I have loved this musical since I was 10. But I did not cry at the live version, even though it was very well done. When the disgraceful 2004 film version of my other favorite musical, "Phantom of the opera", came out, I was so depressed at how much that film had taken away from the magic of the live show, I said I never wanted my favorite musicals made into films. I was wrong. Les Miserables (the film version) blew me away; it hit me with an intensity that I'd never experienced before with this show that I'd always loved. I bawled my eyes out when I saw it in the theater (3 times). Why is it so much more effective than the live show? Well, simply, it's much more realistic. The people in the film don't just SING about suffering; they LOOK like they're suffering. The brutality, the reality of the situations in the story...You can't do that with a live show. This musical was meant to become a film, and I think it was perfect. I can't say enough good things about it. The things that were altered and changed were done for the best, and made the story flow much more smoothly than the stage version (for instance, the placement of Fantine's song "I Dreamed a Dream"; it happens too soon in the stage version, before anything visibly terrible has happened to her. In the film, the words of misery make much more sense, having seen for yourself just what kind of hell she was living). As a singer myself, in most cases I would stress that making a film of a broadway musical or opera should involve mainly professional stage singers; however, in the case of this story, the rawness is important, and many of the songs are more effective and can be taken more seriously when performed in a manner that's truer to the characters. But also, in my opinion, everyone in the cast sang very well. I personally love Russell Crowe's portrayal of Javert, and here's why; yes I think he has a nice voice, but also he is one of the only people I've seen who plays the character accurately. Javert is often portrayed as a villain, and that's not what he is supposed to be, per say; he's the lawful good, and he thinks he is doing what is right. Jean Valjean is the chaotic good, and that's a concept that is lost on someone as by-the-book as Javert. Russel Crowe didn't put his ego first in his portrayal as many stage actors would be tempted to do; he evidently took the time to thoroughly understand the character and thus made it so I felt like I was viewing the story as it was meant to be. I believed the performances; I believed the story. I still love the live show, as always; but the film brings the story to life in a brutal, raw, heart wrenching, perfect way.
As a person that has not seen the play, I'd rather just see it in the movie theater. The sound is great, the makeup is better, the actors are better looking. In the movie we don't have to worry about someone who is sharp or flat while singing, and the price of a movie ticket is less than a stage production. You really get the feeling that you are really there with the actors when watching a movie, where with a stage production they are really here.
People on the movie could hardly sing let alone sing and act at the same time. The stage production they have been trained to do both. They know how to act through the words of the song, with body language, and facial expressions. I didn't get hardly any of that from the movie version.
I felt that the movie had to focus more on the raw emotion and acting whereas in the live play a lot of the emotion is displayed through the songs and the amazing vocal performances, and not so heavily on the acting. This made the movie less enjoyable for me, as I love to sing along and the singing in the movie just wasn't as up to the same standard as the live performances.
The movie is full of fantastic actors who portray the characters well, but the music in on stage is far superior. The songs in the movie are presented well, as they would seem in real life but the theatricality of the stage version is an amazing, emotionally powerful thing. Both versions of Les Miserables are good, but I wouldn't say either one is better than the other. If I had to choose, I would go with the stage version.
While the movie certainly offers some benefits to the viewer, nothing can replace the stage version with live performances and expectations. Additionally, the movie edited down some things and added some unnecessary bits to explain things to the audience. But it doesn't matter because both are lovely versions and it's great to have a film even if it isn't better.
I usually enjoy and prefer watching a movie over reading a book or watching a play. In the case of Les Miserables, I did not at all and was disappointed with the movie. The stage version was so much better. The movie had a lot of added nonsense that did not match the plot and took away from the overall movie.