Repo! The Genetic Opera

On paper, Repo! The Genetic Opera looks like a fantastic thrill-ride of gore, gothic style, and rock opera set against the backdrop of a world that's slowly going out of control. Maybe it's because my hopes were too high, because of the awesome concept, or perhaps it's because of a poor director, but Repo! fails to establish a cohesive narrative and, thusly, any emotional connection to the characters in this narrative. In short, this film's a classic example of style-over-substance.

The film is set in the year 2056; 26 years after an epidemic of organ failures devastated the world. Out of the tragedy, biotech company GeneCo emerged to provide organ transplants for whomever needed them. However, should someone default on their payments, GeneCo sends out the Repo Men - legalized assassins who literally tear out unpaid organs to return to GeneCo. In the 'present' time of this corporation, we follow the sickly 17-year-old Shilo Wallace. Though she's meant to stay locked inside at all times, Shilo's longed to visit the outside world and watch her hero, Blind Mag, sing a genetic opera in-person. However, because of her condition and her father's orders, Shilo remains enclosed and dreaming, though she does take the occasional visit it her mother's grave. What Shilo doesn't know, though, is that her father is actually a Repo Man employed by GeneCo, working in order to hide the fact that he inadvertently killed his wife. What follows is a gothic-styled rock opera, with the snowball of events starting when Shilo accidentally meets the "Graverobber" - an illegal drug smuggler and dealer.

Though the overall film is poor, I can't deny how fantastic and creative the style of this film is. It's like someone took the cinematography of Blade Runner and painted it with luscious black coloring. The style, look, and feel of this film certainly appeased the inner-goth in me, as the darkness and the mixture of dark colors and fluorescence gives the film a sheen post-apocalyptic feel to it. The costume designs look great as well, completely blending in with the world that's been created for this opera. Whether it be Nathan's repo uniform or Blind Mag's classical attire, the style of the costumes is eye-candy just as much as the rest of the film is.

There's plenty to listen to in this film as well. Containing over 60 originally composed songs, the film's got a variety of catchy songs and instrumentals. From genres like metal to classical opera, the music is plentiful enough and varied enough so that virtually anyone can enjoy the soundtrack. Don't like opera? That's fine, the film has some 'harder' songs like "Legal Assassin" to listen to. In the mood for something a bit dark and melodic? Try "Chase The Morning", which is sung by the incredibly talented Sarah Brightman of Phantom of The Opera fame. There are some songs that are just downright awful or bland, such as "Seventeen" or "Mark It Up", but the majority of the music ranges from "OK" to "really good".

As great as the style and music is, however, the film lacks a strong narrative and character development. There is some depth to Shilo and Nathan, but that's about as far as depth goes for this cast. The rest of the cast is static and hard to really care about, because we either only get to know them via song or we're only given a few moments with the people. The children of GeneCo's president, for instance, felt like very unlikable and uninteresting characters. They only speak a few lines throughout the entire film and, when we do see them, they're presented as spoiled and conceited brats. I get that they're antagonists, but they're shallow and completely hollow of emotion or motivation. Even characters like Blind Mag are difficult to become connected with, as we barely ever get to see her until the last third of the film.

In terms of narrative, the plot feels bloated, confused, and hazy in execution. The general plotline, as well as the GeneCo heir subplot, make sense, but these stories feel far too stretched out for a two-hour film. I like character development and focus, but this film feels more like it's going from song to song rather than having a solid narrative. There's little to no development in any shape or form, the songs sound nice but lack character, and it feels like nothing's accomplished until the last half-hour of the film.

Repo! The Genetic Opera promises so much, yet fails to deliver on many of those promises. Though the style's deliciously dark and the songs are pretty good, the film lacks any substance to cling to during the events of the film. The characters feel deflated, the narrative lacks structure, and it's an overall disappointing experience.





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