The Phantom of the Opera (2004) Movie Review

Criticism toward Joel Schumacher's attempted enactment of Andrew Lloyd Webber's cherished stage musical The Phantom of the Opera likely will fall on deaf ears. If you love the source material (I don't), the chances are high you'll thoroughly enjoy the latest film to pay tribute, even though Schumacher is functionally talentless.

Schumacher and his financial backers certainly spare no expense, though the bulk of their budget apparently went to candles. Their Phantom (the not-so-hideously-disfigured Gerard Butler) hides beneath opulent and gaudy-yet-dimly-lit theatrical set pieces that turn the normally regal Opera Populaire into the west wing of the Moulin Rogue. The Phantom's water-logged lair resembles exactly what it is - a poorly constructed, artificial set dropped into the corner of a vast soundstage. Hire the man who put nipples on the Bat suit, and you're going to get what you pay for. The masquerade ball, which occurs late in the story, starts to explore methods of filling the artistic canvas, but by then, it's too little, too late.

Regardless of your opinions on Webber's compositions, there's one unavoidable fact that prevents me from properly embracing a filmed Phantom - we're sitting in a seat watching performers not sing the show. Oh, Schumacher's cast may sing their hearts out in sound booths somewhere far off stage, but there's no sense of truth to the performance. Most manage beautifully with tunes one fellow critic cleverly described as "music written for Muppets."

When the movie rolls, we're asked to watch handsome but lifeless drones lip synch to previously recorded tracks while they lumber around with their arms glued to their sides. Emmy Rossum plays Christine, the apple of the Phantom's eye, who's elevated into leading lady status after the opera's reigning diva (Minnie Driver) drops out. Rossum has the pipes, for sure, but not the personality. Her Christine maintains a single facial expression throughout the show. Compared to Driver, though, Rossum is Oscar-worthy. Driver doing diva is positively grating in what's written to be a scene-stealing supporting part.

Ninety-five percent of Phantom is sung, a blessing for some and a curse for others. The real trouble, however, lies in the director's bland staging, which Schumacher shackles to the existing score. When one character sings, the others in frame typically stand still with their traps hanging open, politely waiting their turn to lip synch another dialogue line. Plot holes that plagued the original musical still exist, and the limitations of the show carry over onto the screen. Schumacher's dominant contributions amount to clownish, hammy antics backstage and silly asides by broadly drawn caricatures.

So what's the point? There's no passion in the cast's performance, no thrill tied to the notion of live theater and, worse, no showmanship utilizing the power of the cinematic medium. Rob Marshall's Chicago, which opened the door for this current wave of movie musicals and lit the fire under projects like Phantom, at least had the decency to transport its already existing stage story into our reality. Schumacher makes the mistake of leaving his action confined to a small space, and the self-imposed, capped ceiling stunts his film's potential growth.

Now, if you're looking for nothing more than a flat, straight-shooting presentation of the original Broadway soundtrack, Phantom delivers. For my money, I'd rather purchase a CD of the 1986 London cast recording, with Michael Crawford's Phantom and Sarah Brightman as Christine. At least, that is, if you enjoy cheesy, glam-synthesizer rock operas best suited for a cavernous arena.

Aka Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera.

Move, phantoms, move!


Comments

cappiephantom's picture

cappiephantom

I have not seen the play POTO, but last year saw the movie starring Gerard Butler and fell in love with all the characters as well as Mr. Butler. From thatspringboard I have enjoyed so many other films of GB (including Mrs. Brown and 2 days ago saw Beowulf & Grendel) in Beverly Hills. I enjoy GB so much not only to look at him, but the subjects he chooses have led me to become interested at a deeper level. I hate most of the movies that are being made now, but I eagerly look forward to Gerard Butler. I feel he is the best actor and hope that his material will be easier to see as time so on.

7 years 12 months ago
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phantom junkie's picture

phantom junkie

I have played the DVD many times since purchase and each time I have enjoyed it more. I agree with anothers comment Michael Crawford's voice is good but Gerard Butler is such a strong character and most compelling as the Phantom. In the end I was hoping he would get Christine even though I knew the ending. I was on his side. I think Butler gave a great performance. I hope we see more of him in these type of roles. My husband is an Opera fan and he enjoyed it as well and rated Gerard Butler better than Michael Crawford. Michael just did not come across as being the Phantom.

8 years 3 months ago
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02bher's picture

02bher

This was my all time favorite movie over any other! Without Gerard Butler in it I would not have felt the same way. His depth of character and drop dead gorgeous/ sexy face and voice clinched it for me. If they do make a sequel he must reprise the role..

6 years 1 week ago
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vicky1965's picture

vicky1965

this movie is awesome i must have watched it over and over again about a hundred times and i still watch it and listen to the sound track everyday. u should make another film with garard bulter he is the most handsome man in film and sexy why cant he come and play in musicals and plays im sure that the woman would love to see him on stage. the crew that was chosen for the parts of the phantom was great, and the phantom of the opera was the best movie of 2004 in my book and that u for making it.

7 years 5 months ago
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Skyler Grey's picture

Skyler Grey

Gerard Butler was wonderful in Phantom of the Opera. My husband and myself enjoyed the movie immensely. We give it 4 stars! Those who have not watched it should treat themselves to a nice quiet evening of romance & beautiful music. Thumbs up Gerard, I hope to see more of you.

8 years 6 months ago
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Mamadol's picture

Mamadol

I did not see it last year, did not pay attention to it, coz on my mind was still The Phantom I saw on stage. But when I saw the movie, I found it great, the characters especially Gerard gave an excellent portrayal of the Phantom, his masculine voice is perfect for the character,though he is not known to be a singer but he sings alright. I compare the movie soundtract to that of Michael's Crawford's. I dont discredit Michael's voice but I like Gerard's voice better.It does not matter your opinion to me, it's me to decide. So now I have the movie and the soundtract and I always play it, as for my Michael's Crawford soundtract, sorry Michael, have to set you aside. I should have watched this last year. No wonder, my friends been talking about this Gerard Butler.

8 years 4 months ago
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The Phantom of the Opera (2004) Rating

" Grim "

Rating: PG-13, 2004

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