“Opera is defined by people
singing who should be talking.”
That’s what the poster which hung on my former
bass teacher’s instruction-room door read. To be fair, it poked fun of all
musical genres, so don’t go sending me e-mail telling me that I’ve quoted
some kind of opera-bigot. Nevertheless, I was reminded instantly of that
line, as I watched The Phantom of the Opera, and I think I know why.
The film was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, who
has been putting on a very popular rendition of the stage musical for years,
and director Joel Schumacher, one of the least talented people working in
the movie business, today. The two, in a combined effort, force the
characters to sing hideous lyrics. Most of the musical numbers are comprised
of simple, standard dialogue which should’ve, indeed, been spoken, not sung.
The Phantom of the Opera’s script makes for as much of a musical as
Wrong Turn’s did for a horror movie. This is a complete shame
because, in truth, some of the instrumental tracks, which lay behind mere
words, are stunning and powerful.
The story of The Phantom of the Opera is
presented in the form of a muddled mess of senseless drivel, here. It
follows Christine (Rossum) and her journey in becoming the star at the Paris
Opera House. Her voice is trained by The Phantom (Gerard Butler), a
mysterious figure who lurks in the underground beneath the building. He is a
musical genius, but is also rather insane, terrorizing the Opera House at
his own will. The Phantom has an obsessive love for Christine, even though
he will not allow her to see half of his face, which is scarred and covered
by a mask. Stopping him from having her for his own is Raoul (Patrick
Wilson), a wealthy boy who she adores.
The Phantom of the Opera has been remade
about a dozen times, on film. I have not seen any version of it, other than
this one. The original 1925 silent film is supposedly an eerie, gothic, and
sexy French film, just the opposite of this one. Schumacher’s rendition
looks as though it was filmed on a ride at Disneyland, and, before shooting,
everyone involved went and bought their own costume at Party City for $9.99.
If it were any other motion picture, I would probably praise the shimmering
designs and decorations, but their glitziness only adds to the abundance of
ridiculousness in The Phantom of the Opera.
I think the reason why Webber’s stage production
of The Phantom of the Opera, which is surely just as poorly written
as this adaptation of it, is well-liked, is simply because of its theatrics.
Live opera is undeniably an art-form; with only one-take to reach a very
broad range of notes, the talents of the singer are can seem unreal. In a
movie, on the other hand, such doesn’t make for as much of a spectacle.
While I appreciated the voices of the cast in Schumacher’s The Phantom of
the Opera, particularly that of lead actress Emmy Rossum, I realized
they had the advantage of a recording studio with millions of dollars worth
of processing equipment. The film is never as stunning as it should be.
I’m sure there will be a bunch of old women who
tear up by the end of this movie and then sigh and say
“That…was…so…beautiful,” by the time the credits roll. Keep in mind that
these are the same old women who find guys who regularly strut around
wearing half a mask to be of sexual temptation. All that I, myself, found
beautiful about the ending of The Phantom of the Opera was that it
meant me leaving the theatre. Unfortunately, as I walked out, its soundtrack
was playing in the lobby. So much for escaping the wrath of Mr. Andrew Lloyd
-Danny, Bucket Reviews
(Posted in 12.28.2004-2.5.2005 Update)