Movie: The Greatest Showman

"The Greatest Showman"

“The Greatest Showman” is a bold and original musical that celebrates the birth of show business and the sense of wonder we feel when dreams come to life. Inspired by the ambition and imagination of P.T. Barnum, “The Greatest Showman” tells the story of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a mesmerizing spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.

Ever since I saw the teaser for The Greatest Showman, I knew I wanted to watch the film. I love musicals, and it has been so long since a proper movie musical was made, so I knew this was a film I’m going to want to watch in a theater.

And I was not disappointed.

I guess it helped that my expectations were managed. The film came out last year in the United States, and the reviews were less than phenomenal. People didn’t like the fact that The Greatest Showman glossed over the less-than-desirable characteristics of P.T. Barnum. Some thought the film was shoddily edited, and certain story threads were dropped and picked up willy-nilly. And a lot people said it just wasn’t that good. They were all correct.

The Greatest Showman wasn’t good, because it was something else. It was… transcendent.

Don’t get me wrong; the film could use a lot more fixing. Especially when it comes to how the story is told.

The film suffers from having to follow two separate threads from the moment Zac Efron’s character is introduced. Suddenly, on top of the P.T. Barnum main storyline that wanted to deal with inclusivity, acceptance, humility, and contentment–you also had to follow an interracial romance that was completely separate from the already-full Barnum plate.

The characters’ emotions don’t have a linear development; they provide what the script wants to happen, rather than the script following what the characters are feeling. And as such, there are a lot of character development that are waylaid because the film would rather barrel through the plot lines it wants to hit.

There are a thousand and one things you can point out where the film was lacking. Mostly in the storyline, in the character progression, and even in the directing. But there are just as many things to love about the film–mostly because of the cast and their passion for the film they made.

Hugh Jackman, Zendaya, and Keala Settle are truly exceptional in The Greatest Showman. The life they bring to the characters fill out what is lacking in their characters’ emotional development. Zac Efron and Michelle Williams complement their respective partners exceptionally, providing grace and elegance to the turmoil that is the conflict of the film.

The characters breathe because the actors behind them are giving them life. And because of their portrayals, you don’t notice until after the film has ended that said characters aren’t really fully-formed. The cast–all of them, not just the ones I enumerated–are the ones informing the audience of who their characters are; Not the story, nor their decisions in the story, but their acting.

I would also say it’s the cast that brings the songs to life. They inject their vulnerabilities into the songs, making them something more than just the words that accompany the melody. Listen to the dozens of “This Is Me” covers on YouTube, and then listen to Keala Settle’s version. The mix of fear, of uncertainty, and of strength she imbues the song elevates it into an anthem. So much so that you don’t notice how the emotional reprise within the song is abruptly cut short just so the song could go back to being a call to arms.

And then there’s Zac Efron and Zendaya’s “Rewrite the Stars.” There is restraint in the way the sing the song, a restraint that becomes heartbreaking when you see how it is directed on screen. And I mean that in a good way.

If you watch the film, you can see how director Michael Gracey pours love into his staging of the musical numbers. His direction heightens the emotions of the songs that pepper the movie musical. If only he had done the same for the transition scenes, the ones in between the singing.

But there’s not point in focusing on what might have been. The film is made. It is out in theaters. And if you’re looking for a reason to watch The Greatest Showman, watch it for the passion–of the cast, of the director, the choreographers, the costume designers, the production designers, and everyone else involved in the project.

Let their passion inspire you to dream, to accept, and to come alive.

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Book: Hunter

"Hunter"

The defeat of the near-invincible villain Krodin has left a void in the superhuman hierarchy, a void that two opposing factions are trying to fill. The powerful telepath Max Dalton believes that the human race must be controlled and shepherded to a safe future, while his rival Casey Duval believes that strength can only be achieved through conflict.

Caught in the middle is Lance McKendrick, a teenager with no special powers, only his wits and the tricks of a con artist. But Lance has a mission of his own: Krodin’s ally, the violent and unpredictable supervillain Slaughter, murdered Lance’s family, and he intends to make her pay.

In the fourth installment of Michael Carroll’s acclaimed Super Human series, Lance–unwilling to be a pawn in Dalton’s and Duval’s plans–turns his back on his friends, breaking his ties with the superhuman community. He embarks on a life-changing journey across the United States, searching for the skills and means to attain his true goal: vengeance against Slaughter.

I didn’t know this was coming out. I didn’t know it was out. Good thing I got stuck in a mall then. Because Hunter? Is wicked good. And I’m not just saying that because it focuses on my favorite character from Michael Carroll’s series. Hunter really is good. Even if I still don’t know what the book was supposed to be about.

But why don’t we figure it out together?

Hunter is about Lance, one of the more important characters from the series of novels author Carrol wrote as a prequel to The Quantum Prophecy trilogy. He’s not a superhuman, but he isn’t completely human either. He has a gift of gab, which is one of the reasons why I enjoy reading him. And while he’s plenty annoying at times, he’s not wring-his-neck annoying like Seth from Fablehaven.

Unlike Stronger, Hunter’s bridging of the prequels and the original trilogy is more linear–and easier to follow.

Hunter has Lance traveling through the United States of America, before flying off the country. He also sows seeds that were missing in the prequels, but bloom in the original trilogy.

Overall, it’s just a better bridge between the timelines.

Hunter features a side-story where Lance spends time working for a carnival. And it’s a fun little side trip that really doesn’t add anything to the story–but sets up an event that will, I think, be important in the next book.

Hunter starts with a goal that we know wouldn’t come to fruition. A goal that gets a satisfying ending, but is ultimately a frustrating mislead because it’s so obviously a set up to get Lance out of the main action. Because he is never mentioned in the original trilogy, and there has to be a reason why.

But the book is good. It’s an enjoyable (and fast) read. And even though it was, ultimately, just a set-up for the things that happened in the original trilogy, and the things that will happen in the (maybe) finale, you wouldn’t mind. Because it’s an enjoyable read.

In a way, it’s similar to Jonathan Maberry’s Flesh & Bone. It’s just a bridge between events. Our main character develops his personality. He grows as a person. But unlike Flesh & Bone, we don’t feel a palpable tension to the events that will unfold. We don’t feel the drama leveling up. We don’t fear for the characters because we know that they will be just fine. Because we already know what happens with The Quantum Prophecy. This book is more an explanation of how things change, more than an actual stand-alone story. And that is a point against Hunter.

And yet it’s a fun read. Wicked, and not just because the cover is green. So I don’t feel like I wasted my time reading this book.

I just wish there was more meat to it. I wish we spent more time building up to what happens after The Quantum Prophecy. Because, obviously, something big is coming up. The end of The Quantum Prophecy teased it. Stronger teased it. Hunter spells it out in the epilogue.

So why wasn’t there more to Hunter? Why did we have to spend so much time on an ultimately useless, albeit entertaining, chapter of Lance’s life as a circus worker?

Was it wrong for Michael Carroll to turn Hunter into its own novel, instead of keeping it as flashbacks throughout the final book? We’ll find out for sure when said final book comes out.

In the meantime, I’ll stand by my stance that Hunter is wicked good. If only because it’s a fun book to read.

I couldn’t find more than one review online though, so you’ll have to make do with mine–and this guy’s (Judge-Tutor Semple) for you to make your mind up on whether you’re willing to give this book a chance.