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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 9.09%
Average: 4.33%
Pretty Bad: 17.32%
Total Crap: 26.41%

12 reviews, 159 user ratings

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Phantom of the Opera, The (2004)
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by dionwr

"Does for a romantic musical what the Japanese did to Nanking"
1 stars

Despite my respect for my fellow HBS reviewers who have already reviewed "The Phantom of the Opera," I felt that this film needed a review from someone who actually liked the play and the music. Not to argue in favor of the movie--please, PLEASE miss it if you can--but to explain the attraction the play has, and why the film misses that so badly. There are only three things wrong with the movie. Unfortunately, they are the female lead, the male lead, and the director.

The young Emmy Rossum, who plays Christine, is young, beautiful, and can sing superbly. But she can't act. One waits in vain to see an emotion cross her perfect, unblemished features. Alas, gentle reader, unblemished they remain. It may be wrong to conclude that she cannot act, but she certainly doesn't ever do so in this film. This may be attributable to the director, who was obviously telling her to stay in her key light and get the singing right. She did that, but it wasn't enough.

The story of the Phantom needs, as a wellspring to the plot, a believable Christine. Christine is a lonely, dreamy girl with great talent--who has been getting singing lessons from a disembodied voice in a chapel for several years, never finding out who she's talking to, and half suspects it's the ghost of her father! Aside from some acting talent, it takes an unusual actress to convince in this role, with a particular dreamy, otherworldly quality that Rossum just doesn't have. Think Gene Tierney in "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir," or Jenny Wright in "Near Dark."

And this dreamy girl, desperate for a friend of her own, alone, no family, is perfectly attuned to that other lonely figure, the Phantom. And that brings us to the second problem with the film.

Gerard Butler, who plays the Phantom, is actually a good actor, and he does well in scenes that require him only to act. But to pull off the Phantom, you need also both a superb singer AND a particular theatricality that Butler doesn't seem to bring. His singing isn't bad, but it isn't the muscular voice the part requires (and which Michael Crawford, who played the part on stage, possesses), And the peculiar theatrical quality that the Phantom has to have is harder to define, but it is just as vital to selling the story. Think Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lector with the addition of severe facial disfigurement, hiding out in the cavernous Paris Opera house, close to the music he loves.

The tragedy of the Phantom isn't, as Roger Ebert put it, "a cruelly mistreated man going mad in self-imposed exile," or of a Caliban who lusts for Miranda. The key to the Phantom is that he was an exceptional man, a prodigy, musician, singer, and composer, trapped behind that hideously deformed face. That he does go mad in that self-imposed isolation, I grant you, but the tragedy is that of wasted genius.

Despite a few mis-steps, the play told this story well. With the right actors, it was an irresistible piece of illusion and romanticism, with emotions three feet tall. But romanticism is a tiptoe walk along a knife's edge. Slip, and the passion looks silly and ridiculous. Which is what happens here. And that brings us to the man responsible for casting Rossum and Butler, Joel Schumacher. He applies to "Phantom of the Opera" the same sure touch that killed the Batman franchise.

Schumacher is willing to change aspects of the play to try to make it cinematic, but wherever he does so, it is uniformly for the worse. However, where he chooses to slavishly follow the play, he does that wrong, too.

As an example, there is a wonderful sequence on stage where the Phantom takes Christine to his lair. There was no real set, just the prop boat crossing the (implied) underground lake (there really is one in the fifth sub-basement of the Paris Opera), and the famous candelabra which rise up out of trapdoors on the stage floor. The illusion created was one of vast, dark spaces stretching out to infinity. Schumacher liked it so much, that in doing the same sequence in the film the candelabra rise up out of the lake and flare to life right beside the boat carrying Christine and the Phantom. What was evocative and moving on stage looks ridiculous and silly in the movie.

