Vault: 'The Phantom Of The Opera' (2004) Dir. Joel Schumacher
Updated: Aug 31, 2020
A big-screen blockbuster adapted from Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1986 musical, in turn adapted from the 1910 novel L'e Fantôme de l'Opéra' by Gaston Leroux...
At the Opéra Populaire in Paris, 1870, a production of ‘Hannibal’ is underway. With new owners Richard Firmin (Hinds) and Gilles André (Callow), patron Viscount Raoul de Chagny (Wilson) and leading lady Carlotta Giudicelli (Driver), things look set for a lavish return to form.
A shadowy figure known as The Phantom (Butler) lives and writes music within the catacombs and oversees everything with strict rules that must be followed. One such rule is that young chorus girl, Christine Daaé (Rossum), takes the lead and shows the public how good a singer she is. Christine becomes a star, thanks to being secretly mentored by the Phantom (Butler).
Raoul longs for Christine to marry him and does all he can to protect her and the opera house from the Phantom and his threats. But when affairs of the heart begin to take Christine away, the Phantom will stop at nothing to teach them all a lesson in obedience and get her back…
An avid fan of the musical itself on stage, seeing it at a young age with family when I knew nothing about it, it transfixed me. It was haunting, it was dramatic, it was emotional and it was lavish. Seeing this film version years later didn’t bother me too much as musicals on screen have a habit of being awful, on the whole, and lacking the power that comes over on the live stage. ‘The Phantom Of The Opera’ isn’t a patch on the theatre version, but for a film adaptation it is surprisingly good.
Many of the themes from the show come across perfectly here – the moments we see love, see death, see fear and see joy. Granted it’s not the most feel-good musical out there, but it’s not meant to be. It’s a tragic story with a tragic anti-hero with tragic circumstances hampering his already tragic life. Gerard Butler I think is a perfect screen Phantom. He has the “big screen” good looks that we all want the Phantom to have as he woos his love, but also conveys a great deal of angst, heartache and rage in his performance. The main requirement for this, and any role here, is the ability to sing, and Butler can. For me he is a great singer and hits all the right notes for important songs such as ‘Music Of The Night’ and ‘The Point Of No Return’.
Butler is no trained singer, but for the role here he sends shivers down your spine with some of those notes he hits and emotion he conveys.
We also have calibre support with the beautiful and superbly talented Emmy Rossum as Christine who is a remarkable singer and so beautifully naïve that she conveys a hidden eroticism when she is transfixed by the Phantom. She flits between saint and sinner perfectly, in all creating a character who is haunted and conflicted by two very different men and two very different appeals. She is very likeable and has a super voice. Her songs ‘Think Of Me’ and ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again’ easily convince you of the then 18 year olds talent.
With the only irritating character played by Patrick Wilson, Raoul, who doesn’t hold a candle to Phantom IMO looks or singing wise, we have a strong cast include Miranda Richardson, Jennifer Ellison, Simon Callow and Ciarán Hind, who give performances that easily jump from the stage to screen to create a humorous but dramatic range of characters who are equally adept at singing.
The story is simple to follow, a distorted love triangle with Christine in the middle and both her suitors fighting to win her; one with charm and nobility and the other with music and murder. It does drag a little towards the end with a few new scenes added to tell more of the story, but it soon picks up for a rousing and emotional finale that does the trio justice. From it’s opening blast of organ music with the iconic main theme, through to the various set pieces and staged numbers, one thing you can’t fault is the production and scale of things.
Director Joel Schumacher may be a very love-him-or-hate-him talent in Hollywood, but here he balances the theatrical glam and camp with the visual beauty and drama to tell a story. While it may not be as genuinely haunting and creepy as the theater version with its gothic horror, the film version expands on settings and characters to make it a little more accessible in a way films can rather than be restrained. It does work, and it always has a sense of grandeur with lavish sets, elaborate costumes and many, many musical numbers that don’t fail to remind you that this is a faithful musical adaptation.
My only quarm is I wish the film ended with the same visual the live show does, as that is far more powerful and works beautifully with the music, rather than add another 2 minutes of unnecessary footage we didn’t need to see for characters set 30 years later - but that's Hollywood for you.
Fans of the show and of musicals in general will find this enjoyable and entertaining with our two leading stars that are crucial to making the story work and deliver the emotion needed.
'The Phantom Of The Opera' is a Joel Schumacher Productions / Really Useful Films production