The story is transferred to a sort of fantasy WW-1 trench battlefield. I think this works pretty well, as it means that when the hero Tamino has to undergo heroic trials he does it on a battlefield, which gives it some excitement. The visuals are pretty spectacular, and the music is fun.
My problem was that I thought the plot made no sense at all, to the extent that it completely ruined the experience for me. I don't mean because it was fantasy. For instance, Tamino has to endure the test of not speaking to his beloved Pamina even though that makes her think he doesn't love her. Why he has to do this and how it helps the cause of good and peace is unspecified, but that's OK in a fairy tale.
But where I have a problem is how the story plays out after that. First Pamina says that as her love won't speak to her she's going to commit suicide. But instead of killing herself she decides to go to sleep. Then when she wakes up, Tamino and she have some kind of dramatic reconciliation scene, and he goes off to battle. Fine so far, if a bit of an anti-climax.
Then in the next scene, Pamina is trying to commit suicide again saying 'Alas, Tamino doesn't love me, he wouldn't talk to me'. And you just feel really annoyed because they reconciled in the previous scene, and anyway she went through the suicide thing once already.
In fact there were far too many threatened suicides in the whole thing. It's almost as if nobody ever does anything else.
The subplot of Papagena/Papageno is the same thing. He speaks to his girlfriend (although he's not allowed to) because he doesn't recognise her, she's disguised as an old woman. He gets put in prison. He agrees to marry the old woman to get out of prison, and it turns out she's his girlfriend in disguise. We already knew that! That's why he's in prison! Then she just goes away and leaves him in the prison. Why? The whole point was he was going to marry her to get out. Then he just manages to get out of prison without her help anyway, so what was the point? Then he tries to commit suicide (another suicide!) because she won't marry him. But they already agreed to get married in the previous scene! Then she turns up and tells him not to kill himself. Fine. I was just really irritated by the whole thing by this point.
I don't know if this story is the way the opera works, or if it's been altered for the film, but I thought it didn't work as a fantasy story. I think if a story is fantastical it has to make emotional sense, not just people ignoring what happened in the previous scene and constantly threatening suicide.
Anyway, that's my grumpy opera post for this year.