Director Joel Schumacher, no stranger to visual spectacle, seems to have found a good match in Lloyd Webber's larger-than-life vision of Gaston LeRoux's Gothic horror-romance. His weakness is cuing too many audience-reaction shots and showing too much of the lurking Phantom, but when he calms down and lets Rossum sings "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" alone in a silent graveyard, it's exquisite.
Those who consider the stage musical shallow and overblown probably won't have their minds changed by the movie, and devotees will forever rue that the movie took the better part of two decades to develop, which prevented the casting of original principals Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman. Still, The Phantom of the Opera is a welcome exception to the long line of ill-conceived Broadway-to-movie travesties.
The two-disc edition of The Phantom of the Opera has two major extras. "Behind the Mask: The Story of The Phantom of the Opera" is an hourlong documentary tracing the genesis of the stage show, with interviews by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, director Harold Prince, producer Cameron Macintosh, lyricists Richard Stilgoe and Charles Hart, choreographer Gillian Lynne, and others. Conspicuously absent are stars Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford. Both do appear in video clips, including Brightman performing with Colm Wilkinson at an early workshop, and Crawford is the subject of a casting segment. Other brief scenes from the show are represented by a 2001 production. The other major feature is the 45-minute making-of focusing on the movie, including casting and the selection of director Joel Schumacher Both are well-done productions by Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group.
The deleted scene is a new song written by Lloyd Webber and Charles Hart, "No One Would Listen," sung by the Phantom toward the end of the movie. It's a beautiful song that, along with Madame Giry's story, makes him a more sympathetic character. But because that bit of backstory already slowed down the ending, it was probably a good move to cut the song. --David Horiuchi
Important note: Initial playback of this DVD defaults to the DTS (Digital Theatre System) soundtrack, therefore customers without such equipment will not hear any sound. Please note that this is NOT a fault with the DVD.
If you are not in possession of a DTS compatible sound amplifier, you need to change the film's soundtrack type from the main menu.
In order to do this, please follow the instructions below:
1. Click the "set-up" option.
2. Select either Dolby Digital Surround Sound or Dolby Digital Stereo as appropriate.
3. Select "Play Movie". The film will now play with a universal audible soundtrack.
The film works fantastically well but inevitably has a different perspective because Joel Schumacher is not Harold Prince and this is not the stage. Schumacher, as he says, has chosen to heighten the romantic and sexual elements of Christine's relationship with the Phantom and chosen a much younger cast to portray the principals.
Emmy Rossum is a delightful Christine and whilst her voice is not up to Sarah Brightman's exquisite soprano, she sings charmingly and is actually a much better actress, which benefits the film enormously.
Despite the sword fight I still find Raoul a wet lettuce and nowhere does he appear to more disadvantaged than in the final scene in the Phantom's lair.
This is partly the weakness of the part as it is written but also due to the mesmerising performance of Gerry Butler as the Phantom - anyone would suffer in comparison. He is a stunning Phantom and you would need a heart of stone not to shed a tear for him. The fact that he is also drop-dead gorgeous did not hurt either although this can make it difficult to understand why Christine would be daft enough to choose Raoul, especially after Gerry Butler scorches the screen with this version of Point of No Return. This physical attraction is clearly intended with the open shirts and tight trousers showing off a physique to die for.
They did try to counter balance this with the murder of Buquet, much more chilling and violent than the stage version but I think most women will have forgotten this by the end of the last sequence of the film and would make a totally different choice to Christine - the Phantom is undeniably physically the more attractive of the two, as well the more interesting character. This does, therefore, make for a different story to the stage, where you feel sorry for the Phantom but he really is hideous and you don't end up fancying him like mad. Different is not, in my view, inferior.
All the music is there as we know and love it and well sung by everyone. There have been some criticisms of Gerry Butler in comparison with Michael Crawford. Well all I can say is that those who make these criticisms must be very big Michael Crawford fans if they think that he is a natural singer. I too am a Michael Crawford fan but not blinkered - like Gerry Butler he had to train hard for the role and you can certainly hear the effort occasionally on the original cast album. Gerry Butler has a great edge to his voice and he hits all the notes and when you put this together with the superlative acting performance I actually cannot think of anyone who would have done it better.
So I think if you liked the stage version of the Phantom and are prepared for this to be similar but not the same you will love this film, although I have to admit that it is probably a film that will appeal much more strongly to women than men - yes I am female.
The extras on Disc 2 are also well worth a look - watch out for the hidden extras (and they are well hidden) of the Phantom singing 'No-one would listen' and the highly amusing version of the cast and crew putting their own spin on the title song - this really shows how few people can sing. For me this is a film I will watch again and again, a great version of a show that I have loved for almost 20 years.
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