One of the joys of the stage piece was that it used a lot of illusions. Despite the big props like the chandelier, the candelabra, the elephant, and the glorious costumes, there were only minimal sets, and you realized at the end of the show that most of what you'd seen had taken place against bare backdrops. The stage director, Harold Prince, didn't try to re-create the Paris Opera House, but to imply one and get the audience's imagination to build it in their heads. It was one of the things that made the stage piece so cool. But Schumacher didn't get it, and the film is deadly unimaginative.

One of the few mis-steps of the stage piece was a totally unnecessary prologue, where Raoul (Christine's lover) visits the theater years later. Aside from establishing that Raoul survived (which doesn't matter at all), the prologue only wasted time. With his unerring touch, Schumacher not only kept this unneeded scene in, he expanded it as well.

But that made it possible for him to borrow a transition from "Titanic," as the scene changes from black-and-white in the dark, dusty, ruined theater of 1917 to the colorful splendor of its heyday, 1870, in one shot. I liked it in "Titanic," and it's a good shot. Schumacher borrowed several times from "Titanic," such as a contrast between upper-class dancing upstairs and lower-class dancing belowstairs thrown in (for no reason having to do with the story) into the number, "Masquerade." Most noticably, he managed to give "Phantom of the Opera" a distinct sense of a huge, grand undertaking sinking in a disaster of biblical proportions. But I digress.

As bad as the film is when Schumacher follows the play, when he decides to change it, it is worse.

For example, Schumacher decided for the number, "Masquerade," to dress the revellers at the party in black and white, so that the Phantom--who comes dressed as the Red Death--would make a bigger contrast. The problem is you then get singers describing themselves as wearing, "Mask of peuce, face of beast," and they're both wearing plain, black-and-white, domino masks. Since the song is people describing how they've disguised themselves, and the disguises no longer match what they're singing about, you wonder if Schumacher even bothered to read the lyrics. Or listened to them. Or cared about them.

The greatest criticism of his approach would be a picture of the Phantom's entrance from the original next to a picture of what Schumacher did with it. The original costume designer wasn't as simplistic as Schumacher; the party-goers and dancers were as colorful as an explosion at a confetti factory. The thing that made the Phantom stand out--and stand out he certainly did--was the monochromatic grimness of his costume.

Then there's the swordfight. There's a confrontation in a graveyard where Christine manages to get Raoul away from an apoplectically angry Phantom. In the movie, Schumacher decided they should have a swordfight, to get a little mindless action into the picture. And the word mindless is the key, as it was a genuinely dumb idea. At the end of the fight, Raoul beats the Phantom to the ground and has his sword at the Phantom's throat, Christine throws herself at Raoul, begging for the Phantom's life--so Raoul sheathes his sword, and lets the Phantom go! You can agree that he shouldn't kill him, but letting him go contrasts somewhat with the very next scene, where Raoul works with the managers of the opera on a plan to catch the Phantom. Dude, you should have held onto him when you had him! My first intimation that the movie was going to suck was seeing bits of the swordfight in the trailer.

But the worst change was in Schumacher's conception of the Phantom. He apparently insisted the Phantom should be young and vigorous. Indeed, from the evidence of the film, he wanted a pretty Phantom, which would seem to be a contradiction in terms. This is wrong in so many ways one doesn't know were to start.

For one thing, one of the dynamics of the relationship of Christine and the Phantom is that she is thinking of him as of a father, but his attitudes towards her are increasingly incestuous, to put it politely. For another, the mask, when it comes off, turns out not to be covering the horrendous disfigurement you imagine. Instead, he looks like his problems could be solved by two out-patient visits to a good dermatologist. Butler tries mightily, but trying to make this character work as Schumacher imagines him just isn't possible.

The empty prettiness of the Phantom is of a piece with all of Schumacher's other choices in the film, in the decor, in the costumes, in the casting--even the subterranean lair of the Phantom, for God's sake! The Phantom is a creature living in shadows, and Schumacher made this movie without any. The lair should have been swamped with shadows, with discrete pools of light around the few candles, and most of the detail unseen in the background. You can see how the set would have worked, had it been filmed correctly. It takes a scene that should have looked like a Hammer horror film, and renders it like a 1940's MGM musical.

