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Phantom of the Opera (2004 movie)

Joel Schumacher's 2004 film adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.

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Andrew Lloyd Webber's Musical of All Musicals

  • Feb 27, 2006
  • by
Rating:
+5
Occasionally, a film is so bad that it rightfully deserves to be panned by audiences and critics alike. At other times, an incredibly well made film is poorly received, a fact that is both shocking and dismaying. Joel Schumacher's "The Phantom of the Opera" falls into the second category. This movie is, in a word, incredible. It's a pure sight and sound musical fantasy, grandiose in scope and delightfully over the top in drama and romance. Rarely have I found myself completely absorbed in a film; it left me unable to concentrate on anything afterwards other than it's highly memorable and effective score, composed with great gusto by Andrew Lloyd Webber. It's just the kind of music that has the ability to stay in your head long after leaving the theater (stage or screen). That's something I definitely look for in a musical.

Based on the blockbuster London and Broadway stage musical (which itself was based on the novel "Le Fantôm de l'Opera" by Gaston Leroux), the story of "Phantom" can basically be described as a gothic love triangle. Christine (Emmy Rossum), a beautiful and naïve young girl is torn between her childhood sweetheart and a mysterious figure who honed her ability to sing. There are definite upsides to both men: Raoul (Patrick Wilson) is charming and handsome, and he can look back on his childhood days with Christine with happiness; the Phantom (Gerard Butler), despite the fact that he's disfigured and sliding into madness, is seductive and overpowering, and he has the ability to ignite Christine's lust. By the end of the film, she realizes that choosing either one will require making a great sacrifice.

A series of subplots work their way into the film, the most prominent being the rivalry between Christine and Carlotta (Minnie Driver), a boisterous, temperamental Italian diva with a comically over-exaggerated singing voice. Christine clearly has nothing against her; I can't even recall a moment when they speak to each other. Carlotta, on the other hand, hates Christine with a passion, and absolutely refuses to let a younger, prettier, more talented girl upstage her. She never understands just how ridiculous her feelings for Christine are, even after the Phantom humiliates Carlotta by lacing her throat spray with a voice disabling substance. And he proves to be just as stubborn with his feelings: he won't let anyone upstage Christine, and if he has to kill a few people to prove his point, then so be it.

Along the way, we also meet: Andre and Firmin (Ciarán Hinds and Simon Callow), the Opera Populaire's newest managers who only care about their financial success; Madame Giry (Miranda Richardson), the Ballet Mistress who knows more about the Phantom than she initially let's on; and Meg Giry (Jennifer Ellison), Madame Giry's daughter and Christine's best friend. They weave in and out of the story fairly evenly, and in some way, they all play a part in the main plot (some play bigger parts than others). Out of all these characters, the only one I took issue with was Madame Giry. Why is she the only one with a French accent when every character in this film lives in France? I realize this is just nitpicking, and it's really not a big enough problem to ruin the story (but it is still noticeable).

As paper-thin and cliché as the plot may sound, it's such classic material that it lends itself perfectly to an operatic musical. The romance is also effectively enhanced by the lyrics, written with care and precision by Charles Hart (with additional lyrics written by Richard Stilgoe). Never once did they seem contrived or ill fitting (and this is after they were altered from their original stage incarnations). It just goes to show that a memorable song is about more than just a catchy tune; it needs to work with its words, as well.

One of the criticisms that overshadowed this film was Gerard Butler's performance (acting and singing). Granted, the Phantom is supposed to represent a twisted father figure for Christine, and that does necessitate an older, more established actor. However, this film adaptation was clearly attempting to reinvent his character, and for that reason, a younger, fresher actor suited the film perfectly. As far as his singing voice is concerned, I've actually read reviews that likened it to a low-grade high school production. Are they kidding me? He may not have the greatest voice in the world, but it's nowhere near as bad as some have made it out to be. In my opinion, he effectively manages to carry through the songs. In other words: I never once disliked the decision made to cast him in this film.

One of the pivotal (and best) scenes is of the Phantom leading Christine through the underground catacombs and into his lair during the title song. It was meant to be a surreal, dreamlike descent; some of the imagery, including living arms that act as sconces, wouldn't make sense under lucid circumstances. But Christine is in a trance, susceptible to an active imagination. The audience feels this, as well, by means of some very unconventional methods. But since it's a moment of pure fantasy, it's perfectly acceptable for huge candelabra to magically rise from the waters and for the music to include electric guitar solos and synthesized drumbeats. While this may initially come off as historically inaccurate, it still manages to fit with the tone of the story. Besides, Webber himself says that the music was designed to have a slight rock 'n' roll feel to it, if not for the story, then for the sake of connecting it with a modern audience.

Few musicals have had me as entranced as "The Phantom of the Opera" has. From the songs to the performances to the bold set and costume designs, it can take you away to a different world. That's probably one of the corniest ways to describe a film, but in this case, it's really the only one that fits. And it's true what some have said: if you loved the play, then you'll love the movie. So what if it was unsuccessful at the box office? Who cares if the critics completely missed the point? We now have it on DVD, and in the privacy of our homes, no one can tell us what makes a movie good or bad.

