Thursday, July 9, 2020

The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

Hack though he is, Joel Schumacher can occasionally turn out an okay film. The Phantom of the Opera is less of a Batman-level war crime and more of a border skirmish, with an old boring book that nobody read on one side, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s famed rock opera on the other.

Schumacher’s interpretation is mostly faithful to the Broadway show. The characters sing, the costumes are extravagant, and the physical acting is as operatic as you could ask for. In a word, the film is epic. Epic characters, epic drama, epic emotions.


Gerard Butler plays the The Phantom, and he is magic. Some have criticized the casting, arguing that his character is too pretty. Sorry, but Antonio Banderas is prettier, and that was a thing on the stage. This Hollywood version is rather subdued compared to some versions of Webber’s vision. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the film exercises restraint.

In contrast, take a look at the heavy metal version of the theme song, the original vision that did not make it to most stage productions:

The above is, in my opinion, the best version. (Sorry for the watermark; YouTube copyright bullshit.) The music is catchy and I like Christine as a goth. They should have kept it this way, with more metal riffs here and there for good measure. But I’m not here to direct. After watching this, you cannot honestly say that the movie is too sensational by comparison. First of all, it isn’t. Secondly, there is no such thing as detrimental excess.

Schumacher’s version isn’t very metal, but it does have a bit of that Victorian steampunk vibe. Throw in a rail gun and you’ve got a half-decent video game. It also sounds like video game music. The musical performances are better than people give them credit for, and the full-body acting served by Butler and company fits the sound.

For a guy in a cape and a mask who sings half of his lines, the titular character is surprisingly believable. It reminds me a bit of Hobo with a Shotgun (2011), a film wherein Rutger Hauer plays an allegedly bombastic character who comes across as more of an introverted philosopher.

There is something in Phantom for everyone. It has a phantom, an opera written by and starring the phantom, and enough narcissistic self-pity to give the whiners on anime forums a run for their money. Poor phantom; nobody loves him.