THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

Category: Phantom of the Opera Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: December 23, 2004 | Publication: Latino Review | Author: editors
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RATING: ***

Andrew Lloyd Weber's smash Broadway musical finally gets the cinematic treatment after twenty years in development. Helmed by veteran director Joel Schumacher, the screen version is a lavish spectacle that's sure to thrill some and disappoint others. It is not a carbon copy of the original play and that will always be a negative for the die-hard fans. There are some faults that take away from Phantom being a great film, but it's good enough to be well worth the price of admission. The production design is excellent with a lot of detail paid to the costumes, sets, and camera work. Schumacher and Weber chose to forego a big name cast and settled on teenage starlet Emmy Rossum as Christine and Scottish heartthrob Gerard Butler as the Phantom. Rossum sings beautifully, but is a bit too one-dimensional for her character. The film's great success and lynchpin is the spectacular performance of Butler. He's fantastic as the Phantom, capturing the tortured soul of the disfigured villain and belting out his classic tunes flawlessly. Whereas Rossum is a trained singer from childhood, Butler never had a lesson prior to filming. Schumacher deserves a great deal of credit for casting him.

The story begins at an auction in the old Paris opera house in the early 1900's. It was closed many years earlier by an infamous event and would be soon demolished. An enormous, once-shattered chandelier had been restored to its former grace for the auction. As the chandelier is raised, special effects sweep across the screen and the audience is taken back in time to the theatre's glory days. An orphaned ingénue, Christine, is forced to sing the lead part in the opera after a tantrum from its diva star. She excels in her debut and is soon the talk of Paris. Christine becomes enamored by a wealthy suitor, Raoul (Patrick Wilson). She is forced to hide her love for him. Christine, since her arrival as a young girl, had been secretly taught by a masked figure. She calls him her angel, but he is a lethal specter that has rained terror on the opera for years. The mysterious phantom reveals himself when Raoul's intentions for Christine became public. She is forced to choose between these very different suitors, knowing fully that the Phantom's jealousy could easily turn to hate and become deadly.

The film rides a tidal wave of emotions throughout. It has some truly epic moments that give you goose bumps, but then falls terribly flat in other scenes. It has a very disjointed feel. The middle drags considerably and really prevents the film from sinking in. Joel Schumacher makes everything look great, but needed to shape up his screenplay or edit down the weaker points of the plot. He's dealing with revered material, so he was probably reticent about making significant changes. You cannot be a slave to the original story because the naysayers will complain no matter what. Creative license must be taken to make static moments in a play more fluid for movie audiences. The truth is that some scenes do not transfer well and must be changed. Weber probably had final cut authority, so the blame may not be Schumacher's alone.

he songs and music from the play are redone verbatim for the movie. The filmmakers had a proven soundtrack and were wise not to mess with it. I think Emmy Rossum, Gerard Butler, and Patrick Wilson sound wonderful. They should not be compared to the original cast album. This is a different interpretation and these actors deserve to be judged on the merits of their work. Fans of the music will enjoy the film immensely. It packs the same emotional content on screen as it did on stage.

The Phantom of the Opera is a fine cultural excursion for the whole family this Christmas. Theater fans are the obvious demographic, but traditional film goers should enjoy it as well. Many people would never go to a Broadway musical. Here is an opportunity to see the most famous one for a tenth of the price.