Saturday, 19 September 2020
The Phantom of the Opera
Monday, 27 December 2004 17:43

Director Joel Schumacher takes a stab at a classic tale of love and betrayal, with a little help from Andrew Lloyd Webber, in Warner Bros. Pictures "The Phantom of the Opera"

"Beautiful young starlet seeks experienced, father-figure to create music of the night. Hobbies include singing, graveyard exploration, fainting, and bouts of delusion. Mental stability an asset, but not a necessity. Please forward resumes to Box 5."

This ad might have appeared in some Paris newspaper years ago when young chorus girl Christine Daaé (Emmy Rossum) began having run-ins with the infamous opera ghost. Left to fend for herself when her father dies, she is taken in by a strict ballet instructor (Miranda Richardson) to live at the Paris Opera House. The Phantom, (played by strapping and Scottish Gerard Butler), begins to give her voice lessons and becomes obsessed with her. He whisks her away to his underground lair, which abounds with velvet and spontaneously combusting candles. He attempts to seduce her, but is thwarted by the fresh-faced Raoul (Patrick Wilson), in a battle that is clearly won by neither brains nor braun.

This is going to be a tough review for me to write. Having been such a big fan of the musical for so many years, I feel ill equipped to give an honest opinion. But I will try my best. Here goes...

The first thing I noticed about this film, was that the special effects just don't cut it. Visually, there is something a little hokey and not quite authentic. The opening scene where we are brought back in time through a moving photograph is nice, but overdone. Though the sets are elaborate, the opulent props feel more like papier mâché than weighty dust collectors from the past.

The whole thing is shot like a music video. Lots of quick cuts and close ups, with a few dramatic angles thrown in for effect. In some places I felt like an attempt was made to emulate the feverish stylings of "Moulin Rouge", which just doesn't work for anyone but Baz Lurman. I truly did enjoy seeing the "Masquerade" scene though. It was my favorite part of the stage production, and I enjoyed the way it was choreographed for the film.

As far as the talent goes, I think there were some inspiring choices made. Gerard Butler does a wickedly good turn as the Phantom! He is a good singer, dashing and sympathetic. He also has the size and stature to be quite menacing. There is one scene I really liked in which he playfully chases the stage manager in a murderous game of cat and mouse.

Emmy Rossum at least looks the part of Christine, and I can't make any big complaints. Her voice is good, but her acting is a little wooden. Shots abound of her looking doe-eyed and frightened, or baring her neck and rolling her eyes back as if she is about to be bitten by a vampire. Raoul, poor boy, is fairly uninteresting. The biggest name here is Minnie Driver, who does a good job at playing the overbearing diva Carlotta.

For those who haven't had the chance to see "Phantom" on stage, definitely check the film out. For fans of the stage version this is still a must see, but I think you will find it a bit lackluster on film compared to the real thing.

If you haven't had your fill of good musical entertainment after this, "Moulin Rouge" is an inspired original and is available on DVD.