What's maddening is that there is some fitful life in the film, in scenes away from the major characters. Minnie Driver over-acts gloriously, and in precisely the right way, as the overbearing diva, Carlotta, and Simon Callow and Ciarin Hinds are a joy as the opera's new owner/managers. It's all wasted, as the film has no life in its central story.

This will be playing soon at Hell's Metroplex, on a double bill with "Batman Forever."

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originally posted: 12/30/04 16:17:25
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User Comments

10/04/12 keith miron Buy the soundtrack instead ! 2 stars
5/10/11 Stephanie One of my favorites. Beautifully done and sung. Super moving. 5 stars
8/28/09 julie Loved it! Gerard Butler is so sexy! 5 stars
1/16/09 Anonymous. beautiful singing, emmy rossum really shines :] 4 stars
11/30/08 Samantha Pruitt great music, good acting, great visuals, the end was sooo sad! 4 stars
5/07/08 Luci<3 Gerard's way of singing so gutterally and beautiful made a great asset to the Phantom. 5 stars
4/30/08 Lillyshell I have seen this movie several time, I bought the movie. It is great, Music and acting. 5 stars
3/19/08 David Cohen Over-the-top tale of a whiny, murderous extortionist, what's not to like? Everything! 2 stars
10/24/07 Ivana Mann Remember,this comes from a man who made Jesus & cats sing in Broadway musicals.Be warned!!! 1 stars
10/15/07 fools&#9835;gold O, Webber in all his boringness and out-of-date-dness. 1 stars
9/04/07 shinn so brilliant ,awesome ,unique TO ALL: just understand the movie ,you1l see it!! OK!! 5 stars
8/13/07 Annonomiss Cinematography and lighting were spectacular.Acting overly dramatic.Bursting into song-Ug! 1 stars
8/13/07 Mary Beth Loved this movie! The reviewer is an idiot. 5 stars
8/04/07 TANCP It was alright. Phantom's make up and personality were too weak though. The stage is better 4 stars
6/25/07 R.W. Welch Good yarn and score but overlong and overdone. C+ 3 stars
4/29/07 clare this is the best movie ever, all the critics reviews are stupid. 5 stars
3/10/07 swtangel great movie, excellent music. 4 stars
2/28/07 Stanley Thai One great musical but not many interesting songs. 5 stars
1/16/07 Idina Badly sung, badly acted and TERRIBLY directed. 1 stars
1/10/07 Amanda Everything about the film was outstanding! Loved Every minute of it! 5 stars
1/04/07 sargon I watched this film stoned as fuck and I still realized it was quality, surefire shit. 1 stars
11/27/06 sirina good movie though why fight over her she is so ugly! 4 stars
10/25/06 Anne Well this was my first real exposure to Phantom, and I thought it was easy to understand. 5 stars
10/03/06 Danielle It sucked! They couldn't sing! Read the book it had almost no romance. 1 stars
9/23/06 marni The only problem I had with it is the fact that Emmy Rossum dosen't sing properly. 5 stars
9/02/06 Clare Michaud I thoought that this movie was fabulous the music was unbelievable. I am a huge fan. 5 stars
8/29/06 Griselle The movie was awesome, and the actors did a stupendes job. I'm a really big fan. 5 stars
8/16/06 xxx A beautiful musical! I absoultly loved it! 5 stars
8/14/06 Addi Sad Phantom fan here- liked 2 scenes; hated the off-key singing 2 stars
8/10/06 Dragon The Artist 1st 1/2, exquisite,2nd 1/2, not how he became the phantom;took me out of the film. 2 stars
5/29/06 Ash I found the movie as exciting as the theater shows. 5 stars
5/28/06 kay one of the greatest musicals i've ever seen 5 stars