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December 14, 2010
excellent as always, Chris.
 
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More Phantom of the Opera (2004 mov... reviews
review by . December 12, 2010
Stephanie's Favourite Movies: The Phantom of the Opera      I dislike Joel Schumacher as a director, mainly because he ruined Batman. However, I liked his grandiose, spectacular take on the film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's popular musical, The Phantom of the Opera.      I don't get all the critical hate for this movie, it's incredibly well done and is plenty romantic. This is also one of two movies that I have cried at in my young …
review by . May 02, 2011
The Phantom of the Opera is a movie very dear to me and I have been a valiant defender of it ever since I first saw the critics consensus. I absolutely adore this movie and if you don't judge the movie based on character or dialogue, then you will as well. I have chosen to embrace this film for the sheer spectacle and grandeur of it all and in my opinion, that is probably the best way to go. The acting is okay, and the story and dialogue were kind of lacking. But screw it, this is the one instance …
review by . December 27, 2011
It is the 1870s, and living beneath a Paris opera house is a mad, disfigured, musical genius known as the Phantom (Gerard Butler). He has been secretly tutoring Christine (Emmy Rossum), an orphaned chorus girl, and arranges for her to replace the unpopular leading lady. Christine is grateful, but when she rekindles her childhood romance with the Opera's patron (Patrick Wilson), the Phantom is outraged and declares war on the couple.      I love the magnificent musical …
review by . July 17, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Music of the Night
I have seen two play versions of this wonderful Andrew Loyd Weber's masterpiece. The first was back when I was in high school and I saw it in LA. It captured my heart as a beautiful story with exceptional music. I still have the original program too preserved as a wonderful memory. I bought the soundtrack and learned all the words to all the songs. Than along comes the 2004 movie adaptation starring Gerard Butler as the Phantom and Emmy Rossum as Christine and while I saw how beautiful she …
review by . July 17, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
 To my amazement, this musical was repackaged for film as a stunning piece that I watched over and over again. I've seen the actual musical in New York, with chandelier swinging right overhead, and never thought anyone could put this to screen effectively especially after experiencing it so up close and personal. The disfigured musical genius who's only way of communicating his wishes is through fearful and mysterious "happenings" at the Opera House is excused somewhat in …
review by . December 23, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
Emmy Rossum and Gerard Butler
Personally, I've never been a big fan of movie musicals, though there have been a few exceptions. One of those exceptions is Joel Schumacher's marvelous film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera. The lavish production perfectly captures the excitement of the stage, while cleverly exploiting the cinematic medium for maximum impact. The film showcases impressive costumes, awesome sets, and an unexpectedly terrific cast, which reenergizes the music with a youthful vitality that …
Quick Tip by . July 17, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
To my amazement, this musical was repackaged for film as a stunning piece that I watched over and over again. I've seen the actual musical in New York, with chandelier swinging right overhead, and never thought anyone could put this to screen effectively especially after experiencing it so up close and personal. The disfigured musical genius who's only way of communicating his wishes is through fearful and mysterious "happenings" at the Opera House is excused somewhat in most of our minds after …
Quick Tip by . July 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Visually stunning movie with strong performances. Gerard Butler showed his acting range by playing a more dramatic character than he is known now for playing.
Quick Tip by . August 25, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Great music, great cast, just great. And could the chemistry between Emmy Rossum and Gerard Butler have been any hotter? I don't think so!!!
review by . July 29, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
(3.5) Going into a musical, one expects to open one's senses. Andrew Lloyd Webber, not quite at the height of his powers, gives us a few reasons to celebrate his musical brought to the screen in Joel Schumacher's rendition of `Phantom of the Opera'.     There are two main interlocking stories, and while they give one another meaning, they sometimes are conflicting to the musical's spirit. In front of the stage, Andre (Simon Cowell) has acquired the Paris Opera House. He must …
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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Although it's not as bold as Oscar darling Chicago, The Phantom of the Opera continues the resuscitation of the movie musical with a faithful adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's blockbuster stage musical. Emmy Rossum glows in a breakout role as opera ingénue Christine Daae, and if phantom Gerard Butler isn't Rossum's match vocally, he does convey menace and sensuality in such numbers as "The Music of the Night." The most experienced musical theater veteran in the cast, romantic lead Patrick Wilson, sings sweetly but seems wooden. The biggest name in the cast, Minnie Driver, hams it up as diva Carlotta, and she's the only principal whose voice was dubbed (though she does sing the closing-credit number, "Learn to Be Lonely," which is also the only new song).

Director Joel Schumacher, no stranger to visual spectacle, seems to have found a good match in Lloyd Webber's larger-than-life vision of Gaston LeRoux's Gothic horror-romance. His weakness is cuing too many audience-reaction shots and showing too much of the lurking Phantom, but when he calms down and lets Rossum sings "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" alone in a silent graveyard, it's exquisite.

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Details

Director: Joel Schumacher
Genre: Drama, Musical, Romance
Release Date: December 22, 2004
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Runtime: 2hrs 23min
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
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