Repo! The Genetic Opera (US - BD RA)
Gabe dresses up in black leather and eye-shadow for his night at the opera...
In the year 2056 an epidemic of organ failures devastates the planet. Out of the tragedy, a savoir emerges: GeneCo, a biotech company that offers organ transplants—for a price. Those who miss their payments are scheduled for repossession and hunted by villainous Repo Men. In a world where surgery addicts are hooked on painkilling drugs and murder is sanctioned by law, a sheltered young girl searches for the cure to her own rare disease as well as information about her family's mysterious history. After being sucked into the haunting world of GeneCo, she is unable to turn back, as all of her questions will be answered at the wildly anticipated spectacular event: the Genetic Opera.
Repo! The Genetic Opera had a lot of potential—an original story concept, enough catchy tunes to make a few good teaser trailers, and the support of a creative team that obviously believed in the material. Of course, true believers often can’t see the forest from the trees, but in arts and entertainment I’m usually willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. The immediately obvious problems, pre-viewing, all had to do with the film’s style, which appeared a bit to ‘Hot Topic’ for my current tastes. I couldn’t help thinking that had the film been released in early 1995 it would’ve been fifteen-year-old Gabe's favourite thing ever, but in 2009 the anachronistic neo-goth is a little embarrassingly regressive.
Turns out those assumptions were mostly correct, and Repo! looks like, and is about as deep as, an elongated Evanescence music video. Sometimes the look works (as in the Blade Runner by way of CG anime landscape shots, and some of the set design), but when it doesn’t work (the dumb colour schemes, the Sky Captain softness) it’s an obnoxious disappointment. Staying true to the staged nature of the original production is important, and appreciated, and the production looks a little more expensive than it actually was, but did the whole thing really need to look like it was lighted by Van Halen’s stage crew? And did they only have low watt bulbs?
But this is a taste issue, and even those of us that don’t particularly like the look have to appreciate the audacity of it all, and I do. The film has plenty of other problems we can talk about.
Repo! is the only rock opera I can recall that takes the ‘opera’ part as seriously as the 'rock' part. In film and stage form rock operas are more often rock musicals. Opera is defined as telling a story in song form, not a series of talking scenes followed by musical scenes that stop or slow the story. The characters in Repo! bravely sing the vast majority of their lines. Unfortunately, the songs that contain the most anecdotal information often ramble, repeat, and generally sound like they’re being made up as they're sung. Worse, they aren’t the kind of thing most people would want to listen to outside of context. The big exception is the song ‘Zydrate Anatomy’, which manages to give several pieces of plot information, and be genuinely catchy at the same time. It’s a microcosm of what the film could’ve been.
Even these chatty songs don’t really tell the story, though. The majority of Repo’s! sordid tale (which is effectively operatic) is revealed in the many non-animated comic book panels wedged between musical moments. The panels are a stylish way to deal with a low budget, but mostly just made me pine for all the more interesting story pieces that are glazed over. It’s frustrating because there’s a really good Sci-Fi story somewhere in this tangle that isn’t served by the music, and there’s an intrigue behind the music that isn’t served by the story (for example, the songs ‘Chase the Morning’ or ‘At the Opera Tonight’, which were songs I liked much more out of context). I’d rather read a Repo! comic book that takes the time to tell the story of the Genetic Opera while listening to an album of songs ‘inspired’ by the film.
I had both my Repo! and Saw V DVD reviews finished and ready to go when I received the Blu-ray discs by mail, the Monday before release. Tsk. Actually, it’s not a very big deal in this case because the Blu-ray and DVD are very close transfer-wise.
Repo! is such a visually over-produced film it’s very hard to judge the transfer. Those who remember Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow may remember the strange lack of sharpness and loss of dimension that came with the very specific look. Repo! suffers many of the same ‘issues’. Whites are all blown-out, blacks are overbearing, and details are smeared. The richness of the blacks is notable (a big advantage on the hi-def version), as is the lack of edge enhancement, but there are some digital compression elements on the edges of the wide shots. The pureness of many of the bright red colours is impressive, especially the finale which is bathed in intense blood reds. The Blu-ray is generally sharper, and a little brighter than the DVD, but they’re pretty darn close.
