Will It Leave You “Satisfied”?
Hamilton is now on Disney Plus. It was filmed from a production done in 2016 and edited to make it more accessible to an audience sitting at home (i.e. including close-ups).
It, like the show, received massive critical acclaim, but it is not without its flaws. Nothing is without its flaws, of course, but today we’re going to take a look at Hamilton through a critical lens. What’s good about it? What could be improved? And the issues surrounding historical accuracy in the life of Alexander Hamilton and the other founding fathers.
The Broadway show won 11 Tony Awards. Falling just short of the record of 12 held by The Producers. Having seen both shows, I’m not 100% sure I agree with The Producers deserving this honour but whatever. Along with a Grammy Award and the goldarn Pulitzer Prize.
It’s also been met with widespread acclaim from critics. It’s so beloved by audiences that at one point the waiting list to get a ticket to see Hamilton was almost a year, and tickets could cost over $800.
With that said, obviously this show is fantastic overall. One of the major elements that make Hamilton (the Disney Plus version in particular) so special is the cast. Leslie Odom Jr., Daveed Diggs, and Renee Elise Goldsberry all won acting Tony awards for their portrayals. And from watching the show it is clear that they are incredibly strong performers. Especially Diggs in his dual role as Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson.
In fact, the majority of the cast is exceptional in their roles, with one exception (we’ll get to that later though). Which makes the entire experience more enjoyable.
The music is top-notch, with the way the show moves from one song to another making the already-long show (almost three hours) breeze by. The raps are well-written and entertaining. Plus they tell an interesting story (mostly historically accurate) about the founding of America. So it’s educational and has great music!
The song “My Shot” of course has gotten most of the love from the show. But there are many songs from the show that have gotten critical acclaim. To the point that there was a Hamilton Mixtape created of covers of the shows’ songs by popular artists.
One additional thing that I’ve found enjoyable about Hamilton is also the way in which it presents Aaron Burr (sir!) as a sympathetic figure. While he is in many ways the villain of the story (since he does kill Alexander Hamilton). The show tracks his progression as someone who – at the very least – has sympathetic undertones and you can understand why his relationship with Hamilton soured to the point that Burr challenged him to a duel. It reminds me, in some ways, of how Andrew Lloyd Webber created the character of Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar.
What’s Not So Good?
We’ll get to the historical accuracy/inaccuracy issues in the next section. Though, I mean, it’s a show…it’s not really required to be 100% historically accurate, they’re trying to entertain, but moving on. But after watching Hamilton on Disney Plus, there are two things that stand out, one in a minor way but one in a more major way.
The first one, tying back to the “good” category, is that a lot of the songs kind of either repeat or blend together. I mean, of course, the songs are all very good and the raps are good. But, other than a handful of songs (i.e. “You’ll Be Back,” “Helpless,” “It’s Quiet Uptown”) they all kind of blend together and/or repeat themselves.
Many musicals have several songs that stand out and are clearly delineated. But the sung/rapped-through nature of Hamilton means you don’t always know where one song ends and the other begins. But that’s something of a minor nitpick.
The second, and more prominent, issue? I mean…we have to address the elephant in the room here. Lin-Manuel Miranda is a brilliant lyricist, a great composer, and what seems to be an all-around good guy and inspirational story. But Lin-Manuel Miranda as an actor and singer? He’s…he’s not great, Bob. His rapping is OK, but the rest of it…not so much.
In fact, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s performance as Alexander Hamilton almost kind of drags the whole production down at times. The role is one that could be so powerful and meaningful. But he’s just kind of there like he’s the one sleeping with the creator of the show. Except, I mean, he is the creator so, erm, what ya gonna do? Kind of like how Sarah Brightman got the role of Christine in Phantom of the Opera because she was married to Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Like, for instance: the song “It’s Quiet Uptown,” which Alexander Hamilton sings after his son is killed in a duel. When Lin-Manuel sings it, it’s…fine. It’s sad, it has some poignant moments, but not much else. But when you hear Kelly Clarkson perform it on the Hamilton mixtape? It’s a dagger through your heart. And that’s what I mean: with a better, more capable performer in the role of Hamilton, it would make a great show even better.
Hamilton & The Historical Accuracy Questions
Like with any major work based on history. There have been some criticisms of the historical nature of Hamilton’s portrayal of its subjects.
Of them, many of the inaccuracies in the show were minor and/or were done for dramatic intent (see the second link for specifics). For instance, it was highly unlikely that Alexander Hamilton ever truly punched the bursar at his university. But it could be argued that this particular line was more for dramatic effect, rhythm and flow. And to show that Hamilton was someone who would do whatever it took to stand up for what he believed in.
However, there are some credibility issues with the show (as noted in the first link especially). The main ones being that Hamilton was continuing in a trend of making the founding fathers look more heroic that they may have actually been. Especially in response to recent political events in America. And also that – despite the musical making it seem like Alexander Hamilton was staunchly anti-slavery and worked to try and get rid of it. Tthe historical Hamilton never really wrote much on the topic of abolishing slavery and never was known to be as against it as the show made him out to be.
That last point is the most controversial about the show. But really…while the show aimed at being educational to some degree, it is still entertainment. And while entertainment can also double as education. It is technically not Lin Manuel Miranda’s job to be 100% accurate…it’s to tell an interesting, engaging, fun story. Which Hamilton is.
