Friday, June 22, 2012

Reviews From an MMB (The Phantom of the Opera - 2004)

So, I'm well aware I've already got that whopping music post up today, but hey, it's my birthday, and I felt like double dipping. Besides, I finally get to review this one! :D

Is it absolutely necessary that I tell you what this is about anymore? Is it really? This is the film adaptation of the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, which happens to be my favorite version, period, along with Gaston Leroux's novel and Phantom by Susan Kay. This version focuses more on the romantic angle of the story and plays up the love triangle between the Phantom (here played by Gerard Butler), Christine Daaé (Emmy Rossum), and Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny (Patrick Wilson). 

I swear on my mother's life this will not turn into a tirade about how Gerard and director Joel Schumacher both make me want to bash my head against a wall but for astronomically different reasons.

Where shall we start? How about...the actors themselves?

I for one freaking LOVE Gerry's performance here. Not in the "OMG, he's so hawt" kind of way, but seriously, the man rocks it. Literally, rocks it. Webber wanted a singer with more of an edge to him, and he got one, all right. Yet while there's still that rock element present to his vocals, he's also tender and heart-breaking in turns. Heck, that almost sums him up entirely! In my humble opinion, he nails the Phantom's range of emotions best out of all the other actors I've seen/heard (courtesy of YouTube, that is). As most phans will admit, he's no Angel of Music, but he still captures the essence of the character, again, in my humble opinion. This is quite a complex character to take on in the first place, then when you factor in the singing it's downright terrifying! You've got the passion of "The Music of the Night," the rage and sorrow of "Stranger Than You Dreamt It," the heartbreak of "All I Ask Of You (Reprise)," the danger of "Why So Silent," the mega-intense seduction of "The Point of No Return," and nearly all of the above with "Down Once More/Track Down This Murderer." A very tall order, friends! And he turned the trademark Cape Twirl of Doom into an art form, he really did...Someone stop me before I keep ranting, please...ah, just a little more...I'm taking the time to make my opinion known, and saying that while there are actors who are technically better singers, I fell in love with the sound of Gerry's voice the second I heard it, and while I agree that a "sexy" Phantom kinda defeats the purpose, I'm sure as hell not complaining. Phangirl double standards. Get over it.

Emmy Rossum...I go back and forth. It depends on what mood I'm in, really. I think considering she was only sixteen at the time, she did rather well, but she still could have done better (especially under a competent director--no, wait! Joel-ranting not allowed! Move on!). Her voice, while lovely and innocent and light as can be, is a tad shaky in some of the higher notes and that does turn into an issue after awhile (remember, Christine is supposed to be a soprano). Her acting wasn't quite top-notch, either. There were times when she was fantastic (I refer you to "The Point of No Return." She totally went for it--but then, hell, I would have too! *wink*) and times when she was just kind of, well, standing there with her mouth open and working that deer-in-the-headlights look at least as good as Sarah Brightman herself. Under a better director, who knows what might have happened? Had she been just a little older, there's no telling what kind of marvel we might have witnessed! She's not the best, but I won't call her the worst or the weakest in the role, and that's the most objective I can be at the moment; I still have jealousy issues to wrestle with.

Bonus points to Patrick Wilson for making me not only respect Raoul as a character, but actually LIKE him! I used to be an unapologetic Raoul-basher, but not anymore! Who'da thunk it, eh? I'm a die-hard phangirl, but his "All I Ask Of You" gets me that close to switching teams. He's already got a background in musical theater and quite a few award nominations to his name, so it's no surprise he's the best singer of the cast. (I say "best," not "fave," just to clarify!...Don't judge me, I can't stay impartial here!) There's something so soothing in listening to him sing, like if he started in on a lullaby, you'd start snoring in record time. He's that good. Easily my favorite actor to play Raoul, hands down (but Hadley Fraser is right up there with him!). He's not the emotional, weepy-eyed nancy boy of the novel, and he's not just part of the scenery as the stage version makes him out to be. By God, he's an actual living, breathing, fully-functioning character! There's nothing he won't do to protect Christine! He's a sweet, gentle, caring guy! Love him in spite of yourself, or because you honestly prefer him, but love him you must.

So...onto other aspects. Once again, the movie is gorgeous to look at. Lavish sets, mostly brilliant costumes, just a general feel of opulence, a good deal of romantic elegance, and occasional garishness. Good stuff? The Phantom's lakeside lair. It...doesn't really make a whole lot of sense when you put in under a microscope, but you wouldn't mind being spirited away down there for a music lesson or two. At all. Also, Don Juan Triumphant. It's simplistic in its setup, but it really pops on screen. Bad stuff? Il Muto. Tacky, tacky, tacky! Like Sherwin Williams went into business with Willy Wonka and the factory exploded. Too much bright pastel! The rest is all a mixed bag. There's stuff to like and stuff to ignore with all your might...such as the backup dancers that kept popping up...and the fellow in the oddball puffy clown costume in "Masquerade"...and the midget...don't know why there's always a midget in the film adaptations...

