Friday, March 04, 2005

Phantom of the Opera (2005)

By Reymundo Salao
The Guardian, February 5, 2005

"Phantom of the Opera" is the classical novel written by Gaston Leroux, about a disfigured musical genius, hidden away and haunts the Paris Opera House, terrorizes the opera company for the unwitting benefit of a young protégé whom he trains and loves. The Phantom is one of the great classical monsters (along with Dracula and Frankenstein), a madman in love. A primal representation of our own emotions of love, obsession, and madness. Based exactly on the widely-prominent Andrew Lloyd Webber musical of the novel, this film version is also (of course) a musical. Having the same songs as with the stage version, with very minor alterations. The film is directed by Joel Schumacher, produced, music composed, and written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and stars Gerard Butler as the vocally unimpressive Phantom, Emmy Rossum as a quite angelic and stunningly beautiful Christine Daaé, a much slimmer and sexier Minnie Driver as the primadonna Carlotta, and Patrick Wilson as the stereotypically clean-cut protagonist Raoul.

Being a longtime fan of the Broadway musical "Phantom of the Opera", my critique of its film adaptation may be double-sided. Surely, some longtime fans of this musical may have a very positive reaction, fueled by the eagerness to finally see the silver-screen version of something that many of us fans only have listened to in the audio album of the same (not unless you're one of the few who can afford to watch that Broadway musical). Other fans may have such a negative disappointment, bitter of how or what shortcomings the film version have, or whatever that makes it a pale comparison to the stage-musical original. In my opinion, though, "Phantom of the Opera" is very much worth watching, especially to those who have that appreciation for musicals and classical music. There are, however, many points that may have held the film down from becoming the gem that it might have been.

Audiences may enjoy the lavish set design and the fabulous costumes, this is an absolute eye candy for those who enjoy seeing such creatively colorful costume designs. Something that we have noticed is that one of Schumacher's directorial signatures is that his set is usually so colorful. And he lets the set designs not go to waste for he has long steady shots, letting you notice the details of the set designs. On my part, I consider this a disadvantage for the film, especially on a film such as this. For me, many of the sequences were too stiff. It lacked some cinematographic style in scenes where it needed some. Such as the scene when Phantom makes his first appearance, nabbing Christine for the first time, taking her into her hideout. It was a scene that was deprived of impact, no distinct directorial style was made for a gradual visual introduction of the character. Visually introducing the Phantom full-view in a clear shot desaturated any sense of cinematic mystery that character should have. I expected that scene to have some sort of hazy or shadowy effect. Instead, it was just plain stiff camera movements. It curiously asks the question, "why bother to make a film version, if it does not seem to have any distinct difference from the stage original?" Such blandness is similar in many scenes such as the Masquerade scene when the camera movement and editing sequences on the singing masquerade guests were stiff, slow, and did not go with the rhythm of the song. Then there is also the choice for the Phantom, Gerard Butler, which was a bold risky move on the part of the producers. Butler's voice was not too high for the singing parts of the Phantom. Fans of the stage musical may notice that in many of the songs of the Phantom, the vocals were transposed to fit Butler's low voice. His singing was fine but there was one tiny 3-second scene where the song kinda went out of tune.

Fortunately, many of these tiny shortcomings may go completely unnoticeable to some audiences. Although some may be skeptic, this film version is a must for diehard fanatics of the original. It was nonetheless a musical to enjoy. Emmy Russom's voice was superbly angelic, same goes for her enchanting beauty too. This film is meant to be a real treat for those who cannot afford to go to the original Broadway musical. Let me end with some of the words from the musical "Let your mind start a journey to a strange new world, leave all thoughts of the world you used to know"

Also showing this week on Robinson's Movieworld is "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events" which is based on the profound and somewhat dark children's book by Lemony Snicket. This notorious children's book has sparked fame in the book world that it has become a series that some may call a "dark & evil Harry Potter". Good books are damn expensive and I've been wanting to buy a copy. I guess it would be cheaper for us to watch the movie.

Also showing is the action-adventure "Flight of the Phoenix", "Assault on Precinct 13", "Let the Love Begin" and "Constantine" which I watched again last night. This week, this film is shown on Robinson Movieworld's Cinema 6 where the sound is great and does let your senses jigger in rhythm of the film's exciting occult tone. For those who would probably have a boring week, there is a handful of movies for you to enjoy.

Special Thanks to Robinson's Movieworld. Please visit the website of this column at and you can email me at

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