The Phantom of the Opera
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Joel Schumacher
scr Andrew Lloyd Webber, Joel Schumacher
with Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson, Miranda Richardson, Minnie Driver, Jennifer Ellison, Ciaran Hinds, Simon Callow, Victor McGuire, Murray Melvin, Kevin McNally, James Fleet
release UK 10.Dec.04, US 22.Dec.04
04/UK 2h23

The music of the night: Rossum and Butler

butler richardson driver

The Phantom of the Opera Support Shadows: Buy a Poster
Those two masters of overstatement--Schumacher and Lloyd Webber--join forces! Unless you're a die-hard devotee of the stage version, you'll probably find this film both excruciatingly overblown and annoyingly undercooked.

A mysterious, misshapen man (Butler) wanders in the shadowy recesses of the Paris opera house in 1870, encouraging the young newcomer Christine (Rossum) at the expense of resident diva Carlotta (Driver). Just as Christine begins to fall in love with her spectral mentor, she's reunited with former flame Raoul (Wilson). Meanwhile, the creepy, murderous phantom begins to tell the managers (Hinds and Callow) how to run the theatre. While Madame Giry (Richardson) and her daughter (Ellison) seem to know more than they're letting on.

Not only is the story rather thin, but Lloyd Webber and Schumacher never let us get to know the characters. They're merely elaborate hairdos and costumes adrift on massively elaborate sets--all very colourful, but lacking in even a hint of emotion or meaning. In other words, the film matches perfectly the vacuous spectacle of the stage play, which was revolutionary in the superficial 1980s, but seems merely empty-headed now.

This isn't to say that the cast doesn't give it a go. Rossum emotes her little socks off--singing beautifully, heaving her bosom, catching the light perfectly with her curly perm. But since Christine is never remotely defined, we never feel anything for her at all. Butler faces a similar fate, with the added handicap of a slicked-back 1980s sneer. Only Driver wins us over ... by deliciously chewing the scenery.

And there's a lot of scenery to chew. Schumacher seems to have drifted back to his hyperbolic Batman period, throwing every conceivable design element at the screen, from glittery silliness to gothic schlock. But the underlying tone takes it far too seriously, and the songs are even clunkier on screen than on stage. Really, there are only two ways to adapt such a bombastic play to the screen--either high camp or plainly minimalist. But Schumacher and Lloyd Webber actually increase the pretentiousness. And the resulting film will numb both mind and bum.

cert 12 themes, violence 23.Nov.04

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... The Phantom of the Opera anthony bristoe, london: 5/5 "what a fantastic picture, full of superb cinematography, gorgeous ochestrations and lush sets. the cast completely hold there own. i went in with an open mind, and was completely won over. although i would have preferred a stronger voiced phantom in mr butler, he did a good job - not great but good. emmy rossum is just gorgeous to look at and has a pretty voice. the rest of the cast are also very strong - minnie driver very funny as carlotta, patrick wilson excellent as raoul. this film should do well, although different, truly epic and hugely romantic. lush." (2.Dec.04)

Caroline Weaver, Las Vegas: 4.5/5 "Overall I loved the film. Gerard Butler (Phantom), Emmy Rossum (Christine) and Patrick Wilson (Raoul) did a good job in their roles of making these characters their own. In the 'Point of No Return' scene I loved the way the Phantom and Christine walked up the stairs and met, it was chilling and sensual. The new orchestrations were great, as well as the new song over the ending credits, 'Learn to Be Lonely' sung by Minnie Driver. I enjoyed seeing the show with such great artistic scenes. The angel scene on top of the opera house roof was very dramatic, as was the sword fight. The chandelier at the end of course added to the dramatic ending to the show. Nice touch. Minnie Driver is so great in the role of Carlotta I can see why she was picked, even if she had to be dubbed. Cinematography, set design and costumes were all good." (4.Dec.04)

The Phantom of the Opera Betty, London: 5/5 "Wow, if one word could describe what I thought about The Phantom, this is it. It was an excellent movie. The characters, the music, the setting, it was all magical. Definitely going back to see it again." (15.Dec.04)

Marius, Norway: 2/5 "WHY on earth did I pay to see the stage-version on the big-screen?! That's just lazy work! And WHY does everything look so plain? I know one man who would have worked miracles on this mess: Tim Burton! He knows how to portray outsiders (Edward Sissorhands anyone??) and do wonders with the visuals. This movie lacks everything of the above. Only Minnie Driver manages to make it a fun ride. Too bad she lack screen-time. And Emmy Rossum manages to keep us interested as well. Even the singing gets annoying after a while. Schumacher should have give the charaters more dialogue and less singing. This is by far the most disappointing movie of 2004. Camp, but not in a good way. Sad, sad, sad." (21.Dec.04)

aaronjm, net: 5/5 "This is one of my most favorite movies ever! It is absolutely stunning in almost every way imaginible. Anyone who says that this movie is lacking in emotion, or that the story is thin, is completely wrong. The depth and emotion (especially in the end) is such that anyone who understands what is going on will be pierced with the underlying meaning and emotion that the story has. Even apart from the incredible music and terrific acting, this movie is spectacular!" (20.Feb.05)

2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall