Phantom Of The Opera

Category: Phantom of the Opera Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: December 27, 2004 | Publication: xtramasn New Zealand | Author: Annette Lee
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Opens New Years Day 2005

The trouble with The Phantom of the Opera is that it polarises people. In the past, some critics have lampooned Andrew Lloyd-Webber's blockbusting stage musical as overblown, while others hail it as a masterpiece of theatrical special effects. So don't expect to read many reviews of the film that are anything even close to objective.

To cut a long story short, young singer Christine (Emmy Rossum) is hauled from the ranks of the supporting players at the Paris Opera to replace potty diva Carlotta (Minnie Driver). It turns out she has been secretly tutored by a mysterious angel of music, who turns out not to be angelic at all, but the seriously deranged Phantom of the Opera (Gerard Butler). She is a huge success, the Phantom is besotted with her, but unfortunately, her heart belongs to her childhood sweetheart, Raoul (Patrick Wilson). The Phantom vows to have revenge on Christine, Raoul, the Paris Opera management, and anyone else who gets in his way.

Emmy Rossum is absolutely perfect as Christine. She is young (18 years old in real life), and sings like an angel. She can act, too, given the restraints of the musical genre (after all, it's difficult to be realistic when you're bellowing 'All I Ask Of You' into your lover's face at point blank range). And the Paris Opera is a lot warmer than her last outing, The Day After Tomorrow, in which she faced a frigid end as New York was hit by a new ice age. The Phantom, Gerard Butler, is a cross between Antonia Banderas and James Bond (only with a mask). One of my colleagues decided Christine was mad because the Phantom was "drop dead gorgeous" and she couldn't see anything wrong with spending the rest of your life with him in the sewers beneath Paris. She should, perhaps, get out more. But his performance is powerful and moving, endowing the monster with a soul.

Patrick Wilson has the toughest job - Raoul is a bit of a damp squib of a role, and though Wilson does his best to make him appear dynamic (lots of leaping on and off horses and Errol Flynn-style swordplay) the part's been written to be two-dimensional. Some of Britain's finest actors pop up in supporting roles. Minnie Driver is a showstopper as Carlotta, the mad Spanish diva who sings with the delicacy and subtlety of a panzer division in a frock. The Phantom drops a wooden beam on her head in an attempt to shut her up. We know how he feels. Miranda Richardson is mysterious and subtle as Madame Giry, managing to produce layers of character that I strongly suspect aren't written in the script; Simon Callow and Ciar n Hinds have fun as the Opera house management; and Former Brookside star Jennifer Ellison proves she can cut it with the best of them by making a silk purse out of the almost invisible role of Meg Giry, Christine's best friend.

There was no point in making this movie in anything other than a theatrical way. Joel Schumacher was probably the ideal choice, having seen his schlock-horror gothic Batman and Robin. The film looks sumptuous - the sets and costumes are magnificent, the camera moves fluidly through the claustrophobic corridors of the theatre and the narrow tunnels of the Phantom's underworld lair, and the story fills in gaps from the original stage production.

So is it a hit? Almost certainly, with people who love musicals and/or the stage production of Phantom. Those miserable grinches who despise the musical genre will probably hate it, but phooey to them - if you want a spectacular movie with some well-loved music in which you can lose yourself for an evening, then this is the one for you.