A Summary and Review
It’s really an outstanding overall. But the little things – i.e. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s performance, how many of the songs blend in together – hold it back from me giving it the full 10/10. I wonder, though, if a stronger and more trained actor would assume the role of Alexander Hamilton. If my opinion wouldn’t improve, even though it’s already very high.
If you haven’t seen it already, you should.
CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 8/10
Thanks for reading our review of Hamilton, currently streaming on Disney Plus. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.
Read more of our TV content HERE.
Read IMDB information about Hamilton HERE.
9 Iconic Jerry Goldsmith Film Scores
Jerry Goldsmith may be a name that is not known to you, but some of the music scores he’s created will be etched into your psyche.
The late composer created some of the most iconic film scores from the past forty years. Here are nine of the best.
1. Planet of The Apes (1968)
The first film in the Planet of the Apes franchise was a trailblazer for many reasons. Not only was the story innovative and philosophical, but it also received praise for its special effects. Another thing that made the film so special, was the musical score. Goldsmith had been writing scores for a while, but this was the one that truly put him on the map. He moved away from traditional melodies and experimented with horns, bowls, and strings. The result was a brooding avant-garde tsunami that hits you, wave after wave. Genius.
2. The Omen (1976)
This horror classic has one of the creepiest soundtracks of all time. The subject matter of the child anti-Christ obviously helps. The score for the film was the benchmark for horror that influenced a slew of films in its wake. Goldsmith employed some frankly terrifying Gregorian chants to make the horror more effective. He also combined the chants with some spine-tingling strings and piano. It all works and makes the hairs on your neck stand up when you hear it. This is one of Goldsmith’s most terrifying, yet brilliant works. He even won an Oscar for it.
3. Poltergeist (1982)
Ignore the terrible remake from a few years ago, the original Poltergeist movie was brilliant. What helped make it brilliant is the score that Goldsmith implemented. It’s a far cry from the creepy atmosphere of The Omen, but more of an unsettling lullaby. On first listen it seems like an uplifting piece of music, but after a while, you realise it’s the opposite. Goldsmith wanted to use the family dynamic as the focus of the music, exploring all the layers. The result is a surprising score that earned him an Oscar nomination, although he didn’t win that one.
4. Alien (1979)
Jerry Goldsmith’s score is almost as famous as Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic itself. It wasn’t all plain sailing though. His final score was cut to bits by Scott and the production team, although the full masterpiece is available now. What he achieves here is the coldness and terror of space, and what lies within it. It’s laden with atmosphere that takes you on a journey that touches all the emotions. There is a smorgasbord of instruments used within the score, but there is one that really stands out. The trumpet solos. They are used to great effect, and you can feel the Xenomorph creeping up behind you.
5. Gremlins (1984)
Arguably one of the greatest movies from the 1980s, Gremlins throws together a collection of genres. You’ve got comedy; horror; slapstick; gore and drama all in one. In keeping with that theme, Jerry Goldsmith created the film’s score to mirror that. In fact, it’s so gloriously over-the-top it wouldn’t be out of place in a funfair. The synth is beautifully erratic. It perfectly emulates the chaotic yet lovable rogue elements of the Gremlins themselves. It’s often thought that comedy scores should not be silly, but this preconception is thrown out of the water. Sit back and enjoy the madness.
6. Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
Whereas the first Rambo film had a slight intelligent edge to the violence, Rambo II is an unashamedly hammy shoot-‘em-up. Keeping in theme with the film, Goldsmith manages to keep the score suitably exciting. Using his use of electronics to embellish the strings and horns, it makes for a big, brash, and thoroughly enjoyable listen. He manages to capture the exact feel of the film in his music. That’s no mean feat, and he does it to perfection.
7. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
The first of the Star Trek movies kickstarted a film franchise that’s still going to this day. The music of Trek is in my humble opinion, as important as the moral and optimistic themes of the stories. This is purely down to the genius of Jerry Goldsmith. Although visually superb, the film is a bit of a damp squib. The soundtrack, however, is not. It defines what Star Trek is about. The music takes you on a journey through space and exploration. There are mostly brass instruments that make up the score, and it builds to a crescendo that propels straight to the captain’s chair. The score was that good that it was used as the theme to TNG. This is some of Goldsmith’s finest work that defines Star Trek.
8. Basic Instinct (1992)
This Paul Verhoeven naughty thriller is iconic for many reasons. One of them perhaps more famous than others (ahem). Crossed legs aside, the movie itself is probably more famous for that scene than anything else. The musical score though is rather special. Goldsmith himself admitted this was one of his toughest ones to write. He pulled it off though. The music manages to capture Sharon Stone’s character perfectly. The charming beauty with a malevolent underbelly is clear to hear. He handles the contradictions with absolute aplomb and delivers a simply superb musical score.
9. The Mummy (1999)
This action romp may have had some questionable special effects, but the film score was some of Jerry Goldsmith’s finest work. Created towards the end of his career, it’s the last of the great film scores. It has everything from thunderous action and creepy horror. There are even some feel-good romantic elements. It takes you on a roller coaster of emotions but leaves you feeling fully enthralled. Even into his seventies, Jerry Goldsmith created some of his best work. A true icon and legend of film composition.
That’s our list of nine iconic Jerry Goldsmith film scores, did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below.
Check out nine movie soundtracks better than the films HERE.
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