Hamilton, A Musical vs. Movie Review


National Portrait Gallery

Portrait of Alexander Hamilton. John Trumbull, 1792. Public Domain.

Everyone in the performing arts knows about the best world-wide Broadway musical, Hamilton, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. It was created in 2015 but the movie was produced in 2020. However, the movie is more of an on-stage production of the original Broadway musical. So, the question remains: is the musical better than the movie or the movie better than the musical?

DISCLAIMER: This story contains spoilers for both the movie and the musical. So, if you do not want spoilers then you probably should not read this article. However, if you do not mind spoilers, then by all means, please enjoy this article! One final warning: this movie has a PG-13 rating so be sure to check with your parents before watching.

In the musical, the story starts with an introduction of the main character: Alexander Hamilton. Alexander is one of the Founding Fathers in America, who established a national bank, fought in the American Revolution, and lost a duel with Aaron Burr (the main villain). In the introduction, additional characters are introduced to show their relationship to Alexander. Thomas Jefferson, Marquis De Lafayette, Hercules Mulligan, and James Madison fought with him; John Laurens and Philip Hamilton died for him; George Washington trusted him; Eliza Schuyler, Angelica Schuyler, and Maria Reynolds all loved him; and Aaron Burr shot him. The story advances when Aaron Burr first meets Alexander Hamilton, who Aaron thinks is too talkative. Aaron tries to give Alexander advice on how to survive, but Alexander ignores it when he meets Laurens, Lafayette, and Mulligan. The four become close friends and fight in the revolution together. Alexander also marries a rich girl during the war: Eliza Schuyler. Eliza’s sister (Angelica) also loves Alexander, but offers up her love for him so that her sister is happy. Alexander’s life continues to improve as he and his country win the war, he meets his son and grows a steady career. However, two rivals, an affair with another man’s (Mr. Reynolds) wife, a horrible decision, the loss of his son, and a grave mistake that leads to his death soon catches up with Alexander.

Hamilton is a highly entertaining musical. The songs are appealing, the plot is interesting, and the sad scenes are tear-jerkers. The actors are dramatic and convincing especially in the scene where Philip Hamilton (Alexander’s son) dies. The last words that Philip said made the audience burst into tears. Although, nothing is more sad than the time when Alexander determined that John Laurens had died during the war, which most likely caused Alexander to make all of his bad decisions. The immorality though is truly the problem in the musical. Alexander at one point is not faithful to his wife. It soon catches the attention of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Aaron Burr, who confront Alexander about it. Alexander had hoped that everyone would understand and forgive him, but the people are shocked and furious with his mistake. Alexander thought that if he was honest with people’s money, others would overlook this. He did not realize that people would stop supporting him as a result. An improvement for this scene would have been for Alexander to not go public with his mistake, but show that he did not embezzle the country’s money.

The movie version is similar to the musical. It is more like a recording of the musical. However, the show that was recorded is Lin Manuel Miranda’s last performance. Since it was his last performance, the actors’ performance is exceptional. King George is a bit more annoying in the movie which earned him a meme for him spitting out the lyrics. The only problem in the plot concerns him being unfaithful to his wife and publishing it. The scene where Alexander publishes his mistake and everyone reacts to it is more funny than serious. Adding King George provides some comical relief, but does not help the scene be serious.

What makes the movie better is the last scene when Eliza tells Alexander’s story but wonders if anyone remembers hers. When the song (“Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”) ends, Eliza is brought forward on stage and looks into the audience before she begins to cry at the sight of the audience. It may be an indication that the audience remembers Eliza through the musical.

When comparing the musical and the movie, the movie wins by a long “shot.” The movie does have some flaws that could be improved. However, there is something that makes the movie better than the musical: money. With the musical, people must pay over 100 dollars to see a two hour show. However, all you need is an inexpensive subscription to see the movie at home. Therefore, people would rather see an inexpensive performance that is better than an expensive one.