A movie is only as good as the strength of its cast and crew. And a musical is only as good as its songs. Fortunately, “Phantom of the Opera” is both.
The movie, adapted from the play by Andrew Lloyd Webber, is a masterpiece in its transition from stage to screen. With elaborate stage settings and beautiful costumes, the world of the theater comes alive for the audience as it is drawn into the story of a musical genius and his dangerous obsession with a young starlet.
At the core of the story is Christine, who lives at the theater where she is a member of the chorus. Her father dies, but before his death, he tells her that the Angel of Music will watch over her. She takes this message to heart and believes she hears her angel. In reality, this angel is the Phantom, who is infatuated with Christine and wants her to be the star of the show. He is willing to do anything to make her the star, but is devastated by her love for another man and, in the end, forces her to choose between the two.
Overall, the brilliance of the film comes from the actors themselves, who fit their roles perfectly and become completely immersed in their characters.
Newcomer Emmy Rossum plays Christine, a woman who is torn between the man she loves with her heart and the Phantom who controls her mind. Rossum, at 18 years old, is incredible in her role and possesses the sort of operatic voice one would expect from a seasoned professional.
Gerard Butler, the Phantom, is the character that the audience wants to hate but cannot quite bring themselves to in spite of his criminal actions. Butler commands the movie and, although he may not possess a spectacular operetta voice, he makes the role his own, infusing the Phantom with such emotion and power that it is difficult to avoid hoping his desires are realized.
The brilliant costuming and set design aid the actors in their quest to be these troubled and lovelorn characters. The costumes, which were handmade, bring Paris in the 1870s to life. They were designed to service ballets, operas, a masquerade ball and everyday life backstage, an aspect not originally portrayed in the Broadway play. Along with the elaborate set designs and a gorgeous chandelier which meets an untimely fate towards the end of the tale, they bring the story to life.
Probably the most incredible set is the Phantom’s lair, hidden deep within the bowels of the theater and elevated above a small pond. The air of mystery surrounding this masked man is evident in his piano set atop a mountain of rocks as well as in the different rooms separated by curtains, hiding not only himself, but also his life and obsession with the young Christine.
Also interesting is the fact that the movie shows how the Phantom came to be hidden beneath the theater, a fact not originally touched upon in the play.
But the music is the piece that makes the film what it is. It advances the story. Originally written by Webber, this project allowed him the budget to create a fully orchestrated version of the music as well as an entirely new song. Such opportunities enhance the already much acclaimed musical score, especially with a rendition of the titular song sung as Christine and the Phantom ride in his boat to the hidden home within the theater.
The film, directed by Joel Schumacher (Batman Forever), has been nominated for three Academy Awards, including best cinematography, music and art direction. Unfortunately, it didn’t receive what it also deserves: a nod for best direction as Schumacher utilizes brilliant lighting tricks and camera angles to unveil the mystery and danger hidden inside the theater. “Phantom of the Opera” is a must-see for fans of musicals and spirited, brilliant acting and direction.