Gerard Butler……….The Phantom
Miranda Richardson………. Mme. Giry
Warner Bros. Pictures presents an Odyssey Entertainment and a Really Useful Films/Scion Films production. Produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Written by Schumacher and Webber. Adapted from the stage Musical “The Phantom of the Opera.” Based upon the novel ‘Le Fantome De L’Opera by Gaston Leroux. Running time: 141 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for brief violent images.)
The Phantom of the Opera is a love story in the grandest sense and one that has been told through various mediums. It was first a written work of art by French novelist Gaston Leroux. Published in 1911, ‘Le Fantome De L’Opera would be later adapted into a silent film by Universal Pictures that starred the silver screen legend Lon Chaney.
Since the film’s release in 1925, The Phantom has been translated numerous times over. I can even recall that Robert England – best known as Freddy Krueger – donned the facial prosthetic in the early 1990s. Still, it is the stage musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber that everyone remembers. Produced in 1986, Webber’s musical starred Michael Crawford as the Phantom and the vibrant Sarah Brightman as Christine. It was a stage musical sensation; a work of delicate hands, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera would be a mainstay in New York for years to come.
For over seventeen years his musical has been viewed by more than seventeen million theatergoers worldwide, and, in the process, has garnered international acclaim with more than fifty awards and statuettes.
But, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s version of Gaston Leroux’s novel is like comparing apples to oranges. ‘Le Fantome De L’Opera was intended to be a chilling thriller with the antagonist being some hermit with a hideous, disfigured face. When Lon Chaney portrayed the Phantom, and his disfigurement was finally revealed by Christine, the theater audience screamed hysterically.
How quickly people forget about the past. Ever since the musical hit it big, it has replaced the Lon Chaney original and has become the pop culture version everyone wants to remember. In Webber’s musical, now on the big screen courtesy of Joel Schumacher, the Phantom’s mask acts as a fashion accessory hiding a deformity that is merely a flesh wound. Also, unlike Lon Chaney’s pathetic malnourished Phantom, Lloyd’s Phantom has a chiseled face and long flowing hair. Yep, chicks dig the mask (or is that Batman?) Why hasn’t some dame snatched this guy up? It must be the baggage he carries. If you thought you had issues, think again.
Paris’s own version of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the Phantom skulks around in the bowels of the Opera house. With each passing day he yearns for love and affection. One day, a woman named Christine becomes the object of his affection. When Christine’s old beau Raoul arrives in Paris and distinguished flames ignite, the Phantom’s plan of wooing the young damsel is disrupted.
Usually in a romantic film the female is torn between two men whose qualities set them apart from one another. Funny it is, then, that both Raoul and the Phantom can swordplay and have good looks. It seems that the only thing separating the two is a white mask and the professional vocal training of Raoul. Next time cast a Phantom with average looks and one who can sing professionally. That way when the Phantom courts young Christine she will see past his looks and really listen to his declarations of love.
Casting qualms aside, the repetitious music is disappointing. On one hand, the songs can get stuck in your head; humming is a common occurrence. But it is hard to distinguish one song from another. Almost as if “The Music of the Night” is on loop playback. The story is also to blame. The film has a story that is on the thin side; and at two-and-a-half hours it can wear you down.
Still, Joel Schumacher – drawing inspiration from some of his earlier macabre-inspired works – has created a film that looks and feels like a work of art. He even makes the Phantom’s subterranean dwelling look beautiful. The rooftop scenes and the masquerade ball are sights and sounds that must be seen by musical lovers.
Emmy Rossum as Christine is a delight. You would have never guessed that she’s only eighteen years old and once a performer with the New York Metropolitan Opera. And to think, she played the object of Jake Gyllenhaal’s affection in The Day After Tomorrow.
Gerard Butler even with his lack of professional training is serviceable as the Phantom. Though, a friend of mine would truly disagree. She should know. In her eyes nothing can compare to Michael Crawford, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s original Phantom.
