Phantom of the Opera (2004)
Directed by Joel Schumacher
Starring: Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson
Music of the Heart
By Mason Manuel
Based on the hit Broadway play, Phantom of the Opera has a lot to live up to in terms of its potential and fan base. Placed tentatively in the hands of Joel Schumacher and a relatively unknown (at the time) cast, the film could easily be called to coin toss picture of 2004. But despite all the odds working against it… Phantom is a faithful adaptation that does the play justice and can sit as both the director’s and the performers’ masterpiece. If you have trouble reading something that says Joel Shumacher created a masterpiece, please, allow me to explain.
Phantom of the Opera is widely famous for a number of reasons, including a superb music composed by the legendary Andrew Lloyd Webber, famous performances, and being one of the longest running musicals in history. It is no small task to live up to a creation that already has such a massive following but the film takes every advantage it can to use movie magic to create what a stage cannot. A fully realized Opera house, complete with beautiful architecture and secret passageways along with other huge set pieces create an enamoring environment for viewers. 18th century France has never felt so alive. Costuming also deserves special mention here. Dresses and suits are flashy when on stage but conservative and proper when out in the streets. When the Opera Populaire puts on a show, the performers are caked in an ungodly amount of makeup, which as any stage actor will tell you, is entirely accurate. Performers look hideous up close, but when performing and the camera takes the seat of an opera audience member, the performance looks entirely natural. For lovers of period films, Phantom will definitely satisfy your desire for the old fashioned.
Phantom mainly follows the relationship between leads Christine Daae and The Phantom of the Opera played by Emmy Rossum and Gerard Butler respectively. The casting is so perfect, these actors could have been born for these roles. Rossum was 18 when this film was released and her voice is impressively more than able to keep up with her much older and more experienced co-stars. She plays a woman torn between two worlds with ease and convincingly appears to completely surrender herself to music, particularly when the Phantom is around. Speaking of which, let’s talk about the man himself. Most will only know Gerard Butler as that Scottish guy who yelled a lot in a thong in Zack Snyder’s 300. Phantom was actually released before 300 being released in 2004 as opposed to 300’s 2006 but somehow did not make as big of an impact for his career as the latter did. This blows my mind because in this musical, Butler shows off an impressive range of acting capability, playing the emotionally anguished yet talented with Phantom with grace and heartbreaking realism.
His voice is nothing to joke about either. Despite being relatively inexperienced with preforming vocally, after reviving training from a number of sources including Webber himself, he shows an impressive amount of talent here.
Diehard fans of the original Broadway cast may be a little disappointed in the different style that Butler incorporates into his personal Phantom, but it is an arguably more human take. Rather than do nothing but sing about his woes, this Phantom growls with anger, cries with heart stricken grief, and softly coos to the object of his affections. It is a performance that has to be seen to be believed, and even though I said it before let me reiterate, this film could very well be the masterpiece of both these actors’ careers.
In the end, it’s all about the music though right? How does it fare against the already astronomically high expectations of Broadway Phantom lovers? Well allow me to put your fears at ease music lovers, the film adaptation is true to its original source and at times even surpasses it. Andrew Lloyd Webber was brought in to both supervise music production as well as co-write the script and his influence shows. Every note fits perfectly with the next, creating a 2 hour long masterpiece that is just as moving as the original play’s. The only moments I would say the music even only slightly moves under par is when the story focuses on the more comedic characters like the Opera’s new managers played by Ciaran Hinds and Simon Callow. Of course their main appeal is not their voices and even so their musical performance are by no means terrible, they have just been set up against some real heavy hitters. But every song from “Music of the Night” to “Point of No Return” is performed with impressive gusto and will have you invested in every moment shown on screen.
Phantom of the Opera is a true beauty; an incredible triumph that should not be missed by anyone for any reason. Love the original musical or just musicals in general? Go see it. Never been really big into musicals but love deep theatrical performances with incredible character development? Go see it. But I must warn all viewers; this film has the ability to make a grown man cry, repeatedly. Even… the writer of this article. RDR gives Phantom of the Opera a 9.4 out of 10.