Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: 'The Making of The Phantom of the
Opera' documentary (45 mins). Alex Bailey’s production stills.
6 production featurettes. 'Behind the Mask: The Story of The Phantom
of the Opera documentary. The Music of The Phantom of the Opera
featurette. The History. 4 promo 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.
FIFTEEN years from conception to fruition is a long time, so
is Joel Schumacher's highly anticipated screen adaption of Sir
Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, worth the wait?
As an incurable romantic who loved the original, the answer has
to be a resounding yes.
Adapted from Gaston Leroux's 1911 novel, The Phantom
of the Opera is first and foremost a love story. Set in 1870's
Paris, it centres upon a disfigured musical genius (the Phantom/Gerard
Butler) whose reign of terror at the Opera Populaire is set to
reach new heights when he falls in love with his young
protege, Christine Daae (Emmy Rossum).
He devotes himself to her in the only way he knows how, by nurturing
her extraordinary talent as a soprano - much to the very obvious
annoyance of resident diva, Carlotta (Minnie Driver) - and is,
ultimately, instrumental in her meteoric rise to stardom.
What he doesn't bargain for is the reappearance of the young
and dashing Raoul, Vicompte de Chagny (Patrick Wilson), Christine's
Gerard Butler as the Phantom is magnificent. Charismatic and
physically alluring, attributes that do, in fact, belie an underlying
menace, it's only when the full extent of his disfigurement is
revealed that we see him for the 'pitiful creature of darkness'
that he really is.
And Butler's on-screen chemistry with leading lady, Rossum, is
remarkable. The sexual energy in their chillingly fiery duet,
The Point of No Return, is almost palpable.
As for Rossum, just 16 when she auditioned
for the part, she exudes beauty and innocence in equal measure
and, for someone so young, manages to convey a very real sense
of compassion simply by an expression or a gesture.
Wilson's Raoul is an altogether more dynamic version of the character
- a transformation to archetypal swashbuckling, romantic hero
- and as such, he becomes more appealing to Christine and an even
greater threat to the Phantom.
And Minnie Driver, as the volatile Italian soprano, is superb.
Playing it completely over-the-top, she infuriates as much as
she amuses and although her part was voiced by professional opera
singer, Margaret Preece, she did, in fact, record the song specially
written for the end credits, Learn To Be Lonely.
Other notable performances come from Simon Callow and Ciaran
Hinds, as Messieurs Andre and Firmin, the eager new managers of
the opera house; Miranda Richardson, as Madame Giry, the ballet
mistress, whose character was expanded in order to provide further
insight into the Phantom's past and, thereby, confirm that he
really is 'nothing but a man'; and lastly but by no means least,
Jennifer Ellison, whose portrayal of Meg Giry is a delight.
The Phantom of the Opera is a lavish production in every sense
of the word and with the freedom of film, takes audiences far
beyond the confines of theatre. There are a few changes from the
original - the famous chandelier scene, for instance, has been
moved - but none are detrimental to the film's overall impact.
I was, however, reminded of other notable films on two quite
separate occasions. The opening sequence, filmed in subtle shades
of grey and white, sees the ruined opera house restored to all
its former glory, in much the same way as Titanic rose from the
ocean floor. And in the second sequence, a single red rose bud
stands out in the greyness, reminiscent of the young child in
the red coat of Schindler's
But as they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,
and when it's put to such effective use, what possible harm can
On the negative side, however, with a running time of two and
a half hours, The Phantom of the Opera is long. And it is, of
course, a musical, lyrics replacing dialogue much of the time,
which may not be to everyone's taste.
It is, though, a powerful and riveting story, with all the ingredients
of a best-seller - drama, passion, suspense - and deserves, at
the very least, the opportunity to prove itself. Chances are,
you won't be disappointed.