Monday, 8 August 2011

Les Miserables (1998)

I've already mentioned my love of the book and stage musical of Les Miserables on this blog. I'm cautiously excited about the upcoming movie adaptation of the musical but first I thought I'd do a post about what is probably the most famous and well-known adaptation of the book after the musical, the 1998 movie. I hate this film and it's a dreadful adaptation of the book! But I'll get a few positive comments out of the way before I list my many problems with it. The cinematography and locations are very nice in this film. The acting is good; particularly from Liam Neeson (Jean Valjean), Geoffrey Rush (Javert) and Uma Thurman (Fantine). They all do the best they can with the material that they've been given to work with. However, I just can't like this film due to its many character mutilations and assassinations! The characters are all so unlikeable in this film!

Jean Valjean - in the book he's portrayed as a bitter, angry and animalistic ex-convict who has his life turned around by a single act of mercy and compassion. He becomes a man of God and spends the rest of his life trying to help people and do good deeds. But in this film he comes across as a paranoid fugitive who only cares about his own safety. He would NEVER slap Cosette! Never ever ever! And he would never SMILE just seconds after Javert has committed suicide right in front of him. That's just ridiculous! And why do they have Valjean falling in love with Fantine? There was no romance between them in the book! Valjean felt sorry for Fantine and was upset when she died but he had no romantic love for her whatsoever. And how come Valjean doesn't get a tear-jerking death scene in this film?

Javert - his character is made out to be a villain in this movie. This was probably because the Thenardiers (the real villains of Hugo's novel) are only on screen for about two minutes. Javert isn't supposed to be some evil, depraved villain! He's supposed to be a misguided, overzealous police officer who simply went a bit overboard on the job! He's very much an anti-hero in the book but in this film it's like they actually want you to hate him. I seriously doubt that Hugo would have approved of the scene where Javert punches Fantine in the face, or the scene where he beats up Marius and then ties Cosette up in an alley whilst screaming obscenities at her. I can sort of see why Javert might want to hurt Jean Valjean but what's he got against Marius and Cosette? What have they ever done to him?

Fantine - she isn't blonde and she still seems to have all of her hair and teeth. However, her character hasn't been butchered to the same extent as the others.

Cosette - in the novel she's a gentle, lovely and kind young woman. But in this version she's been changed into a whiny, spoilt brat who pouts and sulks when she doesn't get her own way! And how come she doesn't get married to Marius in this movie? Where's the big wedding scene?

Marius - I prefer Marius in Hugo's novel and I was hoping that this film might include some of the information about his character that the musical omitted. But it doesn't. It never once mentions Marius's father or his relationship with his grandfather. It never mentions Marius's prior connection to the Thernadiers. And Marius is now the leader of the student revolution! What??? Marius shouldn't be standing on top of a table making speeches! He should be trying to find Cosette or mourning his dead dad. Give him a larger role in the revolution by all means but don't make him the leader! Marius may be a brave man with a good heart but he's not exactly Enjolras material! But Enjolras isn't even in this adaptation. Enjolras and Marius have clearly been combined together to form one character. It doesn't work at all! Neither Enjolras NOR Marius would smirk if someone made a comment about them wanting to make love to Cosette so I really don't see why some hybrid Marjolras would! Enjolras would have given them one of his cold death stares until they shut up or stammered out an apology, and Marius would have just punched them. Marius comes across as being a bit creepy in this version as well, what with his stalking Cosette and all : S

The Thenardiers - as I've already mentioned they're only in this film for about two minutes and are never seen again.

Gavroche - it isn't mentioned that he's the Thenardier's son or that the two little boys he is taking care of are really his long-lost brothers. OK, ok, the musical didn't include this information either but at least it gives Gavroche more time on stage than he gets in this film. Gavroche only gets about one or two scenes in this but since the child actor is annoying maybe that's not such a bad thing. 

Eponine - her character isn't even in this film and I honestly cannot believe that they didn't include her! She's one of the book/musical's most popular and interesting characters! And having her in the movie would have added some more depth to the Marius-Cosette romance if the film-makers had had the sense to include her.

Enjolras - honestly how can you even have a Barricade scene without Enjolras?! Marjolras doesn't count! He's another character that's popular and interesting so I really don't understand his exclusion either.

Grantaire - he's another character that's missing in this movie. Another mistake. His drunkenness could have livened things up a bit and brought some humour into the story.

Rating: 1/5


Anonymous said...

This was on TV today so I watched it to see just how bad it was. I think it started quite well and was fairly faithful to the story until Valjean and Cosette left the convent and then it went downhill fast. Valjean hits Cosette for crying out loud! I DON'T THINK SO! And I thought Marius was well creepy too. Rush did very well as Javert I thought. I agree the character was over-villainised but that's not his fault.

Indigo Montoya said...

I do agree that Rush does as good a job as the script allows and that the film does start off fairly well - but everything that happens from Valjean and Cosette leaving the convent onwards is just so horrendously bad that I can't forgive it! They also turn Cosette into a sulky, ungrateful bitch and I hate that they combined Enjolras and Marius's characters together - especially since the Marius in this version doesn't behave like Book Enjolras OR Book Marius. I think it's quite sad that they didn't have Eponine in this version either. Admittedly if you're going to leave out any of the major characters from the book then Eponine is the logical choice. You couldn't have Les Mis at all without Valjean, Fantine, Cosette, etc. But Eponine is such a great character that it's still a shame not to have her in there.