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Joel Schumacher
Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson, Miranda Richardson, Minnie Driver, CiarŠn Hinds, Simon Callow
Writing Credits:
Gaston Leroux (novel, "Le FantŰme de L'Opťra"), Andrew Lloyd Webber (stage musical), Andrew Lloyd Webber, Joel Schumacher

The classic musical comes to the big screen for the first time.

Musical drama based on Andrew Lloyd Webber's celebrated musical phenomenon. The Phantom of the Opera tells the story of a disfigured musical genius (Gerard Butler) who haunts the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera, waging a reign of terror over its occupants. When he falls fatally in love with the lovely Christine (Emmy Rossum), the Phantom devotes himself to creating a new star for the Opera, exerting a strange sense of control over the young soprano as he nurtures her extraordinary talents.

Box Office:
$60 million.
Opening Weekend
$4.001 million on 622 screens.
Domestic Gross
$51.116 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 141 min.
Price: $27.98
Release Date: 5/3/2005

• Trailer


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


The Phantom Of The Opera (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 3, 2005)

19 years after its debut, The Phantom of the Opera remains one of the worldís most popular stage productions. The musical continues to sell tickets without much difficulty and earn the adoration of the masses. Theoretically, this meant that the 2004 screen adaptation of Phantom would prove to be a smash, right?

Wrong. Despite a fair amount of hype, Joel Schumacherís take on the musical failed to find much of an audience on the big screen. The $60 million production grossed an awfully mediocre $50 million. 2002ís Chicago showed that audiences are willing to go to movie musicals, but Phantom did nothing to continue the genreís return to prominence.

The film opens in Paris circa 1919, where we see an auction of relics from a decrepit opera house. We hear some allusions to a ghost who haunted the joint and caused some problems, all of which culminated in the destruction of a grand chandelier. When we see the hoisting of a restored chandelier, its illumination strips away the years and we go back to the same site in 1870.

At that time the building housed the Opera Populaire, and we meet many folks associated with it. We encounter new owners Richard Firmin (Ciaran Hinds) and Gilles Andre (Simon Callow) along with the operaís new patron: Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny (Patrick Wilson). Chorus girl Christine Daae (Emmy Rossum) used to know him and they were childhood sweethearts, though he no longer appears to recognize her.

The Opera Populaire employs temperamental diva Carlotta Giudicelli (Minnie Driver) as its lead soprano, but she almost gets injured when a mysterious figure drops a scaffold on her. As related to the new owners by show mistress Mme. Giry (Miranda Richardson) - the mother to chorus girl Meg (Jennifer Ellison) and also surrogate parent to the orphaned Christine - theyíll need to placate the Phantom of the Opera (Gerard Butler), the dude behind the ďaccidentĒ.

That doesnít matter to Carlotta. She storms off and leaves the show without a lead for the evening. Mme. Giry convinces them to give Christine a shot, and she earns the role. She proceeds to dazzle all involved with her performance and also attracts the attention of Raoul, as he now recognizes her.

We learn that Christine received her vocal education from an ďangel of musicĒ - thatíd be the Phantom. The rest of the movie follows their relationship. The Phantom clearly pines for Christine, and that creates a love triangle that includes Raoul. We also see Christineís career path and the Phantomís involvement with it.

Boy, all of that almost makes it sound like Phantom presents a coherent plot, doesnít it? Unfortunately, thatís far from the truth. Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals have always been spectacles of theatrics and pageantry more than well-scripted tales with rich characters, and that holds true for Phantom.

Honestly, does this thing even have a plot? I donít think so - itís just loosely connected musical numbers without a clear and involving story to interest us. Most of the time it makes little sense, as the jerky narrative jumps from one point to another with little connection or logic. It feels like short vignettes cobbled together into an attempt at a full narrative. Itís a facsimile of a story but not anything concrete.

Similar thoughts greet the characters. Iíd like to call them one-dimensional, but that might make them sound better-developed than they are. These folks are half-dimensional at best. From the nutty Phantom to the innocent Christine to vaguely heroic Raoul, thereís no personality to be found in any of them. Weíve seen enough similar characters to understand what weíre supposed to expect from them, but we get little definition to broaden them.