We don't need to get into the music. There's a darn good reason why the show celebrated its 25th anniversary last October. The music is effing amazing. The orchestrations were adapted and tweaked here, and I think I prefer them, to be honest. There's a larger, grander sound that has more impact as compared to the stage recordings. Of course, you're meant to hear the stage stuff live, so it's not entirely fair to pick a winner on that one. "The Music of the Night" in particular has more umph behind it, with that 120-piece orchestra on those soaring lines, and it's always guaranteed to give me goosebumps and drive me crazy with some kind of yearning. I think this was where the electric guitars started to get greater emphasis with the title track, as I haven't heard them in earlier versions and seem to be hearing them everywhere lately. There's more of an explosive feel to the Overture, but I dunno...the danger you get off the stage versions just isn't there. Some songs were cut ("Notes II", the Don Juan rehearsal, "Bravo, Monsieur"), but Webber wrote another fifteen minutes of music specifically for the movie, and it fits in well. There's also the song played during the credits, "Learn to Be Lonely" sung by Minnie Driver--who plays Carlotta the diva. It's a pretty sad one, but it's still pretty.

So much for not getting into the music...

Allow me one paragraph of complaining, please? Joel Schumacher, you should not have been allowed anywhere near this with a ten foot pole! Why oh why did you have to sex everything up? Does Christine always have to be caught in states of undress? Do the Phantom and Raoul really need to be strutting their stuff in all those open shirts? Does there have to be so much cleavage as far as the eye can see, be it low-cut costumes or nude statues? You COMPLETELY missed the point here! The Phantom is sexy, yes, but because of his voice, his music, and his genius! My views on Gerard Butler in tight pants aside, the Phantom just doesn't go around dressed like that! You see, that implies self-confidence, and the Phantom lacks that spectacularly. I'll give you this one, you managed to give us some good cinematography, but some of those camera angles were no good at all. And while you tried to pay homage to Leroux with the water trap and the mirrored room, why did you even bother with such half-baked attempts as they turned out to be? Why, Joel? Why? WHY???

Anyway...yes, this thing has issues. It's problematic to the extreme. There's so many holes in it, it looks like Swiss cheese. But what there is to love about it, you damn well love it. I overlook the bad stuff in favor of the good stuff, and I can still say it's one of my favorite movies, if not THE favorite, with no shame whatsoever. I'll go a step further and say I still cry my eyes out watching it. You might like it, you might loathe it, but this is where I stand, and I'm not budging! No, sirree! And as another reviewer has put it, I guarantee you will never look at a single red rose the same way again! Some in the phandom like to hate on this version, but come on, tell me what exactly is so damn intolerable about someone else loving it? Do you have to bash it and the ones who think it's great? Jesus, Mary and Joseph! There's room for all kinds in the lair, isn't there? If you absolutely MUST have something to bitch about, then go whine about the Dario Argento version!

Ah, what the hey, have a video!

Learn to Be Lonely

Your modest movie buff,


  1. Ok when I read the first line about not going to make this post all about Gerry worship I was just like "b**ch please" lol! You know what time it is! xD

    Gerry as Phantom: I have many issues with the film and they have absolutely NOTHING to do with Gerry's Phantom. He is not classically trained BIG F**KING DEAL. The Phantom is a myriad of emotions and inner conflicts and I have never seen or heard an actor able to embody him in such a way that to say he merely did him justice is not enough. I think if Gerry were to do the role now in 2012 things would have been done differently since he was still an unknown actor when he played Phantom, and really how much say in things could he have had then? I think now he would have had more leverage in decisions since he is successful. But pressing on...
    Music of the Night: Just amazing. It is a plea, but he manages to make it dark particularly when he says the word "surrender" in such a way I shiver. It is also so adoring, and sweet, and he does such great things with Phantom's song.

    Stranger Than You Dreamt It: YES YES YES! RAGGEEEEEEE! The murderous stare! Absolutely UNHINGED and again he embodies that absolute danger and his voice is like a sharpened razor. He is terrifying when he pulls the tarp down and yells "is this what you wanted to see!" It scares me, yet I am not able to resist! Phantom in every sense of the word. Then so much heartache and sorrow at his "oh Christine"

    All I ask of you (reprise) God do you know how much I cry at this part? I can't even LOOK at the picture of the discarded rose without balling my eyes out! Beautiful! Then he just goes into that rage and sings the line we all know and love and damn you believe him!

    PONR: Ok...just...damn...I can't singed ovaries
    Hands down the best PONR ever! The growl! The hands! The cape! I don't even give a sh*t about Emmy's stupid faces, Joel's horrendous camera angels, and the backup dancers who suck during this scene. I have completely succumbed to Phantom when he starts singing, and I SHUDDER EVERY TIME at "what raging FIRE shall flood the soul?" OH GOD! I am on fire! and stop, drop, and roll won't do a damn thing about it! Lyrically this is the sexiest song I have ever heard, and considering it is all about f**king it is so sexy, and not trashy at all. And Gerry just takes it to a whole new level of making me pregnant.

