Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)

This is a splatterpunk gothic opera set in a dystopian future where cosmetic surgery and organ transplants have become ubiquitous, because they are cheap and available on payment plans.  Part of how the prices are kept so low, however, are the savage penalties if you fall behind on said plans. Default on payments, and your new organs will be forcibly repossessed.  It is a corrupt, venal and decaying society.  The story focuses on one young woman, who suffers from a rare blood disease, and the traumatic and turbulent events that occur when she comes to the attention of the world's most powerful family.

So some people hate all musicals on principle, but I'm not one of them.  I have no objection to songs in film, and have thoroughly enjoyed many musicals over the years.

But one thing I do insist on, in a musical, is memorable songs.  Songs that stick in my head and make me hum them for hours (or occasionally days) afterword.  The Little Mermaid is made of earworms, for instance, while Rent has tracks like "No Day But Today", "Tango: Maureen" and "La Vie Boheme" to hook into my brain.

After that paragraph, I bet you can guess where I think this film fails.

It's a shame, too, because there are things to like in this film.  The visual design is good for one thing, with the macabre (if implausible) world of the future brought to life with real panache.  The cast is one that I really want to like, and you can see they give it their all.  Most of the core members have decent or better voices, too.

But the songs, oh dear the songs.  The music is frequently repetitive, but never catchy.  The lyrics are clumsy and awkward.  The staging is mostly stiff and lifeless (there are occasional exceptions to this last point, but they tend to go too far in the opposite direction).  And whoever made the ill-advised decision to have some of the dialogue "spoken-sung" needs their head examined.

One other thing to warn people about, is that under the glossy surface nastiness of the film is ... more, bleaker, decidedly not-glossy nastiness.  It's not far short of High Plains Drifter levels of unpleasantness.

Still, I could probably forgive it that if it had good songs.

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