The Phantom of the Opera

This review is going to be a little bit different, I was applying for a new job (I use italics since the job doesn’t actually pay!) of writing DVD reviews for a DVD magazine both online and offline. I had to review a few DVD’s that I’d seen in a format similar to theirs, so I wrote up two that I have already written on my site, and then a new one, which is this very movie.

Check out the format, I actually like it, although the colours would have to change to match the site. I really like the DVD details though as I find that I can review (as with this movie) a DVD that isn’t actually available, or at least a version different to the general release version.

The Phantom of the Opera
Year: 2004
Director: Joel Schumacher
Stars: Gerard Butler; Emmy Rossum; Patrick Wilson; Miranda Richardson; Minnie Driver; Ciarán Hinds; Simon Callow; Victor McGuire; Jennifer Ellison
Region: 2
Discs: 1
Duration: 2 hours and 23 minutes
Picture: Widescreen 2.35:1
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Extras: Interactive menu

Scene access

Note that the version reviewed was a rental DVD and looks to have been an older version than the current DTS version that is now on sale which has many more extras as shown in the following list:

Extras: The Making Of The Phantom Of The Opera documentary (45 minutes)

Alex Bailey’s production featurettes

Behind The Mask: The Story of The Phantom Of The Opera

The Music Of The Phantom Of The Opera featurette

The History

4 Promotional videos: ‘The Phantom Of The Opera’ – Steve Harley and Sarah Brightman, ‘All I Ask Of You’ – Cliff Richard and Sarah Brightman, ‘The Music Of The Night’ – Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman, ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again’ – Sarah Brightman

Movie: 3

The Phantom of the Opera is an old tale written by Gaston Leroux in 1910. Andrew Lloyd Webber made it truly famous with his musical version, and Joel Schumacher has consulted both to bring the musical to the big screen.

The story tells of a disfigured child who lives beneath the Paris Opera House and has grown to become an embittered and angry man whose genius lies in music and architecture. He controls the occupants and the owner of the Opera House through a regime of fear, allowing him to collect a tidy wage and have final say over all the shows performed.

He sees a young orphaned chorus girl join the troupe and decides to nurture her musical talent from afar. Slowly he falls in love with her and decides to reveal himself to her, yet she is in love with another man and as the love grows so does the Phantoms anger and hatred.

The show is a world renowned musical and carries with it a mammoth fan base, so the movie of the musical surely has a lot to live up to. Yet it took a huge hit instantly when Joel Schumacher was confirmed and the general opinion was that the movie was going to be seriously hurt. The casting of Gerard Butler was another huge unknown that took many by surprise, this Scottish actor did not carry such career weight as many expected and with no singing experience behind him there was a lot of concern over the film. However, watching the movie you can’t help but be taken in through some of the transition effects between the past and present, the comic moments, some of the excellent actors, and above all the superb performance by Butler.

Without a doubt he is the biggest surprise of the movie. His voice can at times sound raw and harsh, yet this adds something real to the character of the Phantom, anger and embitterment seem to creep into his voice at key moments. There’s no doubt that Butler has shown the critics that he can make an excellent Phantom, and he is the strongest actor in the movie. Much like the old Hollywood actors, in this film his stage presence is commanding, and his performance utterly believable.

Minnie Driver, Miranda Richardson and Simon Callow provide some excellent support, with Driver showing some excellent comic and character acting. Her take on the poor Opera singer Carlotta is wonderful, and provides for many amusing moments.

Emmy Rossum as Christine is unfortunately not so good. Her role in the movie is weak and merely entails standing looking confused and dumbfounded for much of the film, miming weakly to her musical numbers. Where Butler provides passion and feeling behind his role, Rossum seems to be humming along. Jennifer Ellison is another weak portrayal, and acts as a conduit for a quick duet early on in the movie and nothing more, it’s hard to see why her role was even included.

Patrick Wilson as Raoul also provided a very weak performance, totally overshadowed by those around him. He appeared more as a meek teenage Royal rather than a Viscount who could woo such a lady and fight for her honour.

