Across the Universe
October 16, 2007

I really shouldn’t pay attention to movie reviewers (which also calls my whole purpose into question, but never mind that now). They panned this film. KC and I just went to see this Beatles musical, and I loved it! Maybe more than he did, which is kind of odd, since he’s one of the world’s biggest Beatles fans. Perhaps that explains it, since I’ve always had an arms-length relationship with the band. Some of the songs used I’d never heard before. (And some I first heard in the Sgt. Pepper’s movie, because I’m broken.)

Across the Universe logoI now have a favorite Beatles song, “I’ve Just Seen a Face”, thanks to the bowling alley number. (Although I think it should be called “Falling”, and yes, I am full enough of myself to think I know better than the band what to call the song.) Even if I was occasionally reminded of Grease 2. This is the only time I’ve liked “Come Together”, too. (Much better than the Aerosmith version.)

The movie has its flaws — although I dearly enjoy his work, the whole Eddie Izzard sequence seemed kind of pointless, and I’m still not sure what Prudence added beyond the song references — but some of its sequences are the most imaginative use of visual imagery I’ve seen in a long time, especially the military induction sequence, in which frightened young men are mechanically processed. And the strawberry art. Rows of juice-leaking berries evoke the American flag and the bleeding bodies being thrown into the maw of war. It’s not deep symbolism, but it’s affecting and powerful.

It’s hard to cram the popular conception of the 60s into two hours, and sometimes the result is cliché (especially the “All You Need Is Love” ending, since we now know better). It’s lovely, though, and involving, and amazing to watch.

Some fun cameos are featured. Joe Cocker has the best role ever for him, and while I thought Robin Williams was playing Bono as Ken Kesey, it turned out to be Bono playing Williams playing Kesey. I don’t know any of the leads, but I will watch other things Jim Sturgess does, because he was magnetic. Plus, he looks like McCartney and sounds like Lennon. Dana Fuchs does an incredible Janis Joplin-like singer, and as KC pointed out, some Beatles songs just sound better coming from a woman. (Even if “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” is one of the stupidest ever.)

Find out more at the official website. Across the Universe is what a movie should be, a new way of looking at the world with strong visuals and a distinct perspective.

14 Responses  
Chris G. writes:  

“[W]hile I thought Robin Williams was playing Bono as Ken Kesey, it turned out to be Bono playing Williams playing Kesey.”

This sentence has blown my mind right off its hinges.

Dave writes:  

Take heart: You are NOT the only one who first heard some of those songs in the Sgt. Pepper movie. I saw it with 4 or 5 friends as an 11th birthday outing. It was several years before I ever heard the original version of “Got To Get You Into My Life.” I still dig EWF’s version.

But it gets worse: I only even HEARD of the the movie by reading about it in PIZAZZ, which geeky 40-somethings everywhere may remember as Marvel’s ill-fated answer to… what, exactly? Dynamite? I used to get that one, too. I think I read somewhere that Dynamite was conceived by Jeanette Khan before she went to DC. I would imagine you and/or KC already knew that. Anyway… Doesn’t matter. As a self-proclaimed Marvel zombie before the age of 10, I would read anything from Marvel I could get my hands on, so I read every issue of Pizazz cover to cover. Even though it was pretty lame.

I liked the Sgt. Pepper movie, but hey, I was 11. I have avoided seeing it since on home video because I assume that, like most of the comics I really dug at 11, it actually really sucks. Society at large seems to have confirmed that. But perhaps due to that early experience, I have no problem with Beatles songs being re-contextualized. Nothing sacred here, just good music.

Johanna writes:  

Wow, what a wonderful wander through some shared history.

I only saw one issue of Pizazz, and yeah, not good. I remember feeling left out because it seemed to assume you knew and cared a lot about Marvel comics.

KC got me the Sgt. Pepper’s DVD as a surprise, and it’s fun to watch if you enjoy cheese.

As for recontextualization, I used to send a college friend into sputters by telling him I liked the Thompson Twins version of Revolution better.

James Schee writes:  

I was another one of those heard the songs in Sgt. Pepper before I’d heard of the Beatles. It wasn’t until years later when I’d become friends with you and KC that, that changed.

I want to see the movie, though may have to wait until it comes out on DVD.

Dave writes:  

“I used to send a college friend into sputters by telling him I liked the Thompson Twins version of Revolution better.”

