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THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (2004)

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THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (2004)

Thursday, 14 March 2013 17:16

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Written by 

The Buzz:

Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1986 stage adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera has become an iconic love story, synonymous with romance, beauty, and fantasy in the hearts of countless women. This is actually a real shame, because from a man's perspective, Phantom can basically be summed up as "Friend Zone - The Musical." It's the story of a smart, talented guy with lots of cool hobbies who provides years of kindness and support to the girl he's into, but is forsaken in favor of some rich pretty boy, merely because he just happens to be hideous to look upon, lives in a basement, and is not, technically, employed.*

[* Editor's Note: Not that I'm bitter or anything.]

But, close to home as this story may hit for some guys who are definitely not me, the 2004 movie version is still a beautiful, if controversial, retelling of arguably the most important show of its theatrical generation (or however theater time is measured... epochs, maybe?). For those of you who enjoy music, pagaentry, and romance, but can't spring for tickets to a Broadway revival, this film is absolutely worth seeing.

 

 

Life of the Party (Positives):

Obviously, the biggest draw here is the music, and all the iconic songs are present, from epic pieces like the title song and "Masquerade," to the beautiful ballads "Music of the Night" and "All I Ask of You," to the instantly recognizable, goosebump-raising overture, which is paired with a very cool opening sequence of the opera house returning to life after years of neglect. The songs require good performers, of course, and this is the first major point of contention for devotees of the stage show - most of them really hate the casting of Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum as the leads, mostly because they don't sound exactly like the roles' originators, Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman, whose distinctive performances left an indelible mark on each song.

Ultimately, this is a matter of personal taste, but the movie cast's performances are entirely defensible as appropriate for their characters. In the original, Crawford gave the Phantom an angelic, ethereal tenor, and Brightman the spectacular strength and polish of a trained operatic soprano. In the film, Rossum's Christine hits all the high notes admirably, but has a far less formal tone, which makes her seem young, innocent, and approachable, befitting her character. Gerard Butler's singing talent is more debatable, as he does seem a little flat in his big solo, "Music of the Night," and has a rough, snarling, undeniably Leonidas-like quality to his voice. This makes him less musically beautiful and entrancing, but does add an interesting hint of menace that definitely belongs there. Personally, I prefer these vocal interpretations of the characters to the classic versions, and though Butler's range is limited, he's still not "Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia!" bad. And, hey, at least they didn't cast Billy Zane.

Even with the many songs and few scenes of pure dialogue, the plot proceeds at a good pace and never gets bogged down anywhere, partially thanks to a few timeline adjustments made to the script, which put key story events at new positions for a more screen-appropriate story arc. Visually, it's every bit as fabulous and colorful as an opera should be, though almost every scene has some stark contrast, darkness, weird imagery, or other visual element that subtly puts the viewer on edge, just a bit. Even the brightest and most beautiful moments have a feeling of danger lurking just on the periphery - something "phantasmal," if you will - which provides the perfect mood throughout.

Potential Hangovers (Negatives):

Obviously, the first hurdle for this film is that it's a musical, and some people just HATE musicals. Fortunately, those people probably won't even be reading this review, which means we can say mean and nasty things about them in the comments section.

One unusual weakness of this movie is that the Phantom isn't actually very ugly. The entire point of his character is that he can create works of sublime musical beauty, but is cursed with a hideous appearance... 

...and you'd think the filmmakers could have used their huge budget to give us some awesome makeup effects, or even used CGI to re-create the hollow, skull-like countenance from the original book. Without his mask, Erik is supposed to be more creature than man, with a face that would frighten children and bruise fruit, and yet Butler's Phantom is only mildly scarred, looking like he might have suffered a minor industrial accident at worst. We're expecting Sloth from The Goonies, and instead we just get Zuko from The Last Airbender, which makes everybody else's over-the-top screaming and fainting in reaction seem prissy and ridiculous. I guess the filmmakers took the quality of his singing voice and his appearance and just let them naturally average out, but the end result is definitely a missed opportunity for cool visuals.

The Vibe - Date Night, Solo Experience, Casual Gathering


Though you could have a pretty terrific singalong with the right group of musical fanatics, Phantom of the Opera is an emotional, romantic drama at its core, and is best applied to viewing situations that take advantage of that mood. The Phantom/Christine dynamic provides a deliciously dark sexuality that's great for couples viewing, because let's face it, nobody watches this movie and wants to be (or be with) Raoul, and the bittersweetness of the ending will make you appreciate your real-life romance more. This is a good DVD to have on hand if you're a man trying to show a girl your sensitive side, or if you're a woman who wants a chick flick that will appeal to your guy (though if he's one of those people that just HATES musicals, you should dump him immediately). If you're all alone for the night, but still want an evening of romance, this movie is also lovely when paired with a pint of Ben & Jerry's and plenty of red wine.**

[** Editor's Note: Again, not that I'd know anything about that.]

 

+ Iconic and memorable songs performed by a competent, if not hyper-polished, cast

+ Lush, gorgeous visuals shot with just a tinge of horror-movie cinematography

+ It's just a beautiful love story

+ DAT OVERTURE

- Differences from the original show may irk die-hard fans

- May convince you that you’d look terribly dashing in a black cape, but you will not, trust me

Length: 143 minutes

 

 

Alex "Philosophic_Al" Lane is Creative Director of Tanked Matinee, producer of The Film Philosophy Show, and a champion of obscure movies everywhere. He's been seeking out good romance movies because much like the Phantom, he's been playing a lot of organ solos lately, if you know what we mean.

 

Read 1012 times Last modified on Thursday, 14 March 2013 22:52

About Us

Tanked Matinee is the place to go for good drinking movies. What do we mean by that? Simply speaking, we evaluate and recommend entertainment media based on how much fun it is to watch with friends on the sofa and a cold beer in hand.

Everyone knows "The Godfather" is a great movie, but is it as great to drink with as "Roadhouse?" We can appreciate "Citizen Kane" as a masterpiece of cinema, but is it as good a centerpiece for your party as "Santa Clause Conquers the Martians?"

Tanked Matinee appreciates film as art, but when you're kicking back on Friday night with a tall Rum & Coke, you're not looking for art, man, you want to be entertained. We're here to recommend the best movies for your night in, whether it's a big party, small get-together, or just a quiet night alone with a bottle of wine or three.

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