Schumacher’s treatment was strong, but in places somewhat lacking. During the duet between Christine and Meg for example, both characters were in total darkness at times, and the lighting and camera positioning seemed very wrong. There were also quite a few examples of big scenes with huge sets that just didn’t quite come across, the size and grandeur of the set or the moment diminished in some way. This can be seen in the rooftop scene between Raoul and Christine, compared to the similar scene between Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge, it falls well short and doesn’t carry the same impact.

The story is strong though, and provides for a lot of entertainment. The musical numbers are never out of place, apart from the duet, and they build very well to the conclusion of the movie. However there are a couple of points that stick out for me. One is the fact that everyone just stayed at the Opera house and never considered leaving. For some this is very slightly hinted at, as Carlotta is so bad that no one else would employ her, and Madame Giry was brought up there. Yet I never understood why people just left as did the original owner at the start of the tale.

The second issue I had with the story is the speed at which events happen. When Christine falls for Raoul, or the Phantom turns on them all, these events are quite big, especially in terms of characters choice, yet they are handled quite flippantly and the characters turn on a coin.

There seemed with both points a need for the events to fit the score and the pace of the movie rather than the story being written and then the musical numbers fitted into the story.

Still the musical numbers were for the most part good, the story enjoyable and some of the effects, sets and transitions making for a visually engaging movie.

Picture: 4

Presented in 2.35:1 format gives us the full view of the filmed picture, and in such films as musicals this can help the viewer feel the grandness of the scenes and the sets. However this is slightly hurt by Schumacher’s treatment as described before, and throughout the movie the colours seemed pale and washed out, even when the Phantom stands atop the ballroom stairs dressed in bright red, the colour seems somewhat muted.

This is a real shame and something I couldn’t forget as I watched. Whenever a scene called for rich colours, they seemed to be slightly dulled and lifeless. The entire Masquerade scene is a perfect example.

There’s also a jarring moment when the sides are changed, rather than place the flip a few seconds later on a fade out, or a scene before, it is dropped in the middle of a very strong visual as the Phantom’s hand enters the frame to collect a discarded rose. I wish the companies who transferred movies to DVD were much more careful about the placement of the ‘flip’.

Sound: 4

As you would expect of a musical, the sound is rich and deep. You feel as though the orchestra is laid out right before you, and you can discern the instruments as they play, and this was with the Dolby Digital 5.1 track and not the newer DTS.

The rear speakers aren’t utilised that much, other than to pull the sound back towards you. In fact the audio all seems to begin just in front of you to the sides of the room, down to the front speakers where all the voices of the characters are heard.

I certainly feel that there could have been much more use of the effects channel and separation of the Orchestra around you. However it is still a very rich and strong audio track.

Extras: 0

The extras here are pitiful, and although many companies show Interactive Menus and Scene Access as extras, these are in fact what I would class as the standard requirements on a DVD, not extras. Extras are commentaries, features, documentaries, etc. None of which are present on this version.

However, despite my marking low of the extras here, I know that the DTS version (as detailed above) provides a selection of extras.

Perhaps this is because Phantom comes with a guaranteed audience from the musical, and that selling the standard version on release, then a more extra laden version, and finally a Special Edition, is a much easier prospect than with an open market.

Overall: 3

I enjoyed the movie despite its problems, and there were quite a few, in the story, the actors, characters, even with the picture and the lack of extras. This is a film that’s more of an event movie, something you have to watch because it’s so popular and based on such a popular musical show. What I do wish is that more time and care had been put into the DVD transfer so that it could have been an event to match the movie, perhaps when the Special Edition surfaces we’ll be treated to that.

For fans of Phantom, you’re in for a great treat but stick to the DTS version with the additional extras if your system can cope. If you’re new to the Phantom and want to see it for the first time, stick to the stage show or wait for the Special Edition.

1 comment on “The Phantom of the Opera”

  1. Simone Reply

    So youve finally seen Mr Butler as the Phantom eh Rich? Did you think all our oohhhsss and ahhhhssss over him are pretty justified? LOL

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