Director: Joel Schumacher
Starring: Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson, Miranda Richardson, Minnie Driver
Synopsis: Musical Drama based on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s celebrated musical phenomenon. The Phantom of the Opera tells the story of a disfigured musical genius (Gerard Butler) who haunts the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera, waging a reign of terror over its occupants. When he falls fatally in love with the lovely Christine (Emmy Rossum), the Phantom devotes himself to creating a new star for the Opera, exerting a strange sense of control over the young soprano as he nurtures her extraordinary talents.
I’d be lying if I said that The Phantom of the Opera’s luscious musical numbers weren’t swirling around in my head the day after I watched the film. However, the beautiful music is one of many elements of the movie that the musical gets credit for. This is the challenging part of evaluating film adaptations of musicals – if you’re unable to compare the two, it’s nearly impossible to know what to blame/praise the film for. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to see the musical, so I do not have the luxury of making any comparisons.
The musical, written by Andrew Lloyd Weber in 1986 (based on a novel), is the longest running show on Broadway and has received countless awards. Weber began working on a screenplay for the film with Schumacher in 1986. Despite the original writer being on board, the film’s writing is left wanting. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with plot; the storyline is beautiful. It’s enthralling, heartbreaking, and it keeps the audience wanting to support the ambiguous anti-villain. This is due to excellent character development of the Phantom, which explains his motivations yet still keeps him shrouded in mystery. Alas, the only other character in the film who receives care in her exploration is Madame Giry (Miranda Richardson), the opera’s choreographer whom the Phantom uses as a means of communication with the opera managers. The audience learns little about Christine’s motivations for breaking the Phantom’s heart: she suddenly flip flops from being enchanted by him to loving the Viscount Raoul (Patrick Wilson). All that’s really revealed about her is that her father is dead…it seems lacking. My other complaint about the film’s writing is that plot is a bit trudgy and disoriented to begin with. Luckily, as the story progresses the film becomes easier to watch.
Appearance-wise, The Phantom is simply stunning. The frames are something of glory, and they truly impress upon the audience the prestige and wonder of the opera house. The costuming is very well done, with the intricate apparel never failing to go unnoticed. Butler and Rossum are amazing on-screen. Butler, in particular, casts much mystery and curious sensuality over his character. He’s very much the saving grace of the film. Rossum also does her part as the doe-eye beauty. Traditionally, sopranos are known for being arrogant divas (as shown in the film by the opera house’s prima donna), and Christine is meant to be the exception to that: talented beyond measure while maintaining humility. Rossum does just that, using her extreme youth to her advantage (she was 18 at the time!).
Musicals adapted to film are often very much hit or miss – The Phantom is an exception. Despite the film’s flaws, the classic, timeless plot makes it worth a watch. Ignore the writing; allow yourself to be moved by the top-notch leading performances, the spectacular visuals, and of course the music.