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The Phantom of the Opera DVD Review

The Phantom of the Opera

November 12, 2005

Director: Joel Schumacher,
Starring: Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson, Miranda Richardson, Minnie Driver, Ciarán Hinds, Simon Callow, Victor McGuire, Jennifer Ellison, Murray Melvin, Kevin McNally, James Fleet, ,

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DVD Review

It’s amazing that it took this long for a film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s famous Broadway musical The Phantom of the Opera to be made. While it was seen by millions upon millions of people worldwide, the movie failed to draw in the big numbers at the box office that the filmmakers had hoped for which begs the question: does anyone still care about the Phantom anymore?

Christine (Rossum) is a beautiful, young singer attracted to the handsome Raoul (Wilson). They were childhood sweethearts but over the years have drifted apart. She is part of the company that is currently rehearsing its latest production in the opera house and things are not going well. The star of the show, Carlotta (Driver), is a difficult diva driving everyone crazy. To make matters worse, someone is trying to sabotage the production with random acts of vandalism and kidnapping or killing cast and crew members. It quickly becomes apparent that it is the mysterious Phantom (Butler) that is haunting the opera house.

Thanks to a fortuitous twist of fate, Christine is plucked out of obscurity and given her big break as a principal singer in the production which finally captures Raoul’s attention and that of the Phantom, who seduces her, creating an inevitable tragic love triangle.

Rossum, who previous claim to fame was in the forgettable disaster movie, The Day After Tomorrow (2004) and more memorably as Sean Penn’s tragically murdered daughter in Mystic River (2003), is quite good as Christine, the fresh-faced ingenue. There is a pristine, wholesome quality to her that Schumacher accentuates in the way he directs her and in every shot that is always perfectly lit.

However, Gerard Butler seems miscast in the role of the Phantom. For some strange reason, Schumacher and Webber decided not to scar him (hence wearing the mask) which is kind of an odd choice and is a nagging quibble. Also, Butler is not a professionally trained singer like Rossum, Patrick Wilson or even Minnie Driver. His voice doesn’t seem that strong—crucial towards establishing the commanding, captivating presence of the Phantom. Compared to Broadway’s Michael Crawford, he just doesn’t have the same kind of charismatic chops that is needed for this larger than life character.

The movie is filled with gorgeous visuals as exemplified by a sequence early on that shows the transition from the present opera house—dusty, decayed and ruined—to its past splendor: bustling with activity, opulent décor and the Phantom theme music swelling on the soundtrack. With this ambitious, grandiose introduction one has to wonder if director Joel Schumacher was influenced by the Baz Luhrmann’s exquisite musical, Moulin Rouge (2001). Like Luhrmann’s movie, Phantom features lavishly decorated sets rich in detail and resplendent costumes that faithfully recreate this time period.

The Phantom’s subterranean lair underneath the opera house is something right out of a gothic horror film. It is full of dank decay and candles that echoes the vampires’ underground hangout in Schumacher’s movie, The Lost Boys (1987). It’s safe to say that this movie is drenched in atmosphere and is certainly a faithful visual recreation of Webber’s Broadway musical.

Schumacher and Webber’s version pushes all the right buttons. It looks and sounds great and features all the songs that fans of the Broadway musical know and love so why didn’t it do better at the box office? Have people finally gotten tired of The Phantom of the Opera? At times, the movie does feel a little too slick, too polished and lacking in the go-for-broke passion that made Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge so brilliant (although, that film hardly lit up the box office either).

Special Features:

The first disc features a theatrical trailer.

The second disc contains a comprehensive look at the making of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway production, entitled “Behind the Mask: The Story of ‘The Phantom of the Opera.’” Webber and his collaborators talk about the origins of the stage version and what drew them to the material. There is all kinds of footage from various stage incarnations (including the work-in-progress version that was stage at Webber’s estate). This is an excellent, in-depth look at Webber’s take on the Phantom, including the evolution of the songs.

“Origins and Casting of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’” is a look at how the film version came together. Originally, it was going to be made 14 years ago with Schumacher directing and Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman as the leads. For some reason it didn’t happen, which is never explained by the participants, but the two men stayed friends over the years and when the timing was right they were finally able to make it a reality.

“Designing ‘The Phantom of the Opera’” is a look at how the film’s sumptuous sets were designed through a combination of CGI, models and soundstages. They built the interior of the opera house which was very ambitious in terms of scale and detail.

“Supporting Cast and Recording the Album of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’” features Miranda Richardson and other members of the supporting cast talking about their characters and their impressions of the film. Also included is footage of the cast singing their own parts, which reinforces the amazing voice of then 16-year-old Rossum.

Finally, there is an additional scene, “No One Would Listen,” a musical number featuring the Phantom in his lair lamenting about his outsider status.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 82%

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