Saturday, 2 May 2009

Movie Review - Phantom of the Opera (2004)

The Phantom of the Opera is, of course, based on the popular musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. I have never been a fan of his work although there are some really nice songs I’ve heard from Phantom. (Never did think that Sarah Brightman could sing though…) Anyway, this is the film of the musical. I’m presuming it is reasonably authentic to the original since Lloyd Webber was heavily involved in the film, co-writing and co-producing it.

Mysterious Decision…

The choice of Director (Joel Schumaker) left me puzzled (I guess I’ve never really forgiven him for the atrocity that was Batman & Robin). Sure enough, from the very first scene (a taxi pulling up, camera zooms in on badge on cab door) it is obvious that every directorial cliche in the book is going to be used here.


The plot involves the new ownership of a theatre finding out that the fabled Phantom of the Opera is in fact very real. The benefactor, a Count, falls in love with Christine, one of the chorus girls (an old acquaintance) who unexpectedly gets a chance to be a star. She has a remarkable talent but a secret behind how it was developed. One small problem for the new ownership arises – the phantom views the theatre as his and wants things done his way. There’s more to it than that, of course, and there definitely could have been a tremendous film made out of it.


The film is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay overlong (143 minutes) and stretches the plot far beyond its potential. The pacing is also a major problem – I came close to falling asleep on a couple of occasions and, even worse, actually wished I had! It’s tortuously slow in several sections and while it tries to be suspenseful, all it really achieves is constant melodrama. Also the “terrible” face that the Phantom was concealing was, when revealed, nothing particularly appalling. I know someone with an eczema scar that’s probably worse, and nobody has ever recoiled from him in horror! (At least as far as I know…)


Gerard Butler in the role of the Phantom does okay as far as his acting goes but I didn’t like his singing voice. (At least I’m presuming they all did their own singing as there were no actual song credits at the end of the movie.) I can understand why they wanted a voice that sounded tortured and earthy but I just felt he overdid it a bit. Patrick Wilson as Raoul does pretty well too and had a good singing voice, though sadly it was underused.

I had a big problem with Emmy Rossum’s performance. She is certainly pretty and has the voice of an angel but unfortunately she only seems capable of one expression. Her character is also extremely annoying – while her lover is being strangled she stands back and watches (with her one expression) and pleads for his life. I know this is a fault in many films but surely she’d want to actually try and help? Thank goodness women aren’t really as pathetic as films make out they are… or at leas, I hope not!

Ciaran Hinds and Simon Callow give fine performances as the managers of the theatre and lend a much needed light touch to the early proceedings. Unfortunately they play the second half of the film completely straight, which I guess is understandable. A slight comic touch would have made the other scenes more effective though.

Miranda Richardson ably portrays Madame Giry, who knows more than she’s letting on. It’s a shame that her character is rarely required to do more than look pensive. Prima Donna Carlotta is played by Minnie Driver, who obviously enjoys herself in the role. Jennifer Ellison was good in her role as Christine’s friend Meg Giry (Madame Giry’s daughter), though she didn’t really have much to do.

Thank you for the music… well, actually you could have kept it…

Obviously the music plays a big part in a musical (well duh). The original score is rehashed to sound more modern in places, which I didn’t feel worked too well. One problem was that the music for Phantom was designed for the acoustics of a theatre and just didn’t reproduce very well in a cinema. However the main problem I had with the music (and the songs in general) was that most of it could be described as mediocre (and that’s if I’m being kind!). In fact the word I’d choose to sum up the music and songs in general, and if I’m brutally honest the whole film, is tedious.

There was only one song in the whole film that I felt was handled really well, and that was “All I ask of you” while the love-struck Raoul and Christine are on top of the theatre. (Literally not metaphorically.) Considering that virtually the whole film was sung rather than spoken there should have been a lot more memorable moments.

Okay so there are some good points…
Much as I didn’t enjoy the film overall, there are some aspects of it that definitely deserve praise. The sets are sumptuous, the photography gorgeous, and the art direction stunning. Sadly, these things are not nearly enough to save the film, though at least they help it avoid the ignominy of a 1-star rating. One point near the end managed to be genuinely touching rather than melodramatic. But it just wasn’t enough.


Well, there you have it. I found the film boring in the extreme, but then I’m not a great fan of musicals or Lloyd Webber. If you are either, you’ll probably enjoy Phantom of the Opera a whole lot more than I did!

Just to warn parents, there are some parts that young children may find frightening or upsetting. Though I think they’ll asleep long before that happens…

(MPAA rating PG-13 for brief violent images. UK rating 12A.)

Just in case you were wondering…

Yes, there are some musicals that I liked. Click Here to see my top ten.


Anonymous said...

First of all...ALW wanted a rough voice and Butler fills the part and he did all his own singing.... the Phantom is not supposed to be a sissy....Emmy Rossen was only 16 years old when she started on the movie and had never acted it's not fair to judge her so harshly. Patrick Wilson has several broadway shows under his belt and therefore more experiance. All in all, The POTHO is a beautiful movie.

CaptainD said...

Hi there!

I'm glad you enjoyed it more than I did! :-D

BTW... don't read my review of Mamma Mia if you liked that.. I don't think you'll approve of my opinion!