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 was, I was not't all the certain that to me a lesser known actor like Butler could pull off the Phantom. We went and saw it on the big screen and from the minute it started in the black and white during the auction scene of the old opera house I was intrigued. As always the opening strands of the Phantom theme brings goosebumps and the screen comes alive with vibrant color with the transformation of the opera house to it's former glory. The visual effects of that moment had me anticipating the rest of the movie.
Emmy lights up the screen with her beauty, grace and most of all her classically trained voice bringing all the songs I know and love to life. Her natural ability to act, dance and sing makes her a classic Christine Daae. The chemistry that her and Gerard Butler had was magnetic. I really don't feel that I need to paraphrase the plot here, since I would think most people would know the general story and so many people have seen, heard of or even read the book, being that it's a very old story indeed. It's the idea that since it's had so many adaptations, it's just important to know that I believe that most of the characters really live up to the high standards set forth by the original London and Broadway stage performance.
Again, I was at first skeptical about Gerard Butler as the Phantom. I didn't really know who he was and at first didn't really see much to his voice. Considering he isn't an opera singer by trade, I thought the contrast to their voices worked very well. Knowing what Butler is capable of now I look back and think wow, what a versatile actor who I think to this day is not appreciated enough for his versatility.
Aside from that we have Raoul played by Patrick Wilson. The typical pretty boy and not at all to my taste in comparison to Butlers dark and mysterious looks, but a good singer and plays the part of a rich sponsor to the opera very well. Also we have the owners of the Opera Andre and Firmin along with Carlotta (played by Mini Driver) give the movie a little comic relief without being silly and over done. If anyone is a true connoisseur of the movie, you would know that Minnie Driver was the only actress in the movie who did not actually sing her songs, these were voiced over and done well enough you wouldn't know the difference, but it's in the way she plays Carlotta that make her the perfect person for this part.
The movie was just a wonderful addition to the Phantom's franchise. It takes the play to places that you just can't take a stage performance, and never ruins the integrity of what we have come to know and love. After that, I also had the pleasure of seeing the play again at the Venetian in Las Vegas and was thinking how can anyone make it better? How is anyone going to duplicate the goose bump feeling I get when I hear the orchestra start up and the world of dark and forgotten is brought back to life? We had the privilege of sitting in the 7th row center at the Venetian, which we were told by the ticket agent was really the best seat in the house. Front row, which we could have purchased was just a little to close and below the stage while row 7 was right on in height and distance. The entire theater was covered in a gray material and the infamous chandelier was covered on stage. Once the music started all the covers were removed little by little and the chandelier raised up over our heads to the center of the theater and made you feel you were ready to witness something wonderful. While I believe this version is condensed in minutes, I didn't feel cheated or disappointed and thoroughly enjoyed all over again.
If you in anyway like musicals, or at least can handle them, this movie is a must see. The costumes, the music, the passion in which everyone plays their parts is something to not be missed. It's a visually stunning movie, even if the majority of it is set in the old Paris Opera House, it's scope of presentation makes it seem so much more.
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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.