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The new Phantom: not too bad

Category: Phantom of the Opera Reviews
Article Date: January 11, 2005 | Publication: University of Nebraska The Gateway | Author: Andrew Cumbee

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Joel Schumacher will forever be remembered for ruining the original Batman franchise. Both Batman Forever and Batman and Robin were so over-the-top that they took the gritty realism out of the comic character's story. His new film, Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, has the exact opposite problem. In a film that should be over-the-top, Schumacher brings everything down to the literal and subdued.

The film is, of course, based on Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical version of the nearly 100-year-old French novel. Phantom is about a young chorus girl named Christine at the Paris Opera House in the early 20th century. Christine believes that her father has been teaching her to sing from his grave. It turns out that her teacher is the "Phantom of the Opera," and, as she falls for a childhood friend, the Phantom comes to claim Christine's love for himself.

The story is still great today, and whether you're seeing one of the classic horror film versions, the stage play or reading the book, you can see that it hasn't aged too much. The "ugly-freaks-aren't-accepted-by-the-pretty-people" theme is still a common theme in films and novels today. The Phantom isn't just a mindless monster. He's a man with one physical flaw, not accepted in normal society. He's a genius, but because he never feels love, he is driven over the edge.

The actors all do well with their roles. Emmy Rossum, who plays Christine, has already been nominated for a Golden Globe, and she deserves it. She brings life to the character, making her realistic even in the context of this being a musical with a monster. The Scottish actor, Gerard Butler, whose previous work includes Dracula 2000, Tomb Raider 2 and Reign of Fire, finally gets to prove that he can act in this movie. He's perfect for the Phantom character and his voice is just right for the singing parts. Patrick Wilson, who started out on Broadway, takes the role of Raoul, the Phantom's rival. He also does a fine job. Although, the way his character is written, you don't really get a feel for him. The supporting players all execute their roles well, also.

Schumacher's direction is not horrible in this film. He chooses shots well and provides the atmosphere needed for the film. But at the end of the movie, it just doesn't feel big enough. The Phantom is supposed to be huge and grandiose. Not only is it a horror story, but this is the musical version. The sets don't look big enough, there aren't enough people to fill those sets, and the film just ends up feeling flat. There are parts that get it right, though. The scenes where The Phantom is in his underground chamber are well executed.

Overall, this is not a failure, and it is entertaining, whether you are a fan of any previous incarnation or not. There's plenty to enjoy, but more than likely you'll leave feeling that something was missing. Still, it's worth seeing.

Grade: B


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