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,