Ten years ago in 2007, visionary director Julie Taymor (The Lion King on Broadway, Frida) melded 30 Beatles songs and a story of young love against a 60's revolution to create ACROSS THE UNIVERSE.
You have to admire her guts. The last time filmmakers decided to bring a couple dozen Beatles songs to the screen in story form was 1978's mega-bomb career killer "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band". It slayed Peter Frampton's entire livelihood and helped usher in the end of the disco era.
Thankfully, Taymor infuses her brilliant perspective and visual style into every frame and the results are powerful, and powerfully entertaining.
Jim Sturgess (21, Cloud Atlas) stars as Jude, a young, poor Liverpool dock worker who comes to America to track down the American soldier father who abandoned he and his mother 18 years before.
Upon hitting our shores, he meets Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld) as Lucy, an upper middle class girl in love with her boyfriend who's heading off to Vietnam, her brother Max (Joe Anderson) and their click of friends.
As the impact of Vietnam and the tide of sixties cultural revolution overwhelms our young group, Taymor fills the screen with incredible visuals and new orchestrations of classic Beatles songs, sung by the talented cast.
Love, Death, Violence, Unrest & Anger wrap the characters, along with their bohemian discovery of art, rebellion and freedom.
Taymor's incredible here, creating something that's exciting to watch. Using animation, costumes, huge puppets, incredible sets and choreography, she immerses you in her visual interpretations of over 30 classic Beatles songs.
Joe Cocker's "Come Together" is a highlight, as is the entire military induction scene, "Hey Jude" and the perfect "All You Need is Love" finale. Bono's a terrific Timothy Leary-like Dr. Robert. Eddie Izzard's Mr. Kite fails to connect but its a minor flaw from a normally talented actor/comedian who just seems a bit disconnected from the spirit of the film.
The Civil rights scenes pack a hell of an emotional punch, turning "Let It Be" into a moving gut punch against racism.
I've always been a big fan of Taymor. She turned Disney's "The Lion King" into a live spectacle that wows adults and kids alike on Broadway, her film "Titus" with Anthony Hopkins is another feast for the eyes. I've also witnessed her biggest failure, sitting in my seat bored and stunned at how badly brilliance can fail when I saw "Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark" on Broadway". All that visual creativity and style can ring incredibly hollow without a story balancing her vision.
ACROSS THE UNIVERSE is a triumph. The music is incredible and your eyes will be just as pleased as your ears.
Taymor's created a powerful memory of a pivotal time in American history, captured the music of the Beatles and given you new ways to hear the lyrics with fresh perspective.
ACROSS THE UNIVERSE is incredible and gets an A. We'll definitely be watching this one again and again.