Retro Reviews: The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

Am I the only person who actually likes Joel Schumacher’s interpretation of Phantom of the Opera?
I guess I’ll just have to review, wait and see…

This is my review of The Phantom of the Opera!

The Phantom of the Opera is there...inside your mind!
The Phantom of the Opera is there…inside your mind!

The Phantom of the Opera tells the story of a Swedish chorus girl named Christine Daae (pronounced as DIE-EH) who lands the lead role in an opera.  Unbeknownst to anyone else, she has been coached from afar by her “Angel of Music,” who turns out to be a disfigured composer only known as the Phantom.

The Hits
The first half of the film is amazing!  I have always been fascinated by the toxic relationship between Christine and the Phantom.  There’s so much sexual tension without them getting physical.  I think that a relationship that is physically chaste yet emotionally sexual is far more compelling than an explicit sex scene.  Christine is both enamoured with and intimidated by her “Angel of Music.”  The Phantom has a possessive grip on her even when he’s not in the room.  Even if he has his hand on her shoulder or his arm around her waist, there’s a prevailing sense of his dominance and power over her.   I’ve always felt that the most dangerous villain is the villain who the protagonist needs.  Christine needs his instruction to be a better singer.
I really appreciate that the relationship is emotionally abusive and portrayed negatively unlike a more recent film that was based on a certain Twilight fan fiction.  Anyway, there’s a misconception, especially in film and television, that abuse is only physical.  Emotional and psychological abuse are silent forms of violence, like a toad in a pot of boiling water.
All of the actors give top-notch performances.  Emmy Rossum is sweet and sympathetic as Christine, Patrick Wilson brings the kind and passionate Raoul to life, and for the most part, Gerard Butler’s possessive, tormented Phantom is a great antihero.  All of the singing is high quality and professional…well, actually, almost all of the singing.  There is one actor who makes it obvious that he’s not musically trained and had only so much time to prepare…

The Misses
Gerard Butler’s singing…yeah.  Let me put it this way: He sounds great when he sings, “Night time sharpens, heightens each sensation.  Darkness stirs and wakes imagination…” But it’s when he sings “close your eyes and let your spirit start…to…SOAR!” that I rub my ears and say, “Oh, honey, high notes are not up your alley, are they?”  He does get better as the movie progresses, but once you know that he was the only non-musically-trained actor in the PotO cast and you hear him during the first couple of songs, it gets distracting.
The second half of the film is where the story gets formulaic.  Once Raoul steps into the picture…well, is it bad to say that I wish there was no love triangle between Christine, the Phantom and Raoul?   Christine and the Phantom alone make for a great character study of a parasitic semi-romance.  In my opinion, instead of throwing Raoul into the mix, how about have Christine come to realize on her own that she’s a great singer without the Phantom’s help?  Then have Phantom remind her, “I’m the one who made you the star that you are,” and build the story around this psychological conflict?   Christine’s journey could either lead to her breaking free and standing on her own two feet, or she sinks deeper into the depths of Phantom’s manipulation and waltzes with her master to a tragic end.

All that being said, I don’t hate Joel Schumacher’s 2004 version as much as some people do.  For what it is, I think it works.  I have the soundtrack to this film and I listen to it all the time because the music is great.  I like that Christine is younger in this version, and her interaction with the Phantom is riveting to watch.

Saint Clare of Assisi, pray for us.

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