Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)
Not Your Parent's Opera
Ever decide that operas were too old and lame? Maybe they weren't violent enough for you, or sexy enough to satiate what you would call your style? Well, let me introduce in this corner, weighing in at an hour thirty eight minutes, The Genetic Opera. Can this intriguing tale be found to be in your genetic predisposition of enjoyment, or will you be seeking out someone to repossess the time you spent watching it?
The tale is one of treachery, greed, and all manner of problems with humanity. It sounds pretty heavy, but remember that this is a musical opera (similar in the veins of Phantom of the Opera - where it isn't quite a full blown opera), so most of the conveyance of these thoughts are done through the power of music, as well as some good acting. Of course, it would be deplorable of me to not mention that the back stories for our key players are all exposed to us through use of comic panels - yes, still pictures with words to read. Lead man Nathan (Anthony Head) and his to-be wife fall in love with each other, which leads to jealousy from a dangerous place - one Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino). You see, Rotti is the owner of GeneCo - the company that has literally saved the world when mysteriously organ failures begin to crop up out of nowhere - and has a thing for Marni, and all that power has gone to Rotti's head. In a bid of vengeance, he slips poison into our dear Dr. Nathan's lab, and in his bid to cure his wife Marni from a disease instead poisons her (without him realizing it).
Finding enough time to save their baby, it's not long till the now framed for murder Nathan ends up striking a deal with Rotti to allow him to continue to raise his daughter and not be (jailed / executed / whatever would have ended up happening) - but at what cost? Nathan then has to become the Repoman, who's purpose is to go and reclaim the organs from their owners who have defaulted of fallen behind on their payments to GeneCo. It's a gruesome task, but at least he can still try and raise his daughter Shilo. Shilo, now 17 (played by Alexa PenaVega), unknowingly sets the entire wheels of this gothic opera in motion by going outside without her mask one day (to catch bugs), and is noticed by Rotti on a camera (and also introducing the character of the Graverobber - who serves a bit as a narrator of sorts).
Meanwhile, Rotti is dying and has three worthless kids - one with major anger issues, one obsessed with face-stealing (it's exactly what it sounds like), and the third addicted to surgery and the drug related to it (zydrate) - whom he has no faith in running his company. Repulsed by his own children, he instead hatches a plan to turn Shilo into the company heir instead. Event after event transpires, particularly after Shilo meets Blind Mag (Sarah Brightman) who used to be her mother's best friend, until we meet a fever-pitched final climax that promises nothing but a bloody conclusion to this strange and morbid tale.
Acting here is pretty well done - as with most movies some actors are a bit less... exciting to watch then others. It's not necessarily a case of an actor doing a bad job, as much as it can be that some of the characters (particularly the Largo kids) are just these purposefully poorly done characters (a move that I expect was done to emphasize their negative qualities). Of course, it's not just about the acting when it comes time to call something an Opera - no, it's not just the body that matters, but the voice! In that respect, man can this cast throw out some lovely tunes. Even without watching the movie and just listening to it, there's a very high chance you can pick up the emotions meant to be moving around in the scene of a particular song - Head himself does a remarkable job of bouncing from sad emotional to menacing, determined, and directed rage. Although she doesn't have a lot of songs in comparison to the other big characters, Brightman also does a excellent job blowing minds with her vocal talent in the ones she does sing.
Costumes are also varied and interesting. From the gaggle of beautiful, often Gothic-themed dresses found on the various actresses to the black, creepy, and businesslike wear of the Repoman himself. It's a nice bit that helps emphasize some characters more than others - the anger-issued son Luigi, for example, looks rather plain in comparison to the rather eccentric outfit of the Graverobber's second appearance. It's a nice blend that makes things seem believably future, and yet at the same time somehow impossibly exotic and dark. Sets follow suit, having futuristic elements such as holographic paintings but also having a very Gothic, sometimes circus-like feel to them.
As you would expect from a movie that pretty much tells you something genetic is going to be repossessed, things can get pretty violent. As far as the violence goes, a good chunk appears to be rather real or practical in nature, although for sure other parts are computer generated (the holographic pictures being the most noticeable). In comparison to other films as far as the violence goes, it's far less worse than a zombie movie, but certainly more graphic then your average action flick (original Robocop withstanding). It's possible it could be a point of contention to some viewers though, which is a shame because most the imagery is impressive - even if sometimes the execution of it staggers.
Obviously, it won't be for everybody. The musical portions are wonderful, but as one would expect some songs are less enjoyable or impressive as others. The violence and overall sexy feel (the naughtiest you will really see is one or two brief instances of breasts) can turn some off to it, but if you can find a way to push through that it's quite an enjoyable experience. If you can't bare to watch things with music in it - even if it's more heavy and rock oriented than the average fair - then I guess you'll also have to miss out on this one. Otherwise, I would say you should try and take the time to watch it - maybe not go out and buy it until you know you like it, but maybe borrow it from a friend or rent it for sure..