Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics: Charles Hart
Book: Richard Stilgoe and Andrew Lloyd Webber
Screenplay: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Joel Schumacher
Director: Joel Schumacher
Cast: Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson, Miranda Richardson, Minnie Driver, Simon Callow
Year Released: 2004
Runtime: 143 min
Based on the novel by Gaston Leroux

Reviewed by Soh Yun-HueiEdit

Rating: *** (out of four stars)

It’s a seemingly strange marriage, Joel Schumacher directing a stage to screen musical originally directed by Andrew Lloyd Weber. However, Andrew Lloyd Weber and Joel Schumacher do share a common love for visual spectacle that makes this collaboration an apt one – and make no mistake, The Phantom of the Opera is indeed a visual feast. Even though it’s marred a little by the delivery of the songs, the film remains more or less faithful to the musical, and for such a long running film (143 minutes) it holds up relatively well.

Originally slated to star Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman, the current iteration of Phantom stars relative unknowns in the lead roles – the Phantom is played by Gerard Butler, Christine is played by Emmy Rossum, and Patrick Wilson plays Raoul. Interestingly, all three actors sing their own songs, and relatively capably except for Butler, whose voice is a little too shaky to carry off some of his solos successfully. However, he does look very pretty behind the Phantom’s mask, which helps to gloss over his inadequacies a fair bit.

The story of The Phantom of the Opera should be familiar to anyone who has seen the musical, but to make a long story short, it’s basically about how Christine, a young upstart at the opera house, is schooled by the mysterious Phantom, who’s in love with the beautiful ingénue. The Phantom creates opportunities for Christine to steal the limelight from resident diva Carlotta (Minnie Driver), but his plans to wed Christine are foiled when her childhood sweetheart, Raoul re-enters her life. Thus ensues a melodramatic tussle between the two men, which of course will end in heartbreak for one.

The film starts off brilliantly, with an astounding sequence transplanted from the musical, only better – as the broken chandelier rises from the ground, the black and white images slowly transition to glorious colour – the scene ranks as one of the most visually arresting sequences I have seen for quite some time. Nothing else that follows in the film has as much impact, but it does remain consistently good to look at. Another example would be that of the song and dance sequence for the song Masquerade. Already a bigger number in the musical, Joel Schumacher really pulls out all the stops for the segment, and the elaborate costumes coupled with some truly nifty choreography translate to cinematic eye candy. If only the rest of the film held up so well. Although Phantom never bores, there are several occasions where the movie sags a little, especially when many songs are simply variations of the same theme (caused more by the source musical than anything else). The flashback black and white sequences also feel a little superfluous, and the safer denouement that’s written specially for the movie takes away a little of the pathos that was found in the original musical. It’s safe to say that most audiences who enjoyed the original Phantom would enjoy this movie too, but other audience members may find it just a tad uninspiring as a standalone feature film.

Final Word: A true visual spectacle, even if the vocals of the leads don’t really measure up to the film’s handsome looks.

Reviewed by SinnermanEdit

From the start go, I am already mesmerized by the rapturous opening sequence of this film. It boasts of the best B&W to Color transition I have ever seen on film Now imagine the bursting of a thousand light bulbs adorning a fallen chandelier. Witness the rising Mexican wave of said fixture from the ground zero of a dilapidated, colour-drained building to its rightful place on the ceiling. As it rises, behold the ascending explosion of Technicolor splashes and crystal clear sheen shrink wrapping whatever it touches, hence restoring a previously grainy universe into a gloriously stately, opulently regal music hall. Throughout this sequence, the familiar strains of the Phantom's theme reverberate across the hall, pounding my ears and thumping my chest. The place now screams with a pregnant zest and swims in breathtaking grandeur. My senses are fucked to the brim and my blood pumper must have required resuscitation from the jolts of those bursting lightbulbs. Aaaaarrrrggghhh It’s so beautiful The show is about to begin

Absorbing the awe-inspiring sights and sound of this one transformation sequence alone is already enough to torch my heart to cinders. But like the best musicals out there, the beauty of Phantom also lies in its amazing ability to generate waves after tidal waves of wildly abandoned joys and heedlessly sensuous emotions. I marvel at its tenacious will and entrancing powers to sustain this high. And it accomplished this through its arresting visuals, its heart stopping song and dance set pieces, plus the most expressive of instruments known to men, the voice.