    Final Lair: KILLS ME! KILLLS MEEEE! SO much madness! Despair! Longing! Ready to kill Raoul with just a tightening of the noose, and when he yells "this is your choice!" my heart is pounding! When he let's Christine go, the amount of sorrow in his voice just has me in a puddle of tears. And the kiss! The crying after it! Oh god! Phantom I love you! Yes I know you almost killed my fiance and would throttle me if I made you mad enough, but screw it! I can't live without you! Oh wait...that isn't how it ends. Thank God for that. What? You know I am not an E/C shipper at all xD

    Oh god this post is so long...

  2. but I need to say that I disagree with everyone saying emmy did good for being 16 or 17. I just think that is a cop out, and a way of excusing her less than mediocre performance because of her age. She shouldn't have been Christine period. In every scene she is in she has her mouth open, with the come-do-me/deer in headlights face, and I found her voice to be grating and so high pitched and strained. I could barely understand the lyrics when she sang. Her cardboard acting didn't help matters either.

    Patrick as Raoul: Everything about his performance was just right. Patrick was meant to play Raoul. And he was not just some idiot with the personality of a wet dishrag we have seen countless times on stage. He was Phantom's rival in every sense, and he was courageous be it impulsive, loving, adoring, and would die for Christine. This is the Raoul we needed. And his voice! Oh what a voice! It was charming, sweet, powerful, but at the same time in the final lair he was stringed up like a damn puppet and he was still challenging Phantom with such authority and fearlessness.

    On a final note. I hate Joel Schumacher with the fire of a thousand blazing suns. Why...whyyyyyyyyyy would you choose this guy to direct well anything! Let alone one of the most beloved musicals ever made! He has no respect for subject material, and was more interested in tapping Emmy's boobs up to her chin in a GRAVEYARD and putting all the guys in open shirts, and tight pants. Yes they looked good, but f**k Joel! Really? And the awful camera angels during PONR, Why so silent?, and the whole flippin movie drove me nuts! Learn how to use a camera. Toning down Phantom's Red Death Costume, and making Il Muto one big drag show, and having gold naked people as candle holders makes no sense! And why the sword fight instead of righteous fireballs? Why the goofy noose in the mirrored room, and Meg Giry easily walking into the mirror as if Phantom would ever be dumb enough to leave it open? Why make Phantom's face flawless in the whole movie then show it at the end and say SURPRISE! The lack of consistency with his deformity, and the rest of the film was staggering. The fact that Joel and ALW think the audience is as shallow and stupid as they are is what pisses me off. UGH! And you couldn't have Phantom give Christine his own gold ring? I mean you want to pay homage to Leroux why not do it in a way that makes sense you twits!

    And the costumes were just so mediocre and boring at times. Think of Me dress, was so plain! Red Death could have been light years better and I am grateful Gerry still captured that oppressing intimidating aura without it. Not that I expected him to do any less. AMAZING! I would have loved to see his cape much thicker and cascading behind him like a river of blood. That image just gives me the most devilish grin.

    Ok I am done, this is seriously long xD

    1. Right, copy everything you just said about Gerry, and put my name on it. It'll save me a lot of time! LOL

      And the comments about Emmy being brilliant for being so young don't really sit well with me. All right, I won't say she completely bombed it because there were times when I liked her, but...she could have been so much better! Her higher notes in Think Of Me, The Mirror, Why Have You Brought Me Here, and the first half of Point of No Return, to name a few, are exactly like the strained, metallic stuff I don't care for out of Celia Graham. She certainly contrasted with Gerry's voice, but I just don't think she was mature enough to get the most out of the role. She was bland! I'll give her points for having the ability to poke at notes I couldn't touch at her age and deduct a few for having worse diction at that age than I had in elementary school, but I think she could have done better if she was older and more experienced (or if she was under a director who knew what he was doing and actually gave a rat's ass!)

      Patrick: again, copy it and sign my name to it!

      This is exactly what I've been saying! Sure, it looks good on screen (sometimes) but it makes no sense from a practical standpoint! If they wanted to replicate some famous portrait for the TOM dress, then they could have chosen better, but as far as costumes go it's still the black dress in the graveyard that irks me the most. And I know every movie has continuity errors, but this is freaking ridiculous! Pitiful production values! No respect for the material, or the audience! We need a remake! (So long as we get another equally amazing Phantom and the case of Gerry and Patrick not stepping in again, at least.)

  3. If they remade it and canned everybody including all editors, and cast, and director and kept Gerry and Patrick it would be a f**king masterpiece. There is not doubt in my mind it would have been the cinematic classic it was meant to be. And you bet your pretty self I would blow every dude in Hollywood to be that Christine FO SHO! Mouth magic all arounnnddd! LOL!

    1. Yeah, they'd definitely need someone else directing and editing...and I suppose if they couldn't get Gerry and Patrick, I'd be more than happy if they got Hugh Jackman again. Jesus Christ, that man can sing! In either case, though, the movie would never get made after all. I'd kill off all the gals they signed on for Christine, but couldn't be counted on to behave myself long enough to work. XD


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