Phantom of the Opera Review

Category: Phantom of the Opera Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: November 11, 2004 | Publication: PhantoFans.Net | Author: twotrey
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OK... just got back from the screening and Q&A. Although they overbooked reservations, the screening room was not full at all. Neil Patrick Harris actually sat right behind me in the VIP rows.

The film... it goes like this: if you like the show, you'll love the film. Done deal. The roughness of Butler's voice works well seeing it all acted out, and also highlights the counterpoint with Raoul: the dashing, ideal traditional romantic hero vs. the raw, passionate, painfully human paramour. This is really driven home during "PoNR," as Raoul looks on as if wondering why Christine wouldn't gaze upon him that way.

But I get ahead of myself. Various points... (these are off the top of my head)

1) "Little Lotte" is spoken, save from "Though what I love best..." on. I didn't mind this.
2) One sung-to-spoken change I *didn't* like was the whole "Raoul I'm frightened/Don't make me do this..." was spoken, then "And he'll always be there singing songs in my head" straight through "Twisted Every Way" is sung. I must say that Emmy's use of lower register is awesome; she hits the "KILL" in "he kills without a thought" much like she hits "consume" in "PoNR."
3) Red Death. After "Here I bring the finished score/Don Juan Triumphant" he then goes straight into "Notes #2" from "Fondest greetings to you all..." and then he faces everyone as he gives them the instructions. After the "her teacher... her teacher..." there's this lovely moment where he slowly approaches Christine as the instrumental "Learn to Be Lonely" theme is introduced, then he sees the ring and does the "Your chains are still mine..." bit.
4) Punjab lasso is a much more practical and realistic noose, that he tosses over people; no real magic involved.
5) I agree with that one reviewer (the one who said that "PoNR" was so hot--actually, Schumacher referenced this exact reaction in his Q&A, funnily enough) that "Masquerade" was flat. I understand the whole black/white thing, but in a film full of colors it seemed so dull. But this sequence features THE ONE HUGE MISSTEP in the film...

...voguing.

Yes, the choreography includes various voguing moves and one big solo. It completely took me out of the scene. I understand they were going for a whole pantomime bit (hence the black/white colors and makeup), but damn... leave the voguing back in 1990.
6) The last bit of "The Mirror" and the first lines of "PotO" aren't lipsynched. Christine is staring silently in her trance. Actually works since it's as if the Phantom is reading her mind during this stretch.
7) The camera isn't focused on Christine during the "strange vocalizations"--the focus is on the lair set materializing not unlike it does onstage. It's a very cool sight, no doubt, but then the whole trance/control bit and the power of those cadenzas are lost.
8) There's a bit of spoken exposition inserted in the middle of "AoM" where Christine explains the origin of the Angel of Music concept to Meg. Works to explain why she believes it in spite of all reason.
9) A gentle instrumental of "LtBL" plays in the background of the final cemetery scene, making for a seamless transition into Minnie's song. This is then followed by an extended "Entr'acte" which includes a number of other songs not included in the original "Ent'racte" (such as "WYWSHA").
10) Speaking of "WYWSHA"... never knew that could be such a tearjerking scene. On the stage it's a sad scene but plays more as a vocal showcase for Christine. At this screening, it got people weeping. The set design, the snow, the camera work, Emmy's fantastic acting make the number rather devastating (it ends with her more or less crumbled at the steps of the Daae tomb, weeping).
11) Minnie is indeed all that. A real scene stealer in the best sense, and the transition between her spoken lines and dubbed singing is seamless. Her spoken dialogue is all rather hilarious.
12) Raoul, action hero--in addition to the swordfight, he has this big set piece leading to the final lair where he falls into a booby trap that almost drowns him. He's definitely more proactive in the film than the original show, and that's an improvement, but I don't know if it really works to sway any sympathies.
13) Emmy has wonderful chemistry with Wilson and Butler, but distinct kinds. With Raoul it's the idealistic, cupids and hearts romance, where with Phantom it's primal passion. Again, all highlighted well in...
14) ..."PoNR." The much-speculated on "shh" gesture? He makes it to Christine after "...which 'til now has been silent/Silent" so as to make her stay in character, and then she closes her eyes and continues on. Everyone knows it's Phantom, and everyone's basically on pins and needles waiting for him to make a move. It's just a fabulous number, and Emmy does a great job of playing Christine's "playacting-but-really-acting-out-what's-deep-inside" performance.
15) Definitely a stress of realism over magic. Carlotta's croaking is less a toad then more what people in real life would deem a croak, as in her voice simply quitting in a gulping noise.
16) "AIAoY"--wonderfully staged to show Phantom hiding behind statues watching/hearing them, and so we witness him gradually get crushed more and more as the song progresses, culminating in a truly heart-rending reprise. Nice touch has Christine beginning the scene holding a rose the Phantom gave her for luck in her dressing room, but mid-song she drops it. During the reprise he picks it up, and then he crushes it before "You will curse..."
17) Nice visual cue in lieu of chandelier dropping at that point: the camera starts on an overhead shot of Phantom on the gargoyle, then drops with the "dropping" music.
18) Flash-forwards are used here and there to trace Raoul's journey to the cemetery. The one that bridges the acts, if you will, was particularly nice--he gazes a young couple window shopping at a jewelry store, then he things of himself and Christine younger and kissing at the same window, then back to color and fireworks and into "Masquerade."