Despite its thin story and repetitious music, The Phantom of the Opera is purely a spectacle. An experience where everything you view looks great. In all, this is a film that’s so visually mesmerizing that you want to believe what you are watching is real and not make-believe.
VIDEO: How does it look?
The Phantom of the Opera has a great-looking anamorphic 2.35:1 aspect ratio. With this theatrical to DVD release, Warner Bros. has given us a picture of great clarity. The detail in the set design, especially the masked ball, is astonishing. The colors are crisply defined. The flesh tones of the actors are outlined perfectly in the candelabras of the Phantom’s cellar. There is no video interference, no spots or imparities whatsoever. The visual presentation looks just as good as it did in theaters.
AUDIO: How does it sound?
A musical of this magnitude needs the perfect punch to handle the soundtrack. The makers of this DVD gives us a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Truly a great representation of your stereo capabilities. The immeasurable sounds of the film will resonate from your speakers with such great degree that you can’t help but engulf yourself in the experience.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Close to two hours of behind-the-scenes material!!
In this two-disc special widescreen release, Warner Bros. has provided a second disc with a bountiful feast of extras.
The first disc includes the theatrical trailer for The Phantom of the Opera. Such a well edited trailer that even though I hadn’t seen the stage musical I wanted to see this celluloid version last winter.
On Disc 2, the first special feature explains the evolution of the Phantom. Entitled Behind the Mask: The Story of The Phantom of the Opera, this sixty-five minute documentary takes you through the origin of The Phantom. The story begins in 1911 when Gaston Leroux published ‘Le Fantome De L’Opera. Through out the years the novel has been tweaked and revised in theatrical and musical adaptations; none of them greater than Andrew Lloyd Webber’s. (But that’s left to interpretation.) The majority of the documentary is spent on Lloyd Webber’s involvement with the stage musical. Those who watch will learn about the casting of Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford. Also included are conversations with Andrew Lloyd Webber, his producing partner Cameron Mackintosh, and stage director Harold Prince.
The next feature on the disc is The Making of The Phantom of the Opera, three making-of featurettes for the film. How clever. Three featurettes for a three act musical. The option of viewing the three acts as one complete feature or they can stand on their own.
Origins and Casting of The Phantom of the Opera (17:30) tells of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s and Joel Schumacher’s friendship over the years. Better yet is knowing how the leads were cast for the film. Emily Rossum has been singing with the New York Metropolitan Opera since the age of seven. Patrick Wilson is a Broadway performer who has been in such plays as The Full Monty. He also played William Barrett Travis in the much-maligned The Alamo. And for Gerard Butler, well, he has had no musical training whatsoever.
Designing The Phantom of the Opera (11:04) explores the attention to detail when it came to creating some of the lavish sets of the film. With eight sound studios at their exposal, the crew created the interior of the opera house, a stage to perform, not to mention the Phantom’s home sweet home. They even used digital effects to make the opera house’s exterior – which as a model prop was one-twelfth its original size – into an amazing structure.
The Supporting Cast and Recording the Album of The Phantom of the Opera (17:14), feature discusses the characters like Minnie Driver’s Carlotta and Miranda Richardson as Madame Giry. Moreover, the number of musicians used in composing the film’s score is staggering. Gone is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s paltry orchestra group. In its place is a 105-piece orchestra and 90-piece choir with a rock and rhythm section.
A musical number by the Phantom that was cut from the theatrical release can be seen in its entirety on the second disc. The additional scene is “No One Would Listen” and it runs a little over two minutes.
Also on the disc is an Easter Egg. It’s real easy to find as you press buttons on your remote. The hidden extra is a cast and crew sing-a-long. After watching this you’ll understand why not everyone is cut out to be a contestant on American Idol.
The special features included in this 2-Disc set are special. Usually those who read the back of a DVD will see a ton of features listed and think they are getting your money’s worth. But most of the featurettes on those discs last only a few minutes – four-minute behind-the-scenes features, stupid deleted scenes, the list goes on.
The extras for The Phantom of the Opera prove that quantity isn’t necessary to make people happy, just quality. It also helps when the producers of the film take the time to make all the supplementary material.