PHANSOM OF THE OPERA
(Joel Schumake, 2004)
Review by Lunacy, (c) 2004
Beware: Spoilers may be in the review
A long time fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber's legendary musical PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (must have seen it 15+ times since the mid-1980's), I have to say it was a treat to FINALLY see this up on the big screen. Over the years I've looked forward to a PHANTOM movie just as I look forward to someday getting a XWP movie. I was afraid I might be disappointed because sometimes stories which play wonderfully on stage don't do well on the big screen and vice versa but I have to say that I enjoyed the film and came out crying at the end just as I always do with the musical. My biggest fear regarding a movie version of PHANTOM was that they would use well-known or gorgeous actors instead of people who could sing thereby ruining the extraordinary music but I have to say that they did a good job in finding actors who are gorgeous, can act AND can sing. Gerard Butler makes for a VERY sexy phantom and his singing is impressive. I don't know if they enhanced his voice for the film but if they didn't the guy could definitely do Broadway. Same for Emmy Rossum as Christine - great voice, very pretty, with a youth and sense of innocence that probably makes her more suited for the role than many of the actresses who've played Christine on stage. Patrick Wilson who plays Raoul is also fine in the part with a strong voice though he has this "pretty boy" look that makes me roll my eyes at the idea that Christine would pick him over the dark, sexy Gerard - slight facial disfigurement notwithstanding. Think Xena vs Perdicus. There is just NO contest there ;-)
Director Joel Schumaker and Webber who served as the film's producer do a nice job of translating the musical to film. All the key scenes are there along with the memorable props - the music box with the monkey on top, the spectacular chandelier, the human-powered elephant for the Hannibal sequence, the masquerade ball, the boat trip along the underground tunnels, Christine's beautiful solo at her father's tomb, the declaration of love on the roof top of the Paris opera house, the sensual exchange between the Phantom and Christine during the performance of Don Juan and the ensuing unveiling. The film makers added scenes to flesh out the story and connect those key scenes from the musical. Most notably, they expand on the backgrounds of both the Phantom and Christine by including scenes from their childhood which explain how they came to be at the opera house. I particularly liked what they did with Madame Giry, played by Miranda Richardsom. In the musical she is a very serious, stoic figure who knows about the Phantom and seems to have some contact with him but also fears him. In the movie her character is revealed as a young girl who helped the Phantom as a boy escape from his jailers. She is sympathetic to the Phantom and seems almost to care for him as an older sister of sorts.
Now, having said that I did like the film I must also note that it does NOT capture the full drama and spectacle of the musical. Webber originally wrote this musical for the stage and it is there that it really achieves greatness. The film is good and in my opinion will be a treat to most fans of the musical but it can't compare to the real thing. If any of you have never seen the musical and enjoy the movie I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND you catch the musical if you ever can. The music and the songs on the big screen are nice - in a live performance in a theatre they'll leave you breathless.
Couple of things I did not like about the film or thought they should have done differently - in the cemetery scene when Christine goes to visit her dad's grave they include a sword fight between the Phantom and Raoul in which the Phantom looses. I haven't seen the musical in a few years so I may be wrong about this but I don't remember a sword fight between these two characters. I do remember a confrontation at the cemetery in which the Phantom starts throwing these flaming balls at Raoul and Raoul then rushes off with Christine. I think they wanted to make Raoul seem more heroic in the movie so they have him riding his horse to the cemetery and then having it out with the Phantom. The Phantom ends up at the end of Raoul's blade but Raoul lets him go. Then - the very next scene is Raoul at the Opera House a few days later directing the police and other men on a plan to capture and kill the Phantom. Well - if he wanted the guy killed or captured why didn't he just do this at the cemetery? I think it would have played out much better if the Phantom had disappeared in the middle of the duel or at the end of it with one of his illusions.
Also - in the climactic moment when Raoul rushes to the Phantom's lair to save Christine the Phantom ends up capturing him with a rope around his neck. In the musical it plays out as a trap the Phantom had set. In the movie they have the Phantom sort of shoving Raoul back against a steel gate and then tying him up there. Hard to believe Raoul would just stand there not struggling all that much while the Phantom ties his hands and puts a rope around his neck. Raoul then sort of hangs from the steel gate looking as if he's purposely holding his hands INSIDE the ropes rather than these actually restraining him. Would have been WAY better to actually have some sort of trap where a noose comes down from above and ensnares Raoul.
Overall not a GREAT film but a good adaptation of a truly splendid stage musical. Hardcore PHANTOM fans should enjoy it as should those who like mushy romances.
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