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I'd rate it a very strong 9. (Damn voguing!)

The reaction was rapturous. Lots of sniffles/crying. Emmy and Gerry are phenomenal in the final lair, and their chemistry is electric.

Oscar chances? Most definitely a contender. I'd say Best Picture for sure, but there's always a nominee in that category that doesn't have a corresponding directing nod, and Schumacher has a strong chance of being shafted there. Of the actors, Emmy clearly has the best chances for a few reasons. After all, Christine was written as the showcase part and has the most screen time, and as good as Gerry is, the lead actor field is just far more crowded. Emmy is hence likelier to make the cut since it's a less occupied field (see: Kate Winslet getting a nod in Titanic but no DiCaprio). And then there's the whole "young discovery" bit that works as a good campaign angle. That even at 17/18 she's already a film veteran can only help.

More points:

*The new flashback/backstory scene is absolutely harrowing, and really illuminates the character that much more. Nice touch--as the "Devil Child" he has a cheap burlap cymbal monkey doll.
*The swordfight score is the same music as during the fireballs on stage, and a few of the new cues that can be heard after "PoNR" and "Down Once More..." on the movie soundtrack are introduced here.
*In the opening scene, there's a slight edit in Raoul's bit. It goes from "Every detail exactly as she said" straight to "Will you still play when all the rest of us are dead?"
*The piecemealing of "Notes #2" works really well. Phantom's instructions, as I mentioned, are spliced onto Red Death; "We have all been blind..." comes right after the swordfight and ends with "His reign will end!" before Raoul meets up with Christine in her little makeshift daddy tribute room, where she launches into the now-spoken "Raoul I'm frightened..."
*All references to bringing down the chandelier are gone. The chandelier fall plays as a practical, organic escape move than one that is planned.
*The whole youth approach really works as a whole, I must say. With a young Christine, we buy that she would be duped by the whole Angel of Music business. Schumacher said in the Q&A that he was going for something metaphorical in that her experience with the Phantom parallels her maturation into womanhood and the blossoming sexuality she doesn't quite know what to do with. Aging down the Phantom also works. He's still old enough to be a teacher/mentor to her, but works as him going through his own delayed awakening, if you will.
*Flamenco dancers in the background of "PoNR." Male dancers when Phantom sings, females when Christine sing, then when they close out the number on an onstage bridge, the men and women dance together. Also, "When will the blood begin to race..." is sung as he and she are going up these spiral staircases to the top of the bridge, and then "CONSUME" hits as their eyes meet once they are at the top platfrm.
*The removal of the final verse of "PotO" works in that we now only hear the "and in this labyrinth..." lyric as Christine and Raoul climb up the literally labyrinthian catwalks and staircases up to the roof.
*Don't get me wrong, Patrick and Emmy are great on "AIAoY," but having the Phantom be present and react during the song just added a new dimension to it.

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Ending:
Closeup on Phantom's tearstreaked face as he watches them leave, and they *don't* sing "AIAoY"--it simply plays, as if Phantom were recalling those vows they made on the roof. He gently sings "You alone can make my song take flight..." then the gruffer, louder "It's over now..." as you hear on the soundtrack. As he sings "night" he smashes all the mirrors, then walks through the last one as his escape (alas, no cape action). Meg and the mob enter, she picks up the mask. She holds it up, then camera pans to the music box. Dissolve from color to B&W, and music box is on Raoul's lap as he's wheeled to Christine's grave. He gets up for the final steps and lays down the box, sees the rose with the ring, which is in B&W. Disturbed reaction closeups, then back to the rose, whose bud grows red, then becomes a postcard by a candle (callback to the first frame of the film, which begins with a candle being lit, and postcard of 1911 Paris), candle's flame is snuffed out.

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Yeah, a 9. Basically was all I had envisioned from the film, mostly because it stays so close to the stage version. I imagine that will be a point brought up by its detractors, that it *is* so close, from the script to the staging and set design.

A note about Butler. His performance picks up after "AIAoY." His "MotN" is appropriately sensual, and the "Damn you..." etc. bit was good, but he really started clicking for me when the pathos of the character started to come to prominence. I'm not so sure if he's quite the ethereal presence (and voice for that matter) that's needed in his first scenes, but he's definitely effective.