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 where I don't give a crap. The art direction in this film is absolutely stunning and the songs/singing are absolutely divine, and that's exactly what I love about this movie.
Plus, this is the only movie that I have ever sobbed at. I mean really sobbed. I've learned to hold it back now but you should have seen me when I first saw it and even the second time I saw it, I was weeping like mad. As a matter of fact, I'm trying not to right now. Anyway, enough about my habit of only crying at this movie, let's get to the story. For those of you who don't know, Phantom of the Opera is told in flashback from the perspective of Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny when he is an old man in a wheelchair. He goes with his nurses to an auction at the now-deserted Opera Populaire and he purchases a monkey music box. The repaired chandelier is revealed and we are transported into the past at the height of the Opera Populaire's...well...popularity. The story then centres on the young ingenue Christine Daae (Emmy Rossum) who replaces the aging soprano Carlotta, and the Phantom (her longtime unseen tutor played by Gerard Butler) cannot hide his affections for her anymore.
He takes Christine down to his lair in the catacombs of the opera house and she soon grows fond of her teacher. That is until he kills a stagehand and she takes solace in the arms of her childhood sweetheart Raoul (AKA the Vicomte). After a scene on the roof of the opera house where Christine and Raoul confess their feelings for one another, the phantom takes that as an act of war and at the masked ball, gives the opera managers the opera he wrote. After another warlike act at Christine's father's grave, the Opera Populaire decides to perform the Phantom's play to trap him. This all culminates in the final scene in the Phantom's lair and Christine must finally make a decision.
The story is mostly told through the songs, and honestly has very little dialogue outside the opening. The dialogue, admittedly, is pretty bad, but again, this is the only movie where I don't care. The acting is passable, so I'll go by actor and describe exactly what they did right and wrong, saving Gerard Butler for last because I have the most to talk about with him. Emmy Rossum played Christine, and her acting was passable, even acceptable. She is very pretty, and she's a terrific singer, but her acting was only okay. Patrick Wilson was Raoul, and he's a trained singer, one of the few in the movie. That definitely shows, as he is the best male singer in the movie and a decent actor. Plus, I cared for his character and I wanted to see him get Christine. The other supporting roles like the managers, Madame Giry, and Meg were decently acted as well. The only other supporting performance I feel the need to mention is Minnie Driver as Carlotta, the opera diva who Christine replaces. Minnie Driver is terrific in this role, probably the best acted role in the movie, just because she was so over the top. Her Italian accent was note-perfect and Margaret Price (AKA the singing voice of the Reverend Mother in Sound of Music)'s voice coming out of her mouth sounded like Minnie was actually singing, even though she wasn't.
Now, onto the Phantom of the Opera himself, played by Gerard Butler. While Lon Chaney's Phantom was much more grotesque and scary, Gerard's Phantom was much more sexy because the normal half of his face is so easy on the eyes and the abnormal half of his face isn't that bad, more like a bad skin condition than a serious disfigurement. This movie could have been damn extraordinary if they had a proper Phantom, but they didn't and it was only great. I have no idea what madness Joel Schumacher was experiencing when he decided to cast Gerard Butler as the Phantom. Probably the same madness that caused Batman and Robin to be created, but I digress. Now don't get me wrong, Gerard wasn't terrible. In fact, for an untrained singer, he was actually quite good. However, this is the Phantom of the Opera, you need a trained singer to play the Phantom. I had heard that Hugh Jackman was in talks for the role, and he would have been perfect for the role. He's a trained singer, he has the charisma, and he can also sing a hell of a lot better than Butler. Again, Butler wasn't terrible, but I'll just chalk it up to a poor casting choice. So all in all, passable acting.
Where the movie really shines is its songs. If you aren't interested in the movie, then I would at least recommend the soundtrack because it is absolutely phenomenal. My personal favourite is that epic Phantom of the Opera theme, but every song is spectacular. The other strength of the movie is the sheer spectacle and grandeur. The art direction is exquisite and the costume design is wonderful. You really get the lavish feel of the opera and the movie is splendid for it. Seriously, this movie has some of the best art direction and costume design I have ever seen. I don't really have much else to say though, so I'm going to wrap this up.
What can I say? The Phantom of the Opera is just a decent film if you choose to analyze it by acting, dialogue, and characters. However, if you throw all that away and just embrace the scale of spectacle and grandeur, which I would suggest you do if you want to look at this film, you will find this very wonderful and absolutely beautiful. So all in all, this comes with my high recommendation as one of my favourite movies of all time.