5/19/06 drydock54321 something a romantic would love 4 stars
5/14/06 Elaine Fulford I've seen this film about 40 times now, and it still appeals to me. My 9 & 4 year olds love 5 stars
5/10/06 sweetgrrl1972 *cringe* This movie is cheesier than cheddar, except not in a good way. 1 stars
4/13/06 Susan I think it is one of my favorite movies of all time. 5 stars
4/06/06 Troy M. Grzych Pretty true to the broadway musical, but drags at times. 4 stars
3/08/06 Katie Beautiful music. Gerald Butler was a great phantom 4 stars
2/11/06 Neil Outstanding...a marvel in its own right...a lush Gothic romance based on famous novel... 5 stars
1/30/06 the laughing man One of the best films I have ever seen. 5 stars
1/13/06 Tiffany Love love love it. The movie does everything that they TRY to do on stage...great job! 5 stars
1/05/06 LRWN An unbelieveably outstanding film! 5 stars
11/13/05 Rebecca Davies It was absolutely beautiful I luved it! 5 stars
10/17/05 E jimenez Gorgeous film. The best musical movie I have ever seen. 5 stars
10/04/05 Paige Emmy is my romotel and the phantom is so hot 5 stars
10/01/05 chang great! 5 stars
9/25/05 Joan R I absolutely loved this film. Gerard Butler made a truly wonderful Phantom. 5 stars
9/18/05 Abbey this was one of the best movies have ever seen 5 stars
9/15/05 Samantha Schaeffer it fucking sucked....just kidding it was awsome 1 stars
9/13/05 ann coloma it's really great and heart-warming 5 stars
9/02/05 Alyse Pilcher the best movie EVER!!!! 5 stars
8/29/05 Emma Dunham Fantastic!! there no amount of words to explain the brilliance of this Film 5 stars
8/06/05 Karleigh I think it is the best movie in the world... I loved it 5 stars
7/16/05 loved the show loved the movie more 5 stars
7/05/05 Becky Hamman Absolutely wonderful movie! I love Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum, and Patrick Wilson! 5 stars
6/23/05 Lucy This movie was wonderful compared to the Broadway version. Excellent acting and script 5 stars
6/19/05 Tasha EXCELLENT 5 stars
6/08/05 Callie Coulson This movie was great it was so fantastic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
6/05/05 aryiel superb 5 stars
6/04/05 amanda carpio the new movie is an awesome movie! i enjoyed it and roul is really hot! :) and the phantom 5 stars
6/01/05 Steve Melenwick Silly critics. What did they expect for a movie version. It Satisfies. 3 stars
5/31/05 Carol Price It have been a Better movie if Gerard Butler did only act and not sing 3 stars
5/30/05 Danielle I loved it. The music, the actors, evrything was incredible 5 stars
5/29/05 Suffering Spouse Excruciatingly awful 1 stars
5/27/05 Gunit worst film ever. 1 stars
5/26/05 Jazz Main casts all sucked! Y is everyone whining in this movie? Xpecially Christine n Phantom 1 stars
5/25/05 Candice DeGon Man i take drama for a class and i really loved this movie, it was beautiful! Bravo! 5 stars
5/25/05 Tara Adkins I think the movie was great and I dont think that you guys know what your talking about 5 stars
5/24/05 T.S Beautiful. It took my breath away. Love, excitement, tragety amd sorrow.I loved it. 5 stars
5/23/05 Bradley Love it!! Completely awesome. Everyone even does their own singing cept Carlotta.(Driver) 5 stars
5/17/05 od thrillingly, excruciatingly awesome!!!!!! 5 stars
5/17/05 sofi absolutly amazing! A must see! 5 stars
5/11/05 The Phantom Phreak Gaston Leroux would probably like it--'nuff said. 5 stars
