We were fortunate to go see the advanced screening of Into the Woods before its premiere on Christmas Day and we have both spoilers and spoiler-free reviews to share!
Spoiler-Free Into the Woods Review
Although it was a fun movie, some may not want to repeat seeing the movie, especially if you haven’t seen the musical. However, if you are a regular musicals goer, then we recommend watching it more than once. We heard that the musical stayed true to its musical counterpart; it was like Les Miserables, where almost everything is sung and set to music. In fact, just the intro song lasts for fifteen minutes, and goes on and on through the entire movie. It was clearly the main theme of the entire show, and as someone who isn’t familiar with the show, you may have a thought that the singing wasn’t going to end, but after a few minutes it did, eventually. There are some dialogues, however, so don’t worry.
From the intro song alone, we already met several characters in the story that we are already familiar with, such as Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk; some even stayed very true to their fairy tale counterparts. But what’s really cool is that, just like Once Upon a Time, how they wove the stories in together, where the stories are connected to each other, as well as the characters interacting with each others. Although we’re not familiar to the musical, we found and listened a bit to the musical’s cast recording and found one with Bernadette Peters and surprisingly, her version and the ones from the movie sounded a lot like each other. They clearly made great casting; this movie-musical version feels like it’s just one seamless thing going on.
There are also certain moral issues being brought up from this version of Into the Woods that we are a bit on the fence with. It was very Disney-fied, but in a good way. The soundtrack also is great. They did a great job keeping the energy going. Even though we, at some point, already wished the music to be over already, we still think that the soundtrack is great. We didn’t go into this thing thinking it would be like Les Miserables where the music will be constant music, but more like a regular Disney movie like Frozen. Perhaps if we went in expecting that, our perspective will definitely different. Speaking of Les Miserables, we thought the boy who played Jack was the same boy in Les Miserables in the revolution part.
The graphic details in the movie was great. There are some unexpected comedic moment; some over-the-top-dramatic certain things get. It’s great cast that they got for it. Great cinematography; great storytelling, and plenty of surprises along the way. We didn’t knew any of the storylines but we didn’t expect anything that happened, including the ending. The ending, however, disappointed us. It was a bit on-stage ending, we almost wished that they could’ve, perhaps, added an epilogue or something to set something with what happened in the final scene. But, again, if they were trying to stay true to the original production, that probably would have been a no-no.
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Spoiler-Filled Into the Woods Review
The way it starts out is with a premise that there is this evil witch who lives next door to the baker and his wife, giving us the introduction to the whole plot of all of this. Once Upon a Time fans will be familiar with the poofing, but probably with less poofing than the show. They even made some fun with how violent her poofing can be in and out of places. But the basic premise is that the baker and his wife can’t have a child so they needed to get these basic things for the curse to be reversed, which you would probably recognize because they’re all these things from these iconic stories—the golden slippers from Cinderella, the cow wise milk that Jack sells to get the beans, and goes on and on like that with all these other things.
We liked the way that all these characters are weaved together, like when they met each other in the woods and strange things started to happen. The wolf, played by Johnny Depp, was not in a whole of the movie, which is funny and fine, but that wolf was creepy. The first half of the movie may be lighthearted, but he was super creepy as the Wolf. It even got a bit uncomfortable at times, especially when he was talking about eating Little Red Riding Hood.
Putting aside all logic and actual physics, they stayed true to the story and it was the baker, not the hunter, who cut out Granny and Little Red Riding Hood. They also stayed true to the original Cinderella story when the prince took the shoe to different places to see to whom will the shoe fit. The two prince charming’s in this movie—Cinderella’s and Rapunzel’s—who were both princes of the same kingdom, were also overly dramatic and hilarious, especially during a scene where they were dancing and singing portion that involves ripping their shirts open and ridiculously singing. Although it was overly dramatic, we still think that it’s still great and makes perfect for the movie.
But the really cool twist that they took is when they made Rapunzel the Baker’s sister that the witch kept. On the other hand, we were a little bit frustrated by it because the baker finds out early on that he has a sister that the witch took and he, apparently, never meets her; never finds out who she is even after running around through the woods with her hair around him next. We definitely wanted some resolution about that. Another twist that we find cool from this movie is that Jack didn’t just go up and down the beanstalk and steal things. We thought that there were some reconciliation that’s going to happen, but it seems that they left a lot of things in grey area in this movie.
We also love the song about how they try to figure out whose fault everything was, the story, the connections and how all the things have happened from all the character’s perspective. It was clear from this movie that, just like Once Upon a Time, everything is connected as well.
Nearly all of Act I is musical; there was barely a dialogue in it. Act I was fairy tale, while Act II was like “this is real life”, where things got darker and it feels like, in a sense, there were no happy endings at all. Plus, the reason we think it ended almost depressing was kind of where it ended; it would have been cool if they left the woods. But just like how things usually is in Once Upon a Time, all magic comes with a price.
Although the Baker got his son, he lost his wife in the end. It was almost like they were putting together a new family. Cinderella got to go to the ball, meet the Prince, dance with him, was going to marry him but discovers that he seduces everybody so she’s no longer with him; Rapunzel ends up losing her relationship with her mother, who was the witch but goes off with a Prince in return. Just like in real life, sometimes it takes a certain experience for us to realize who we really are or who we could be that changes us for the better, and sometimes, that is a really rough experience where, we think, some of the ideas come from. In some way, it is kind of symbolic of that for us.
The happy ending is certainly weren’t what you would expect and that left us thinking that it was kind of a let down. But if you’re a fan of the musicals, then you would probably loved it even. It felt like some of the music were overdone, like the opening song, which last for about 15 minutes, but our favorite part was definitely Meryl Streep’s Stay With Me. We never knew what that song signify but we loved its melodic tune and the way she sings it. Going to this, you probably want to expect it to be a musical, very much like the stage version.
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