Heh – sounds like the kind of thing I would have done – are you sure that wasn’t me? But since we had a lot of friends in common back in the day, would you care to let me know who? I used to spend a lot of time up on my musical high horse and don’t remember any company up there. (Ah, but I was so much older then- I’m younger than that now…)

Actually, I can see why you would have liked Thompson Twins’ version better. Though I probably would not have admitted it at the time, lest I lose my indie cred, I owned that LP (“Here’s To Future Days”), enjoyed it quite a bit my senior year of high school and recall that it got a pretty favorable review in Rolling Stone at the time of its release. Their cover of Revolution had a very pleasant, MTV-ready pop sheen (that would probably sound dated today) plus a flashy solo by Steve Stevens, Billy Idol’s guitarist. Perfectly suitable for white suburban teens.

The Beatles version, by contrast, had a very grungy, garage-y, rough-but-right (kind of hard to imagine where Never Mind The Bollocks or The Clash would have come from if Revolution hadn’t come first) quality that has just gotten better with age. And as the flip-side of “Hey Jude” the contrast is pure genius. But pretty startling, no doubt, to your teenage ears.

Marisa writes:  

I’m a lifelong Beatles fan and I really wasn’t certain if I wanted to see this film… but I trust your judgement and if you loved it, I think I’ll give it a chance.

Incedentally, “I’ve Just Seen a Face” has always been my favorite Beatles song, so I’m looking forward to the bowling scene.

~chris writes:  

“movie reviewers … panned this film”

Roger Ebert gave it 4 out of 4 stars. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070913/REVIEWS/709130301

I’m old enough (45) to have been put off by radio overplay of the Beatles in my youth, and I loved this film.

Johanna writes:  

Dave, no, it was Brian (whose last name I can’t remember but he hung around with Sharon). You’ve put some fascinating thought into the difference.

Marisa, turns out that that was the song that turned KC into the devout Beatles fan he is today. Coincidences! And thank you for the compliment of trust.

Chris, I guess that means only the reviewers around here are idiots. :) Thanks for the link.

Dave writes:  

“Dave, no, it was Brian (whose last name I can’t remember but he hung around with Sharon).”

Yes, of course, that makes sense. He lived down the hall from me on campus one year and borrowed and taped a lot of my CDs. I can’t remember his last name either, but I am pretty sure he and Sharon got married.

Halcyon days….

Anon writes:  

I also thought Robin Williams was in this film…

Theresa writes:  

I saw this movie and I was completely blown away. Even though Im 14, I’ve loved The Beatles since my dad introduced me to them when I was about 6. Since then I’ve loved their music more and more all the time, and I was soo psyched when I heard they were coming out with this movie, and I was not dissapointed at all. It was amaazzing!! I saw it 2 times in theatres so far, and I have to say I loved everything about it. It really portrayed the sixties well, with the whole Hendrix and Janis Joplin thing going on, the riots in Detroit, and all the protesting for the war in Vietnam.. They made a lot of connections with The Beatles in real life, like when they sang “All You Need Is Love” on the rooftop of a building, like The Beatles’ last concert. And the way they presented all their songs with a little more meaning and theme, like when they did Let It Be. They showed a young African-American boy in the middle of a riot, and he opens up the song singing it, but he dies and the choir sings it at his funeral, and Lucy’s bf’s, too. It was very theatrical too. You can tell it was the work of a person who has worked in theatre. It made the movie so interesting! I liked the part when they meet Mr. Kite, even though its so eccentric, it was cool, also! Eddie Izzard played that role fantastically. And Bono, he played his hippy role well. And Joe Cocker’s version of Come Together was insane. The music was incredible, with Jim’s voice that sounds like McCartney’s like I mentioned before, Wood’s soft and sweet voice, and Max’s strong and confident voice that reminds me of Lennon. The thing I love about The Beatles, is that you could only do a movie like this with their band. Not one other band could do it. They were such incredible song writers and had such an impact on rock n’ roll and their time. Sure, you could make a documentary or something about a band, but never a musical or a movie this artistic. They were so versatile in their style, so it made it so easy for them to make this movie so elaborate and meaningful. Well, I’ll stop here. I could go on forever! But I have to say, for anyone who loves The Beatles – or even those who don’t, I assure you, you will change your minds so quick! (even my Metalhead friend liked them after this.. That speaks for itself.) – just GO SEE THIS MOVIE! =D

Dave writes:  

Well, that just makes me smile!


James Schee writes:  

Just go through watching this on DVD tonight… wow! It was just so visually impressive, and I was shockd by the Come Together part too as it wasn’t a song I was crazy about before.

Johanna writes:  

I’m looking forward to rewatching it on DVD at some point myself, just to marvel in the images.


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