Donít anticipate any help from the actors. Rossum and Wilson certainly look good in their parts, though I think Wilson might offer the definition of ďblandly handsomeĒ; without question, heís a good-looking dude, but he displays no spark. Neither he nor Rossum can do much more than summon one personality trait. Christine is naÔve and innocent, while Raoul is semi-heroic. They become a couple because the script says so; thereís no other connection between them or any charisma on display.

Butler fares slightly better as the Phantom, but only to a minor degree. Unlike the others, he gets two emotions: angry and melancholy. Butler plays both to the hilt, as Phantom isnít a film concerned with subtlety, but he doesnít create a personality with any memorable qualities.

And then thereís the music. I suppose Webber is beyond criticism at this point, for his gooey, lowest-common-denominator confections have proved so popular over the years. Nonetheless, criticize him I will, for the music of Phantom ranges from banal to atrocious.

Take the title tune - please. With its silly synths and overwrought tone, it sounded dated in 1986, and it certainly hasnít aged well. At least that song sticks in oneís head. The rest of the movie comes packed with one saccharine, forgettable ballad after another, none of which manages to stand out next to the others. Thereís not a decent tune in the bunch.

If Andrew Lloyd Webber didnít really exist, someone would invent him as a character in a parody. How this manís achieved his level of success remains an absolute mystery to me. Can 50,000,000 Phantom fans be wrong? Sure they can, and the popularity of this inane drivel proves that.

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus D-

The Phantom of the Opera appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. No issues developed in this terrific transfer.

Within the parameters of the photography, sharpness was solid. Some shots looked slightly soft due to the diffuse focus intentionally given to the film; in particular, occasional shots of Christine took on a glowing appearance. Those were perfectly logical here, and the DVD consistently looked concise and detailed. I saw no signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement was absent. In addition, the movie displayed no source flaws like specks, marks or nicks. This was a clean presentation.

Colors also were slightly stylized to match the period setting of the film. This made them a little subdued at times, but they consistently appeared rich and distinctive. Some of the opera sequences offered wonderfully lively tones with very dynamic hues. Blacks were dense and deep, while shadows came across as smooth and well-defined. All in all, I found the image to always look positive.

In addition, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Phantom of the Opera worked well. As one might expect, music dominated the mix. Effects played a moderate role, but the film included so much music that they didnít get much of an opportunity to do much more than offer general support. A few sequences utilized those elements in a slightly stronger way, usually related to the Phantomís intimidation of Christine and others.

As for the trackís use of music, it opened up the spectrum quite well. Logically, the songs and score focused primarily on the front channels, and they offered excellent stereo delineation in that realm. They also broadened quite nicely to the surrounds. The back channels provided good reinforcement of the music and also featured some isolated elements, primarily the Phantomís spooky voice. The soundfield was perfectly appropriate for this form of movie.

In addition, audio quality seemed strong. Speech consistently came across as natural and crisp, with no signs of edginess or problems connected to intelligibility. Effects sounded clean and clear, and they boasted good range as necessary, though I thought bass response was a little boomy at times. Music presented fine clarity and definition. The dynamics of the score and songs seemed lively and firm. I found little about which to complain in this strong soundtrack.

This edition of Phantom skimps on extras. It only includes the movieís trailer. Note that a two-DVD version of Phantom comes with a full platter of supplements.

Slow, tiresome and tedious, I canít find anything entertaining in The Phantom of the Opera. I suppose its theatrical melodrama plays better on stage, but on a movie screen, it fails to do anything to distinguish itself. The perfectly dreadful score and songs make things even less tolerable, as the music of Phantom is unmemorable at best and unlistenable at worst.

As for the DVD, this one presents quite strong picture and audio but it skimps on extras. If youíve never seen Phantom, I certainly canít recommend it. Drivel of this level should be avoided. If you do like the film, however, Iíd steer you toward the two-DVD edition. It adds a second platter of supplements and retails for a mere $2 more than this single-disc package. With such a minor difference in price, I donít know why Warner Bros. bothered to create two separate releases, but the two-disc one is the version to get.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.0813 Stars Number of Votes: 86
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