If I were someone involved with the blood, sweat and tears of this unlikely production I’d be really pissed off about both disc’s mis-mixed soundtracks. The DVD’s Dolby Digital 5.1 track is the obvious loser, but the Blu-ray’s DTS track has its share of issues. The obvious problem with the DD track is front and centre, so to speak, namely the centre channel speaker, which is way louder than the other channels. The dialogue is all delegated to this super loud centre channel, meaning the lyrics outweigh the rest of the music. There’s almost no music at all in the centre channel when characters are singing leaving a hole when the singing pauses. In general the track is mixed really low as well, losing most of the surround effects that likely would’ve added a bit of artificial bulk to the budget.
On Blu-ray the centre channel is still a little too heavy, and still somewhat lacking of centred music, but the overall balance is much nicer, and the effort put into the surround effects can be better appreciated. There’s still too much echo to the instruments, stealing bite from the crunchier guitars, and there are still some moments where the surround and stereo delegated music is (apparently) purposefully muted for the sake of the centre dialogue.
The disc’s extras begin with two audio commentaries, one with director Darren Lynn Bousman and actors Bill Moseley, Alexa Vega and Ogre, the other with Bousman, creators Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich, and music producer Joseph Bishara. The uphill battle of the entire production, including advertising apparently, is well documented on both tracks by Bousman to the point of annoyance. The actor track is a little on the dumb side, concerned more with corny jokes than talking about the production. The director and creators are more focused, and answer some of the early criticisms pretty well, mostly telling the critics that it’s okay to laugh at the film. Our more professional commentators also point out all the differences between the original stage musical and the film.
Our first Blu-ray only extra is a select scene commentary with Paris Hilton and Bousman. Those of you without Blu-ray capabilities aren’t missing much, as a Paris Hilton commentary is exactly what you’re expecting. Bousman does his best to interview Hilton, and keep her talking, but she sounds really uninterested. The commentaries total around ten minutes.
Next on both the DVD and Blu-ray are two featurettes, ‘From Stage to Screen’ and ‘Legal Assassin’. ‘From Stage to Screen’ takes about eleven minutes to chronicle the birth of the stage play, and the laborious process of bringing it to the screening. There’s some video footage from the stage version, but no audio, mixed with interviews, scenes from the film, and raw footage from the set. ‘Legal Assassin’ is a four minute general making-of the song ‘Legal Assassin’, including the writers and director talking about the song, footage of Head’s audition tape, and footage of the hired musicians (which includes Poe on back-up vocals, remember her?). It must have been made for the internet, because it’s presented in a frame to disguise its resolution, and because the sound is loud and distorted.
The Blu-ray features two additional featurettes concerning the production of the songs ‘Zydrate Anatomy’ and ‘Chase the Morning’. Like the ‘Legal Assassin’ featurette, these featurettes are of lower image resolution (not even anamorphic), and fuzzy audio (which is, funny enough, encoded in stereo DTS), and were likely made with internet in mind. They run four and a half and three minutes.
Besides the greatly improved (but still slightly iffy) soundtrack, the main reason fans might want to make sure they get a Blu-ray copy is the four deleted scenes. The scenes are presented in their rough form—non-anamophic video, minus the post-production effects, and temp sound. Bousman is on hand on track two to tell us why the scenes were deleted (along with Hilton, again), and his reasoning is sound, but the scenes don’t add up to a whole lot. They’re more like the trimmings of full deleted scenes. Bousman somewhat verifies this by noting there’s still a lot more deleted footage on a cutting room floor somewhere.
The Blu-ray disc has two more minor surprises not found on the DVD release—four bouncing ball sing-along tracks, and a poster gallery. Both discs are both finished off by a trailer, and trailers for other Lions Gate releases.
I was really looking forward to Repo! The Genetic Opera, but the final film is a mess of negative and positive points that ultimately all cancel each other out. I still appreciate the obvious love that went into the production, and have no real point of reference, but I can’t help thinking that this one might’ve done better to stay on stage with a bit of a budget boost. I can suggest seeing the film to the curious based on a few good songs, and unsurprisingly fantastic performances from Anthony Stewart Head and Sarah Brightman. I can suggest not seeing the film to just about everyone else.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 20th January 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English HoH, Spanish
Extras: Director/Actor Commentary, Director/Creators/Music Producer Commentary, Select Scene Director/Actress Commentary, Deleted Scenes with Commentary, 'From Stage to Screen', 'Legal Assassin', ‘Zydrate Anatomy’ , ‘Chase the Morning’, 4 Sing-Alongs, Poster Gallery, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Cast: Paul Sorvino, Anthony Head, Alexa Vega, Sarah Brightman, Paris Hilton
Genre: Animation, Horror, Musical and Sci-Fi
Length: 98 minutes
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