Whenever a bad remake comes out, inevitably you will have people sighing, stroking their chins and saying "Ah, they should have never tempered with the original". But with so many versions of 'The Phantom of the Opera' available, it's highly unlikely that this version is one that people will be remembering fondly. Perhaps the story of the Phantom is one that will never translate well to film?It's practically the same as the recent Joel Schumacher mis-fire. A member of the orchestra and would-be composer (Claude Raines) is fired from his job. To make matters worse, the chorus girl he's infatuated with, Christine, has two new suitors to occupy her time and a new musical piece he's been slaving away on has just been stolen by another member of the orchestra.
In a fit of rage he murders the man who has 'stolen' his work, but also takes an unfortunate tray of acid in the face. The Phantom then disappears into the sewers to haunt the opera house and try to further Christine's career.
So what does it have over Schumacher's recent version? For a start, Claude Raines. Whereas Gerard Butler was as limp as a lettuce leaf in a puddle of water, Raines commands and scares as the Phantom. His rich voice drips with pain and anger and his spectre haunts the film. Moments when he does appear, such as to kill off a rival of Christine's carry a genuine suspenseful impact, as does the revelation of his scarred face. And the chandelier crash isn't messed up here, luckily.
And it (thankfully) isn't as long, so the pain isn't dragged out as much as Schumacher made us endure it. However...this version still isn't particularly good.
Because as good as Raines is, he's just not in it enough. Instead we have endless scenes of warbling opera (except none of the Lloyd Webber's tunes) and a dull love triangle between Christine, a policeman and a baritone. Why is it so difficult for directors and writers to understand that in the 'Phantom of the Opera' we're really quite keen to see the Phantom?As colourful as it is, 'The Phantom of the Opera' still has little interest besides Raines' performance. It may not be as wincingly dull or annoying as Schumachers version...but it's not far behind.