Not well, it has to be said.
This version of stage show, with new scenes, characters and cast, opens with a totally unnecessary conversation between some Victorians who dawdle on and off stage with little interest, but we are then presented with some fine CG moments on Mars, where we meet the Martians and watch their journey to Earth.
This scene is presented full screen, as it were, like a film – immediately engaging the audience’s engagement and interest. An impressive start.
Then the story begins as we know it from Jeff Wayne’s brilliant double album. Liam Neeson plays the part of the Narrator here, utilising technology to have him seemingly interact with characters on stage. Again, impressive.
However, for whatever reason, we see him on a screen from the audience’s point of view in the auditorium continuously. He is rarely, if at all, presented full screen for our enjoyment. After the tantalising full screen glimpses at the start, this promise is not fulfilled. The film is shot from the audience’s point of view in London’s O2 and all the action presented on the screens behind (and sometimes in front) of the players.
There’s no sense of cinema here. The same shots of Jeff Wayne wiggling his bum when conducting or slightly more attractive members of the orchestra are repeated, from various angles. One would expect that if you were embarking on a cinematic version of a stage show, the director would be thinking much more creatively than what’s presented here.
Cast-wise, there are some slight issues too. Marti Pellow, normally a charismatic and engaging fellow, is dull and tedious; crooning ‘Forever Autumn’ as if an eight year old forced to with little understanding of the song. Meanwhile Kaiser Chiefs frontman Ricky Wilson puts in a performance worthy of school production, playing the Artilleryman with all the subtlety of fervid football fan on football day.
On the plus side, Jason Donavan, rather surprisingly, makes for a fantastic Parson Nathaniel; his descent into mania is superb and his delivery of ‘Spirit of Man’ is believable and tense. As you would expect Neeson is also solid, adding weight and experience to the much loved role.
Ultimately, this is a missed opportunity; a massively missed opportunity. Despite an intriguing opening, promising a cinematic adventure, this is simply a film of a stage show; a wonderful stage show (despite some iffy performances) but still just a stage show. A DVD release would have been acceptable but for the big screen it lacks any bite or sufficient spectacle.
Released in UK cinemas on Thursday 11 April 2013.