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The Phantom of the Opera

Category: Phantom of the Opera Reviews
Article Date: December 13, 2004 | Publication: Zap2it | Author: Mike Szymanski

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Lyrical, magical and romantic, Joel Schumacher's true artistry is shown in bringing the Andrew Lloyd Webber Broadway spectacle to the big screen with "The Phantom of the Opera." Even if you don't like musicals, especially if you don't like musicals, you'll appreciate how dramatic, exciting and gripping this film is. If you tend to snore through operas, if you shrug at romances, if you hated "Chicago," then you'll want to give "Phantom" a chance, because this is different from anything you've ever seen before at the movies.
(By the way, I think "Chicago" didn't translate well to the big screen, and should have stayed on the stage. I thought that adaptation wasn't fully realized as a movie, and so I was skeptical about this one.) Baz Lurhrman tried reinventing the musical pretty well when "Moulin Rouge" displayed what a musical should look like on the big screen in modern times. Those lavish numbers, colorful spectacles and clever camerawork made that film a piece of art, and rightfully reinvigorated the public interest in movie musicals.

But, to think of "Phantom" as a mere musical is looking at it myopically. Schumacher, who was rather lambasted for his cartoony Batman flashiness, has adapted his craft well with this one. Every scene is a masterful, a piece of art. Every shot is worthy of hanging in a museum. You truly have to see it on the big screen to believe it.

The opening shot of a black and white drawing gets transformed into a living color theater, as the people start moving about and the camera swoops in to a very private auction and a man in a wheelchair bids at an auction of an old toy.

Those who thought "Phantom" was going to be the scary version of Lon Chaney's horror film when it came to the Broadway stage about two decades ago were surprised when Weber created his version of "Beauty and the Beast" and turned it into a triangular love story involving childhood sweethearts and a monster living in the theater.

Emmy Rossum, a wide-eyed teen with a heart full of talent, stars in the film as Christine, the girl who has a mysterious teacher whom she never sees. (She was the murdered daughter of Sean Penn's character in "Mystic River.") Gerard Butler plays the role made famous by Michael Crawford, and he does with much more melancholia and and pathos. Patrick Wilson, first shown as the aged man in the wheelchair, transforms into his younger handsome self, as does the ramshackle theater which transforms into the glory days when it was the hub of grand theater.

The troupe is doing the opera "Hannibal" and on stage is a temperamental diva Carlotta, played with deliciously evil delight by Minnie Driver.

Miranda Richardson stars as the ballet mistress and the mother figure to Christine. She's the person who knows the secret of the mysterious ghost who haunts the theater and sabotages Carlotta. Jennifer Ellison is Christine's friend, Meg.

The musical numbers are memorable and everyone sang their own songs, except Driver. There's the seduction during "The Music of the Night" and "Angel of Music" between the girls. The "Masquerade" number is a bit over the top, but that's to be expected, and "All I Ask of You" and "The Point of No Return" are also as dramatic as they were in the play.

Understandably, some plot points are juggled around a bit. The chandelier falls toward the end of the film, rather than at the end of the first act as it does in the play. And some grainy newsreel footage tells the back story in a faster, more innovative way.

One of the most compelling movies of the year, and certainly one of the best musicals in recent history, this is geared for those who love musicals, and enjoyable for those who never would go to the play in the first place.


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