For a musical, Les Miserables attracted a lot of attention to itself for a very long time. Premiering on Christmas day, underpaid teens across the country were mopping theater floors flooded with tears. Who wouldn't be crying after 157 minutes of sitting?
Les Miserables needed to decide what it wanted to be. It hyped itself as a musical, but with actors instead of singers. Janitors clean, writers write, and actors act. It's what they're best at, actually. Actors can take a script and bring it to life, but in a musical the script is a lyric sheet. It seems that if the entire movie needs to be sung, that singers should be the ones doing it.
Not to take anything away from the performances of Hathaway and Jackman, both of which exceeded my, albeit low, expectations. Even Russel Crow gave a valiant effort, but there's no point to using actors if the camera is just going to be trained on their mouths while they sing, no matter how attractive or famous they are.
Victor Hugo didn't write a musical; he wrote a very dense and very long book. Which was then adapted into a musical for stage, and then again into a movie. The problem is, film is a completely different medium than the stage, and director Tom Hooper didn't incorporate nearly enough creative camerawork to keep it exciting. The shots were long, slow, and as a result the movie was too.
There's nothing inherently wrong with adaptations. If Lord of the Rings has taught us anything it is that great epic books can be great epic movies too. Great epic movies with all star casts win Oscars. However, Le Mis lacks the core elements of cinema that make it such an entertaining medium.
At least when watching it on stage the audience gets an intermission to stretch their legs. The singing wasn't phenomenal, but it was good enough for Hollywood. The acting was first class, but poor cinematography made it difficult to appreciate. In five years Le Mis the film will disappear into the obscurity, while both the book and musical will retain their rightful place in history.