5/09/05 Meggie (Insert Profanity Here) I can't believe what I just read! It was a wonderful film 5 stars
5/09/05 roy butcher a bit of an endurance test 3 stars
5/07/05 Anna I loved the stage play, and parts of the movie are beautiful. Parts. 2 stars
5/06/05 ELI W/e!!!!! I don't care if they can't act. Emmy and Patrick are AWSOME! 4 stars
5/05/05 Arion Smith Butler's Phantom awesome-beautiful voice, wonderfully acted, see it and judge for yourself. 5 stars
5/04/05 Louise its excellent you cold hearted critic 5 stars
5/03/05 Anna Shipper if someone enjoys musicals, this is the film for you + Butler is AWESOME as the Phantom 5 stars
5/03/05 Kristina Williams it DID NOT suck. I've never seen the damn play and I LOVED it. 5 stars
4/25/05 david troop brilliant 4 stars
4/24/05 B Stack The reviewers are blind to a good movie and talented stars. This was an A+ 5 stars
4/21/05 stani my favourite film.The best film of all. 5 stars
4/20/05 Elena Erofeeva No acting at all by the main personages 1 stars
4/19/05 Dolores DiCenzo Boring, awful 1 stars
4/15/05 Sparko Emmy Rossum can't act;she's too ugly 1 stars
3/29/05 Tyrantis Sucked the spirit of the play and the book right out. 1 stars
3/26/05 Denise so good 5 stars
3/23/05 Victoria Ross I enjoyed it, although live was better 4 stars
3/10/05 Fake Name Here Phanaticly adore it. 5 stars
3/07/05 Dani Dani i loved it! best movie ever music was awesome it was so sad but so beautiful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
3/07/05 Doris Nelson I loved it. Thought it was great. Saw the stage production in Chicago twice 5 stars
3/05/05 Sid Savillo/Novelist/Scriptwriter The Desire for Lust or for the sake of attention was for the Phantom; Raoul has True Love. 5 stars
2/26/05 Brandy I thought it was visually beautiful but a little long-winded. 4 stars
2/22/05 Amber Hammerschmidt Though GBs voice may not be astounding it is good for the role, and his acting was astoundi 5 stars
2/21/05 Racquel It was the BEST MOVIE Gerard Butler gave an Extrordinary Performance!!!!!! 5 stars
2/20/05 Steve Michaud Recommended only for fans of the stage show; others would do well to stay away 3 stars
2/20/05 Zoorah Awesome moving film 5 stars
2/15/05 sarah wade Best musical I've ever seen. Gerard is so georgous. 5 stars
2/15/05 barbara smith I thought the music was absolutely enchanting. the movie itself gave me goosebumps! 5 stars
2/15/05 BrianWilly I liked it, I thought it was great. 5 stars
2/13/05 M Sands you guys who thinks its crap you no nothing about musicals,rouge was awfully pathetic 5 stars
2/12/05 Sylvia Belle great movie 5 stars
2/12/05 Jason I loved it, I've seen it 5 times so far!!! 5 stars
2/10/05 David Bennett High Production values 3 stars
2/09/05 Lisa Jochelson I am a fan of the play, so while the movie wasn't great, it wasn't too bad either. 3 stars
2/08/05 Kristy Edwards This was the best movie! I saw it 5 times, and will buy the movie the day it comes out!!! 5 stars
2/06/05 Dan Carter I dont no why everyone slates this film, its fantastic, best musical film in years 5 stars
2/02/05 Lynde Foy Not my cup of tea 1 stars
2/01/05 Danita Berg I guess you love it or hate it. I loved it. 5 stars
2/01/05 beth LOVE IT! LOVE IT! LOVE IT! 5 stars
1/30/05 Gretchen Lowe Best movie I've seen all year, I cried when it turned to color in the beginning. Great! 5 stars
1/28/05 Heather Charles You get more out of it than the play. It is a wonderful movie. 5 stars
1/26/05 bob The is the greatest movie I have ever seen 5 stars
