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Phantom of Opera: The Movie

Category: Phantom of the Opera Reviews
Article Date: December 19, 2004 | Publication: OhMyNews International | Author: Kim Soung Su

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The film version of the musical 'Phantom' is more like an extended music video

In 1911, French novelist Gaston Leroux published a book called "The Phantom of Opera," inspired by British author George du Maurier's gothic horror novel "Trilby" in 1894. Since then, the story has been adapted to films, TV dramas, and now it is one of the most famous stories in the world. And thanks to composer Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1986 musical, it became a classic.

Once again it has come to life, this time as a film titled "Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of Opera" (2004), directed by Joel Schumacher, a well-known Hollywood veteran commercial filmmaker ("Phonebooth" (2002), "8mm" (1999), "Batman and Robin" (1997), "Batman Forever" (1995) and many more). Using his experience in "Batman" and other suspense films, once more he attempts to illustrate the man behind the mask.

First of all, it's pretty obvious that the film's photography is going to be splendid. Setting, costume, lighting and stage composition are well harmonized. The cinematography is also remarkable. For the first few minutes the camera is flying like a bird - up and down, right and left - seemingly without any intervention. No doubt this is a great achievement of editing as well.

There is also no need to talk about the original score. Since the film's title includes the composer's name, it is indeed the film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom." The film intentionally employs film techniques such as camera movement, character action and so on, in order to emphasize the songs in the film. Watching the film is like watching a music video.

The whole film is in fact a set of music video scenes using Webber's beautiful music scores, although the genre of the film may be categorized as a musical. This is to be expected since Webber himself worked on the film. The result is a beautiful harmony of photography, setting, and music.

However, this is also the main problem of the film -- it is no more than a set of fantastic music videos. Compared with other musical adaptations such as "Evita" (1996) and "Chicago" (2002), the film narrative is quite good. But it seems that the film itself is rather weighed down by the shadow of the musical, which definitely reveals how hard it is to make a musical film.

Also, the description of the characters is weighed down by the visuals as well as by the well-known narrative. Only the phantom (Gerard Butler)'s suffering is clearly illustrated to some extent. The emotional conflict of Christine (Emmy Rossum) and Raoul (Patrick Wilson)'s animosity toward the phantom are a bit blurred. Namely, the roles of the main characters are substantially reduced by the roles of the visuals and music. The performances are not that bad, though.

To some extent, this weakens the audiences' concentration on the film. That and the unnecessary commercial scenes designed to offer some visual service to the Hollywood film fans. Audiences can therefore focus upon the magnificent visuals at first, but they can also lose the focus easily because of it. A rather long running time (143 minutes) makes this situation worse.


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