for her. Christine sings beautifully, which is a shock to many, as this was her first time as the lead. She explains that an “Angel of Music” has been tutoring her. This “Angel” is in fact the “Phantom” (Gerard Butler) that has been terrorizing the opera house for years. He keeps giving Christine opportunities to sing the lead part, but his love is unrequited as she has become engaged to a childhood friend: Viscount Raoul de Chagny (Patrick Wilson). The Phantom’s obsession grows out of control, soon putting in danger Christine and the very opera house itself. It is only true love that can save the day.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 musical adaptations