Phantom of the Opera
Director: Joel Schumacher
Cast: Emmy Rossum, Gerard Butler, Patrick Wilson
Duration: 143 minutes
The Phantom premiered in the London West End in its Lloyd
Webber incarnation in October 1986. 80,000,000 tickets sold
worldwide these past 18 years and still playing, the author-composer
has decided it is the right time for the screen version.
While many reviewers are unshakably convinced that 80,000,000
people are not only wrong but disgracefully wrong and incapable
of recognising trash and derivative music. If, at this stage
of this review, you find yourself agreeing with the reviewers,
don't read on. This lavish and loud version is not for you.
If, on the other hand, your find your indignation rising against
these alleged arbiters of taste, the film is definitely for
At a minimum, it is an opportunity for those who have not
been able to afford theatre tickets or who have not been near
a theatre where The Phantom was playing to see and hear what
the enthusiasm was all about. Again, it provides a very colourful
and tuneful memento for those who loved their theatrical experience.
One reviewer who bristles at the mention of Andrew Lloyd Webber's
name, concedes that the film's plot is still strong enough
without the music and that the look of the film is outstanding.
It certainly is a 'visual-feast' production. The press notes
use the word 'sumptuous'. We can add 'lush' and 'lavish'.
The 1870s Paris settings mean that the visual style is a kind
of baroque-gothic-gallic, pre-raphaelite- rococo. Something
striking for everyone.
A new framework has been introduced: an auction of Opera House
mementos in 1919, filmed in black and white - with a return
to 1919 at different stages of the film.
We spend a lot of time in the Opera House, its glittering
auditorium (and the chandelier), the vast backstage area,
the opulent foyer (for the beautifully-staged Masquerade)
and the vast caverns, staircases, channels and rooms that
constitute the world of the Phantom. The film opens out the
play and includes a carriage ride, a chase by horse, visits
to the cemetery, even a sword fight.
Several of the characters have been given back stories (including
flashbacks to the Phantom's childhood). Raoul's presence has
been increased. In fact, the plot of the film (which Lloyd
Webber has co-written with director Schumacher) is more coherent
than the play.
As regards the songs and music, we either like them or not.
They are all here with full orchestra and reprises.
As regards the performances, Emmy Rossum is a charming Christine.
However, Gerard Butler may disappoint many audiences as the
Phantom. He is not a dominating screen presence (Patrick Wilson
as Raoul comes across more forcibly) which lessens the drama.
Again, one of the difficulties of seeing him close-up is that
the final revelation of his disfigurement is not particularly
startling or frightening.
On the other hand, the supporting cast, mainly British, give
the film some substance: Miranda Richardson as the ballet
mistress who knows the secret of the Phantom, Simon Callow
and Ciaran Hinds as the bourgeois owners of the Opera House
and Minnie Driver well over the top (director Schumacher advised
her that no one pays to see 'under the top'!) as the haughty
Most fans should enjoy it.