Emmy Rossum in The Phantom of the Opera.
Being such a fan of the stage play, my hopes were high for this movie; they really were. Unfortunately, my hopes were in vain. While the movie isn't a complete failure, it can hardly be considered a success. The magic of the play seems to have been lost in the translation and been replaced by soulless spectacle that has more in common with a bodice ripping romance novel than a great tragedy.
The plot is probably familiar to everyone. The Phantom haunts a Paris Opera House where he has fallen in love with Christine, a young singer whose career he has been secretly trying to boost. However, Christine is in love with the young count Raul and she is deluded into thinking that the Phantom is the angel of music sent to guide her by her dead father. When the Phantom's actions become more overt and sometimes deadly, as he senses that he is losing Christine to Raul, the love triangle comes to a head inside the Phantom's lair deep beneath the Opera House.
In a movie where 95% of the dialogue is sung, you'd expect that you'd only chose actors who could sing, especially considering these demanding songs. With Emmy Rossum as Christine and Patrick Wilson as Raul, they chose well. Rossum is a classically trained opera singer and Wilson has performed in several Broadway musicals. However, Butler, in the title role, is a singer with no experience. And while he manages to get adequately through the songs, the word adequate should never be the main adjective used to describe someone playing the lead in The Phantom of the Opera. Considering how closely Butler resembles Antonio Banderas in this movie, I can't understand why the producers of this film didn't go for the much more charismatic Banderas, especially since he proved he could sing in the last film adaptation of an Andrew Lloyd Webber play, Evita.
The look of the film is quite beautiful. Every scene is lush and vibrant with color and spectacle. More care was put into the look of the sets and the camera shots then was put into the characters or the songs. But so much care was put in that it makes some scenes feel overly staged. When the Phantom is singing his anguish over Raul and Christine, he must climb atop the statue at the climax of the song as if he knows that the camera will pull back for a cool shot, which of course it does.
Like the play, the movie begins years after the events of the story at an auction where the artifacts of the opera house are being sold. An aged Raul is there in a wheelchair buying items from his youth. Unlike the play, the movie returns to these flash-forwards throughout the story, to no real purpose other than to lengthen the already hefty running time.
One other problem this movie has is its tendency to have its characters speak the lyrics to certain songs. Perhaps this is an effort to give the characters more dialogue than they had in the play. If they wanted to do this than they should have written more dialogue. When someone speaks lyrics, it just sounds stupid, especially when sometimes they're speaking normal dialogue and at other times, they're speaking in rhyme.
Visually stunning and still containing those magnificent songs and the haunting score, The Phantom of the Opera is a pale shell of the musical that it's based upon.
Emmy Rossum and Gerard Butler in The Phantom of the Opera.
Having never seen any other production of The Phantom of the Opera, I have nothing to compare it to. Thanks to a Barbra Streisand cd, that Patrick more than likely gave me, I knew two of the songs. Other than those two moments, I had little interest in the film.
I felt nothing for any of the characters. Gerard Butler seemed to be a bit young for playing someone who has been haunting the opera for awhile. Like Scott, I was reminded of Antonio Banderas, in Evita, whenever Butler sang. Their phrasing had some similarities. Rossum has an amazingly sweet voice but her Christine is too dumb to be real. A masked man leads her through tunnels and kills people. He throws a hissy fit when she attempts to unmask him. She thinks he's an angel? At least Driver is good for a couple of laughs as the resident diva.
The sets are all grand and impressive. The direction works for melodramatic effect. But the characters never draw you in, so Phantom of the Opera ends up being all decor and no depth
Patrick Wilson in The Phantom of the Opera.
I am just not a fan of this type of melodramatic, pseudo-operatic Broadway musical or of Andrew Lloyd Webber's music in general. Like Eric, I also knew “The Music of the Night” and “All I Ask of You”, only from listening to Barbra Streisand's recordings, although her renditions are vastly superior to anything in this horrid movie. By comparison it makes Les Miz seem like a masterpiece.
Scott mentioned Evita and that is really where this whole modern phenomenon of casting non-singing actors in musicals really began. Released in 1996 Evita can be considered the first musical in the modern day revival that continues to this day. It was the first big budget musical to come out of Hollywood since Yentl thirteen years earlier in 1983. Now you can quibble about whether or not Madonna can sing but for my money she ruined Patti Lupone's role. I also agree with Eric that Antonio Banderas isn't much better of a singer than Gerard Butler (who likewise ruins Michael Crawford's role here).
This movie takes the simple plot that Lon Chaney first brought to the screen so memorably in the silent classic and stretches it out until it becomes paper thin. I get that musicals often run long because of all the songs but this one feels particularly slow. And the biggest disappointment for anyone who's seen the original movie is the scene where the Phantom's deformed face is revealed. The makeup isn't anywhere near grotesque enough for the character.
The Phantom of the Opera is probably the worst musical thus far this century.
Photos © Copyright Warner Bros. (2004)