1/24/05 brittney i absolutely loved this movie! I fell in love with the music and the costumes. 5 stars
1/24/05 Nick Awesome 5 stars
1/23/05 Kim Everything about the movie was magical! It made going to the movies worth going again! 5 stars
1/22/05 jynn i thought the movie had no impact at all.. nice music, but it was empty. 2 stars
1/22/05 Kristina Williams Why are critics ragging this flick? I just saw it twice in a row and LOVED it! 5 stars
1/21/05 Kish Harris Absolutely fantastic. have seen it 4 times. Sets and music sumptious , phantom gorgeous!!!! 5 stars
1/18/05 Maureen Great movie! 5 stars
1/18/05 Kyle Beston I thought it was a total crap but it turned out to be one of the best films i have ever saw 5 stars
1/16/05 Neutrino What's wrong with you people? It's stunning masterpiece!!! Emmy Rossum just an angel. 5 stars
1/14/05 Yellow Best movie I've seen in 2004/05 (so far) 5 stars
1/14/05 Jeanette Myers Excellent Music 4 stars
1/12/05 Stacey Peachfuzz Not even "funny" bad; just plain miserable. Nice high notes, Gerard. [vomit sound] 1 stars
1/11/05 pam If you don't like the music, then don't go see it. I thought it was great. 5 stars
1/10/05 Kathryn Critics are the ones who blow! I've seen it 5 times!!! 5 stars
1/10/05 Lee I totally loved it - from the breathtaking scenery to Butler as Phantom 5 stars
1/08/05 Allison Couldn't be better - love Gerard Butler 5 stars
1/08/05 Mel Better than Chicago. 5 stars
1/07/05 TyrantisTerror If you don't have a good phantom in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, you don't have a good movie. 2 stars
1/06/05 Nessa Fantastic movie! Erik Childress is a dickhead 5 stars
1/06/05 Green Gremlin a great musical is trashed. 2 stars
1/06/05 Naka Oh, hell no. 1 stars
1/06/05 Banzai Overzealous phanatics are nuts. This film is blatantly terrible. 1 stars
1/05/05 Roger Johnson Critics are nuts. The film is fantastic. 5 stars
1/05/05 Kim Anderson not a note of real music in 2 and a quarter hours. 1 stars
1/05/05 Colleen Actually quite good, and i usually dont like film adaptations of musicals. 4 stars
1/05/05 Jim R. Hands down, the most underrated film of the year. 5 stars
1/05/05 TomF Tim Rice had NOTHING to do with this - this is Webber's baby 2 stars
1/05/05 skeweditalian Les Miz can kick POTO's ass any day of the week 1 stars
1/05/05 Cat A film about a Phantom of the Opera that can't SING!!! 1 stars
1/04/05 PLou I was captivated from beginning to end. The artistry & cinematography were awesome. 5 stars
1/03/05 mickey c If you're a fan of the musical - you'll love it! And that's how it should be!!! 5 stars
1/01/05 Alice Ahlers too much of everything except emotion and not enough of that 1 stars
12/31/04 TyrantisTerror The only problem I had with this movie was how the phantom was portrayed. 2 stars
12/28/04 Deanna In Indiana Phan-atics will adore, and we know a good musical 5 stars
12/27/04 charles kaye enjoyed moviemusic and plot 4 stars
12/27/04 Bleh Pure crap. 1 stars
12/26/04 DM A disappointment, but really not all that bad. 3 stars
12/25/04 frank awsome 5 stars
12/25/04 jcjs something lacking for sure 3 stars
12/25/04 chris shoot me... i adored it 5 stars
12/24/04 mike awesome film. Brilliant. Phenominal. 5 stars
12/23/04 Daveman Dreadful, recommended only to Webber die-hards... and you people are weird anyway. 1 stars
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  22-Dec-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 03-May-2005



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