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Joel Schumacher
Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson, Miranda Richardson, Minnie Driver, Ciarán Hinds, Simon Callow
Writing Credits:
Gaston Leroux (novel, "Le Fantôme de L'Opéra"), 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: $29.98
Release Date: 5/3/2005

• “Behind the Mask: The Story of The Phantom of the Opera
• “The Making of The Phantom of the Opera
• Additional Scene
• 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: Special Edition (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 3, 2005)

19 years after its debut, The Phantom of the Opera remains one of the world’s 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 Schumacher’s 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. 2002’s Chicago showed that audiences are willing to go to movie musicals, but Phantom did nothing to continue the genre’s 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 opera’s 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 - they’ll need to placate the Phantom of the Opera (Gerard Butler), the dude behind the “accident”.

That doesn’t 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 “angel of music” - that’d 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 Christine’s career path and the Phantom’s involvement with it.

Boy, all of that almost makes it sound like Phantom presents a coherent plot, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, that’s 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 don’t think so - it’s 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. It’s a facsimile of a story but not anything concrete.

Similar thoughts greet the characters. I’d 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, there’s no personality to be found in any of them. We’ve seen enough similar characters to understand what we’re supposed to expect from them, but we get little definition to broaden them.

Don’t anticipate any help from the actors. Rossum and Wilson certainly look good in their parts, though I think Wilson might offer the definition of “blandly handsome”; without question, he’s a good-looking dude, but he displays no spark. Neither he nor Rossum can do much more than summon one personality trait. Christine is naïve and innocent, while Raoul is semi-heroic. They become a couple because the script says so; there’s 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 isn’t a film concerned with subtlety, but he doesn’t create a personality with any memorable qualities.

And then there’s 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 hasn’t aged well. At least that song sticks in one’s 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. There’s not a decent tune in the bunch.

If Andrew Lloyd Webber didn’t really exist, someone would invent him as a character in a parody. How this man’s 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 B+

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 didn’t 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 Phantom’s intimidation of Christine and others.

As for the track’s 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 Phantom’s 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.

z When we head to the extras, we find most of them on DVD Two. The first disc only includes the movie’s trailer.

Over on Disc Two, we open with a 65-minute documentary called Behind the Mask: The Story of The Phantom of the Opera. It provides archival materials and interviews with composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, producer Cameron Mackintosh, lyricists Richard Stilgoe and Charles Hart, theater critic and writer Michael Coveney, choreographer Gillian Lynne, director Hal Prince, singer Steve Harley, theater critic and writer George Perry, designer Maria Bjornson’s assistant Jonathan Allen, magic consultant Paul Daniels and wardrobe mistress Ceris Donovan. The program quickly covers the origins of Gaston Leroux’s original novel and its many iterations over the years before it focuses on the roots of the stage musical. We start in 1984 with Webber’s initial interest in the material and then move through adaptation and story issues, inspirations, the composition of the songs, early tests of the material and its evolution, promotion via the music video, casting the show and bringing in other production personnel, set and costume design, choreography, mask design and makeup, rehearsals and modifications, the show’s debut and its rapid success.

Despite my continued disdain for Phantom, “Mask” offers a pretty great little documentary. It traces the development of the musical in terrific detail, as it gets into the various stages of the production quite well. The participants appear frank and give us nice insight into things. Add to that lots of good archival bits like the test at Sydmonton, cheesy music videos, shots of the composers at work, original design sketches, and many glimpses of the stage productions. Frankly, this documentary is infinitely more entertaining than the film itself. My main disappointment is that we don’t get uncut version of the absurd and idiotic Ken Russell music video, though it’s also too bad that neither Sarah Brightman nor Michael Crawford appear in the interviews.

Next comes another documentary entitled The Making of The Phantom of the Opera. It goes for 45 minutes and 50 seconds as it presents movie clips, shots from the set, and comments from Webber, director Joel Schumacher, executive producer Austin Shaw, casting director David Grindrod, makeup and hair designer Jenny Shircore, model unit supervisor Jose Granell, production designer Tony Pratt, construction manager Terry Apsey, director of photography John Mathieson, costume designer Alexandra Byrne, choreographer Peter Darling, stunt double Paul Kennington, musical director Simon Lee, music co-producer Nigel Wright, stunt coordinator Greg Powell, and actors Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson, Minnie Driver, Miranda Richardson, Jennifer Ellison, Ciaran Hinds, Simon Callow, and Kevin McNally. The show goes into the show’s slow path to the movie screen, the choice of Schumacher as director, casting, characters and the actors’ work, scenes created specifically for the film, makeup, sets and related elements, cinematography and lighting, costumes, choreography, stunts, rehearsing, recording and revamping the music, and the big chandelier sequence.

Created by the same folks who did “Mask”, “Making” doesn’t work quite as well, but it’s a success nonetheless. It gets into the most important issues connected to the film’s creation quite nicely, as I don’t think they left out anything essential. Admittedly, a little more depth about some of the issues would be good; for example, I’d like to hear more about why it took 18 years to deliver a final Phantom film. Nonetheless, “Making” moves nicely and covers its topics with clarity and insight.

Lastly, we find one Additional Scene. Called “No One Would Listen”, it fills two minutes and 23 seconds. In it the Phantom mopes around his lair and pines for Christine while he croons this ballad. Since the movie already includes 972 saccharine, drippy ballads, I’m very happy they cut this one.

Slow, tiresome and tedious, I can’t 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, the single-disc one presents quite strong picture and audio but it skimps on extras. If you’ve never seen Phantom, I certainly can’t recommend it. Drivel of this level should be avoided. If you do like the film, however, I’d steer you toward this two-DVD edition. There’s also a single disc version, but it retails for only two dollars less than this one and loses virtually all of this set’s supplements. The double-disc release is the one for Phantom fans.

To rate this film, visit the original review of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (2005)