The Phantom of the Opera
Note: Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera was
going to have a tough time getting a fair shake from me.
First, I really didn't like the stage show, and second,
Joel Schumacher owes me big time for Batman and Robin. So
in order to give the film version a chance, we instead sent
a real fan, one who had seen it onstage several times. The
actual number is being withheld for her protection. Without
further ado, a true fan's reaction...
stage show is technically one long flashback, an idea that
director Joel Schumacher runs with. Opening in black and
white, the film takes its perspective from the elderly Raoul
(Patrick Wilson), one third of a tragic love triangle. As
he reminisces, vivid colors bleed into the frame, making
a fluid transition between story segments without sacrificing
any of what made the original show work for fans.
the scenery was beautiful, at times Schumacher went for
a visual overload. A couple of the musical numbers feature
the cast running throughout the opera house apparently just
for the sake of showing the large set. As for the classic
moment of the stage show, the chandelier crash, the director
moved it into the end of the film. It worked to enhance
the climax, but was just one example of shuffling the story
characters gain from this shuffle. Mme Giry (Miranda Richardson)
has a far more significant role in the film than the stage
show. Richardson gives the character a fascinating quality,
crucial for the woman who rescued young Erik, the Phantom.
of the rest of the cast makes it work, too. As Christine,
Emmy Rossum played intriguing, brilliantly expressing her
conflicting emotions between the handsome man she loves
and her angel of music. That handsome man, Raoul, gets his
dash from Wilson, an actor whose beautiful voice and Broadway
experience were certainly welcome.
Driver proves absolutely hilarious as the over the top diva
Charlotta. Matched with the theater managers (Ciaran Hinds
and Simon Callow), she added much comic relief.
biggest problem with the film is the miscasting of the Phantom
himself. Gerard Butler was most likely selected to enhance
the romantic triangle among the Phantom, Christine and Raoul,
but he is simply wrong for the part.
of the trouble lies in his age. How is it that this young
Phantom could have tutored Christine since she was
a child? He had to have begun when he was ten years old.
Also, the point gets made that Mme. Giry rescued the Phantom
when he was a child, but she herself wasn't that much older.
Somehow, they didn't age at the same rate. Richardson seems
significantly older than Butler.
cruelly, Butler lacks the vocal strength for this role.
He warbles through the songs adequately (some of Andrew
Lloyd Webber's most famous showstoppers), but the role needs
much more passion and quality than Butler, a sometime rock
singer, can muster.
would have made a better Phantom? How about Jason Isaacs?
I don't know if he can sing but he's both a wonderful villain
and amazingly sexy. If he couldn't sing, they could simply
have dubbed his voice like they apparently did for Driver.
the final scene - the confrontation among the triangle -
was captivating enough to make me forget the weak spots
in Butler's performance. Fans will be happy enough with
the film, but more for the sake of supporting movie musicals
than because this is the one we've been waiting for.