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Hamilton First Reviews: Better than a Front-Row Seat

Critics say the filmed version of Lin-Manuel Miranda's Broadway sensation lives up to the hype and captures what makes the stage production so compelling.

by | June 30, 2020 | Comments

With this week’s news that Broadway will remain shuttered through the year, Disney’s presentation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton couldn’t be more essential. The filmed version of the stage show, documented from a few performances by the mostly original cast in 2016, arrives on Disney+ this Fourth of July weekend, allowing fans and newbies alike a chance to see the musical phenomenon in the comfort of their own homes. Of course, critics are happy to recommend this next best thing to the live production, whether they’d seen it before or are finally getting a first taste themselves. Some are even saying this is the film we need right now.

Here’s what critics are saying about Hamilton:


Does the film do the live show justice?

Hamilton on streaming… reveals once again the brilliance at its core — and confirms it as foundational myth worth treasuring time and time again.
– Angie Han, Mashable

[It] captures the widely-beloved show’s infectious vigor and electrical charge, spinning it into a renewed powerful, affecting, and immersive experience.
– Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

The filmed version of the Broadway sensation makes for immersive, exhilarating, magnificent cinema.
– Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times

[It] is the greatest translation, democratization and preservation of any Broadway show, ever.
– Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

The film adaptation is a marvelous and welcome addition to the show’s legacy in spite of a few imperfections.
– Linda Holmes, NPR

Hamilton is as monumental a thing as ever.
– David Ehrlich, IndieWire


Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton
(Photo by ©Disney+)

How is it for those who have seen the show before?

Absolutely, positively, there is new insight and new excitement here for people who already know that they love this show.
Linda Holmes, NPR

Experiencing the complete production on film for the first time, I was affected by parts of it more piercingly than ever before.
David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

Hamilton‘s biggest show-stopping numbers are just as impactful on the small screen.
Brent Hankins, The Lamplight Review

For those who have seen the show live, the biggest added value here is the expanded revelation of the vulnerability displayed by the actors.
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune


Does it live up to the hype for the first-timers?

Against all odds, lives up to its hype. Breaking news, I know. But… I’d convinced myself that Hamilton couldn’t be nearly as good as the rest of the world was proclaiming.
Sean O’Connell, CinemaBlend

For those of us who have never seen the stage show… it’s a particular pleasure to be figuratively ushered into the live Richard Rodgers Theater audience.
Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

For those who do get to experience Hamilton for the first time with the original cast, you really couldn’t have a better experience.
Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

The lone time I – as a newbie – felt ever so slightly removed from this live show’s fanfare is when the die-hards in the audience audibly chuckle at King George III’s first appearance.
Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction


Leslie Odom Jr. in Hamilton
(Photo by ©Disney+)

Which performances stand out most in this version?

Audiences seeing this cast for the first time will be bowled over by the depth of the performances, notably so with Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr.
David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

It’s Leslie Odom Jr., who plays the antagonist Aaron Burr, who emerges as the great emotional force of the film.
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

Arguably its most humane, deeply felt performance is by Leslie Odom, Jr. playing Aaron Burr.
Linda Holmes, NPR

Daveed Diggs shines while pulling double-duty as both Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson.
Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

Phillipa Soo and Renée Elise Goldsberry are superb as the Schuyler sisters.
Thom Geier, The Wrap


How does the filmed format affect the experience?

There’s more gained by harnessing the intimate undercurrents of these numbers with close-ups and medium shots.
Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

Due to the abundance of long shots and smooth cutting, the intermittent closeups are all the more striking in their intimacy. And sometimes their comedy.
Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

Better than a front-row seat, Kail’s film is just cinematic enough to amplify and accentuate the show’s emotional undertow without messing with the carefulness of its stage direction.
David Ehrlich, IndieWire

[It] emphasizes the individual performances, albeit sometimes at the expense of the show’s staging and choreography… Still, it’s an effective way to capture the show’s emotions, if not its sweep.
Angie Han, Mashable

The camera that’s necessary for a Hamilton movie limits what you can look at… We’re controlled by director Thomas Kail’s eye.
Sean O’Connell, CinemaBlend


Daveed Diggs in Hamilton
(Photo by ©Disney+)

Could this actually be better than seeing it live?

The film also has the advantage of showcasing the stagecraft in ways arguably not even equaled by a front row seat.
David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

The thing that’s so amazing about watching Hamilton on the small screen is that it gives everyone the best seat in the house.
Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

No filmed version could ever be a suitable substitute for a live performance, but… Kail’s movie gets the audience pretty close to the same exhilaration and wonder.
Matt Goldberg, Collider

Even with your sound system turned up, the movie can’t fully convey the raw energy and passionate spirit that no doubt leapt off of the stage during a live Hamilton performance.
Sean O’Connell, CinemaBlend


Does the film have any major issues?

Revisiting Hamilton now, with the benefit of distance, it becomes more possible to see both its flaws and its strengths… I’d forgotten, for instance, the extent to which Angelica, one of the most compelling characters in Act I, is sidelined in Act II.
Angie Han, Mashable

They should’ve just filmed [“Satisfied”], with its tremendous performance by Renée Elise Goldsberry; you lose something here that’s special.
Linda Holmes, NPR


Is Hamilton more relevant than ever right now?

It’s exactly what we need this summer.
Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

This is a show that acquires unique shadings at any given moment, and it might never be more impactful than in America in 2020.
David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

Feels like a time capsule… But the underlying message of the show, its call for inclusivity and for grappling the messier aspects of our American history, has never been more urgent.
Thom Geier, The Wrap

I still hesitate to call Hamilton the film we need right now, partly because it deserves better than boilerplate hype.
Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

Even just half a decade after its debut, Hamilton plays like a fossil imprint of a more optimistic time.
Peter Debruge, Variety

Hamilton in 2020 crashes into Black Lives Matter and comes off less powerful, less revolutionary.
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press


Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., and Anthony Ramos in Hamilton
(Photo by ©Disney+)

How does it feel to be able to watch Hamilton at home?

Watching Hamilton in the comfort of my own home means I get to sing along or dance, which is frowned upon at the theater.
Matt Goldberg, Collider

Home viewers, especially newbies, have a distinct advantage over paying theatergoers: You can stop and rewind for any details or turns of phrase you may have missed.
Thom Geier, The Wrap

I couldn’t stop watching [Daveed Diggs’] entrance as Lafayette in the song “Guns and Ships.” I kept rewinding it.
Linda Holmes, NPR

Theatre geeks inspired by the masterpiece can spend hours breaking it down, then building it back up, hopefully igniting a spark that helps them become the next Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Sean O’Connell, CinemaBlend

This is Hamilton as you always wanted to see it, and it always will be.
David Ehrlich, IndieWire


Hamilton premieres on Disney+ on Friday, July 3.

#1

Hamilton (2020)
98%

#1
Adjusted Score: 105.48%
Critics Consensus: Look around, look around at how beautifully Hamilton shines beyond Broadway - and at how marvelously Thomas Kail captures the stage show's infectious energy.
Synopsis: An unforgettable cinematic stage performance, the filmed version of the original Broadway production of "Hamilton" combines the best elements of... [More]
Directed By: Thomas Kail

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