Though the rawness of their vocals is apparent, especially for viewers more accustomed to the Crawford/ Brightman set, the troupe of courageous actors in this movie adaptation (especially Emmy Rossum, Gerard Butler and Patrick Wilson) used their voices to convey their feelings with wide-eyed sincerity and piercing honesty. They imbue their admittedly archetypical roles without regard for vanity or self-consciousness. In so doing, they have broken through the threshold set upon them and crossed into the point of no return. By singing their hearts out and fearlessly spewing forth their souls, they opened my receptivity floodgates for the irrational and sucked me into their world. And this is a world where broad narrative strokes serve a purpose and the beauty of simple emotions is embraced. This is a world of the musicals where love reign supreme, where its allure is so addictively insular, advocates like me willingly lock myself in. So damned shall be those, who disagree and nitpick. The Phantom is immune from their callous one-liners. My final few words…

Spectacularly choreographed, sumptuously scored, immaculately filmed and brilliantly acted, Phantom of the Opera has kidnapped my wild invested imaginings and ran with it. This counts as the most sensational cinematic experience for me this year. Unforgettable Now excuse me while I join in the queue for yet another evening sneaks, for I so wanna plunge headlong back into the escapist paradise of that unabashedly love-soaked opera-house. I so wanna get back to that rooftop scene where the kaleidoscopic shades of love blossom and wither in the space of a melodic verse. Now All I ask of you, is to understand this film has an indelible Sinnerman stamp of approval. It’s not worth much of course, but so are the words of my detractors. It will be best if you go see the movie and decide for yourself.

Aaaaaaaarrrrgggghhhhhh I love love love this movie

Reviewed by Ying WuenEdit

Rating: *** (out of four stars)

I would think that the making of The Phantom of the Opera into a movie is not a great move. For one, it's a no-win situation. For Phanatic fans of the Phantom, the music, singing and whole artistic element is pretty far off compared to seeing it on stage. For those who are in need of an 'Idiot's Guidebook to The Phantom of the Opera, this may be hard to swallow as the movie sticks pretty much the musical style of presentation (i.e., the characters sing 90% of the time, even when they are conversing). There were two girls sitting next to me who were inviting cold stares because they were talking and criticizing about how everything was sung and they were obviously sick of that by half time.

Back to the story. I would say that the movie is watchable, not to mention nostalgic in a sense, as I think most Singaporeans would have watched the show only once when it came to Singapore and played at Kallang theater dinosaur years ago. The songs are infectious, and you find yourself subconsciously humming the tunes for at least 3 days after the movie.

The cast was only disappointingly passable. Emmy Rossum as Christine Daae was pretty good. For one, she is *very* pretty, and she sings pretty (no pun intended) well. Quite surprisingly beautiful. Quite comparable to the original Sarah Brightman. In fact, of all 3 main characters, she was the best, being able to sing to much effect the crazy octaves in the score. No wonder she has a Golden Globe nomination for this role. Gerald Butler as the Phantom was disappointing (and this is the reason I am giving this movie a half star less than it should get). The Phantom is by far and large the most important role, and more importantly he had to have a voice of an angel, as Chrisitne Daae puts it, since you don't see his face till the end. But you find Gerald Butler growling and reading over the low keys, as he obviously couldn't sing them. This I don't understand - why cast Gerald Butler when you don't need a handsome actor playing the Phantom? I would rather it be someone who could sing. The bad singing makes it difficult to reconcile the fact that Christine is charmed and seduced by this angel of music . And Raoul, played by Patrick Wilson, was a forgettable character. Not stellar in the terms of singing, his love for Christine was not much of an impact either. He looks cute though. *sheepish grin*

Pictorial-wise, there were some things which could be done on film but not on stage that gives the movie some credit. The spectacular opera house could be brought to life, the Phantom's lair and the blazing fire in the end, all these gave the effects you would want. But The Phantom of the Opera, being written as a stage musical, does not get its full due. You are constantly reminded that the singing is not live and that is one craving you get at the end of it - you want to hear it live, on stage.

Verdict: It is a musical, but not reminiscent of Hollywood stuff (don't expect Chicago or Moulin Rouge). The makers obviously tried very hard to make it like the real musical, only with cinematic effects. Songs and music are classics, thoroughly enjoyable in their own right. The Phantom of the Opera is a classic and should be watched, both as a musical and movie. Good value for money (think: the stage musical will cost easily 10 times that of the film), but I find myself craving for the real thing.

(All reviews are reproduced with permission.)

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