Stuff I Watch in October: The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

phantom of the opera

Happy October and welcome! All 31 days this month, I will be reviewing all the films I watch in the month of October. They’re mostly a selection of horror or suspense films in my own library or films and shows that have been recommended to me.

Please enjoy and leave a comment!

And if you missed any of our past reflections, take a look:

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Psycho (1960)
The Haunting (1963)
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
The Other (1972)
The Legend of Hell House (1973)
Young Frankenstein (1974)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Halloween (1978)
Alien (1979)
The Shining (1980)
Halloween II (1981)
The Evil Dead (1981)
Halloween III – Season of the Witch (1982)
Ghostbusters (1984)
Teen Wolf (1985)
Aliens (1986)
Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
Predator (1987)
The Monster Squad (1987)
The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
The Lost Boys (1987)
Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn (1987)
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
They Live (1988)
Beetlejuice (1988)
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
Ghostbusters II (1989)
Predator 2 (1990)
The Addams Family (1991)
Alien 3 (1992)
Army of Darkness (1992)
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
The Crow (1994)
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Scream (1996)
Alien: Resurrection (1997)
Scream 2 (1997)
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
The Sixth Sense (1999)
What Lies Beneath (2000)
Scream 3 (2000)
28 Days Later (2002)
Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
The Ring (2002)
Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
Identity (2003)
AVP: Alien vs Predator (2004)
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Snakes on a Plane (2006)
Alien vs Predator: Requiem (2007)
Halloween (2007)
Grindhouse (2007)
Halloween II (2009)
Predators (2010)
Absentia (2011)
Prometheus (2012)
The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Escape From Tomorrow (2013)
Oculus (2013)
Before I Wake (2016)
Hush (2016)
Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)
Alien: Covenant (2017)
Happy Death Day (2017)
Get Out (2017)
Gerald’s Game (2017)
The Predator (2018)
The Haunting of Hill House (2018)
Halloween (2018)
A Quiet Place (2018)
Happy Death Day 2U (2019)
Us (2019)
Ready or Not (2019)
Doctor Sleep (2019)
The Invisible Man (2020)
The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020)
Willy’s Wonderland (2021)
Army of the Dead (2021)
Midnight Mass (2021)
Duel (1971)
Clue (1985)

Our next film is…

WATCHING: The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

phantom of the opera

DIRECTOR: Joel Schumacher. Yeah…I know. I KNOW.

WHAT IS IT?: Fittingly, as we began with the 1925 version of the novel, we end this series with the 2004 version. This was the version of The Phantom of the Opera every single Broadway nut wanted to see made into a feature film. It had been in development hell in Hollywood for over a decade with everyone from fan favorite Michael Crawford to Hugh Jackman to Antonio Banderas being courted for the titular character’s role.

THE PLOT: You know the score. Christine is the meek understudy of the big, bold star, Carlotta, in an Parisian opera house that’s seemingly haunted by a malevolent music genius who will stop at nothing to make sure that Christine is the company’s big star — even if that means resorting to sabotage and murder. Standing in The Phantom’s way is Raoul, a man who lusts after Christine as well. Also, there’s singing…a LOT of singing.

WHAT DID CRITICS THINK?: The film got high marks for its gorgeous production design and settings — but was mostly panned due to the hokeyness of the dated material, as well as Gerard Butler’s performance…we’ll go over this.

WHAT DID I THINK?: I have a love/hate relationship with this material. I love the novel by Gaston Leroux. I love the 1925 silent film we did the kick this series off. The 1943 Universal version starring Claude Rains was colorful — but was as campy as all the other Universal monster movies the studio had released prior to that. We had the British Hammer Films version of the 1960’s, as well as the rock horror film The Phantom of the Paradise, we had the 1990 mini-series (highly underrated and beautiful), the god-awful 1989 horror film with Robert Englund…and we had Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical.

On the one hand, the production of the Broadway musical can be effective if you let it in to work its magic. The three main musical numbers are stunning (“The Music of the Night”, “All I Ask of You”, and “The Point of No Return” are just works of art with the latter being the best tune in the show: a mixture of smoldering sensuality, desire, and longing) and the sets are amazing (depending on which company produced it).

On the other, only the three main songs in the musical click. All the others are minor, unmemorable numbers or reprisals of those three tunes. Additionally, the story is porcelain and hokey and makes the entire show feel overproduced. The climax where Raoul and The Phantom duel for Christine by singing loudly for her love feels less like something you’d see in an adult setting and more like two college boys fighting over a girl in Melrose Place. And the Phantom’s character hasn’t exactly aged well unless you think a toxic, murderous psychopath is the pinnacle of romance and sexuality.

As mentioned, this version was the result of 15 years of development. Initially, the fans wanted Michael Crawford, who played The Phantom on Broadway, to reprise his role in the film. Then, it started to get weird with Antonio Banderas being rumored as becoming the lead. The guy can actually sing the part — but let’s face it…he doesn’t have the powerful voice needed for the role. Hugh Jackman was considered and, hell, I would have approved — but the timing wasn’t right…

…so…Warner Brothers got Gerard Butler to play The Phantom.

It’s one of those decisions where you look back at the long list of talent who could have done this character justice, then you look back at Butler and you wonder what in the holy hell the studio was doing the day this decision was made.

Butler is not a singer. He’s never sung. He has had no training except for the lead-up to this film. His singing voice, for the most part, is him bellowing, whispering, shouting, screaming, or growling the lines of certain songs. When he does make an attempt at singing, he barely has a waver to his voice, he can barely hold a note, and he has no stamina when it comes to holding a long note. Second, the dude is stiff as a board and uninteresting. The only time he shows any genuine emotion is toward the end of the film and, by then, it’s too late.

Look I don’t really need somebody hip like Ramin Karimloo who everyone fawns over these days even though Karimloo oversings everything.

But they couldn’t get Michael Crawford or someone with at least some experience playing the character or any experience in theater at all?

I don’t care how many women come to this man’s rescue (and there is a RABID fanbase for Butler) or how many people defend his performance by saying “Webber was looking for somebody who had a rock voice.” If that’s the case, then Webber was asleep at the wheel here and completely misjudged the situation.

Say what you will about Emmy Rossum’s lack of power as Christine or Patrick Wilson’s monotonous Raoul — both of them could sing when it mattered.

For what it’s worth, the set design and art direction is the real winner here and that’s right up director Joel Schumacher’s alley (fuck him, still, for Batman & Robin, though), but everything else is just over-produced, loud nonsense. It’s a musical that’s been long overdue to hit the big screen — but it’s dead on arrival.

And that’s a shame.


Leave a Reply