Time: 143 Minutes
AWARDS: Academy Award nominations for Best Cinematography, Art Direction and Original Song.
SYNOPSIS: Based on the hit musical, the tale tells the story of a disfigured musical genius who haunts the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera, waging a reign of terror over its occupants. When he falls fatally in love with the lovely Christine, a singing ingenue, the Phantom devotes himself to creating a new star for the Opera – exerting a strange sense of control over the young soprano as he nurtures her extraordinary talents.
BOTTOM LINE: You'd think that moving this world-renowned musical to the big screen would open up the story and make it even more glamorous and exciting, but somehow that just never happens. Perhaps it's the unimaginative direction that fails to add anything visually new to the already wonderful set designs and classically entrancing story. While I am certainly glad Schumacher doesn't go all MTV on us, there's nothing fresh that enhances the stage version or takes advantage of the movement and freedom of film.
That said I was drawn in from the first moment the famous score took flight. The music is as entrancing and powerful as always, so you just hope this ride is worthy of it. Rossum delivers a star turn as Christine, full of hope, youth and beauty. She makes the most of her film debut, forcing you to fall in love with her and entangling you in her plight. Fame or love? Not an easy choice and one that comes with harsh consequences. She plays a tightrope of emotions between ambition and naivité that's not easy to pull off.
Other than the by-the-book staging, my other issue with the film is Butler's casting as the Phantom. He just didn't have the vocal range to bring the songs soaring to life, which is a problem for a musical... and a big issue if you've seen Michael Crawford in the role. That being said, he's talented enough to get the dramatic moments right and creates the requisite sense of obsession and danger to keep you engaged. His Phantom is much more menacing the Broadway version, which elevates the intensity of the final act. I knew the ending and was still a bit frightened for our leading lady.
It's clear from the film's nominations that they didn't skimp on the sets or visuals. While everything seems familiar, the art direction and costuming where taken to a whole other level with an astonishing attention to detail. There's nothing that can be said about the music. It's perfect, sweeping you along on an emotional roller coaster ride that is pure magic. Though the casting isn't perfect, both fans of the stage piece and those new to the story should be satisfied with the results. A lush production that I wish matched the stage experience, but is in the end a fairly decent substitute. At the very least, it's cheaper than a Broadway ticket.