Following my recent trip to see The Phantom of the Opera in the West End, and against my better judgement, I went on Friday to see the film adaptation of the musical. It was directed by Joel Schumacher - he of the rubbish Batman films.
I tried to set my preconceptions aside, but despite this I came away deeply unimpressed. The first moment of song seems out of place, as if you suddenly discover you're watching a musical, and the construction and direction deserve the blame.
The direction was dreary and in places confusing and there seemed little imagination employed in the switch from stage to screen. One particular scene that works well in the theatre - where candles rise up from the stage as the Phantom and Christine arrive in his lair, a necessity due to the changing set - is replicated almost identically, resulting in the bizarre effect of lit candles emerging from water.
Everything seems slower on screen. The ballads are tedious and, to quote the Observer reviewer who had the same experience, you can't help but "pass the time during the over-orchestrated numbers guessing what the rhymes are going to be and being right 95 per cent of the time." The film itself drags terribly.
The Phantom is poor in pretty much every way. When his supposedly hideous face is revealed, rather than a monstrosity of skin and bone we are presented with a slight scalding. And what deformation there is was all too clearly not present in the previous scene, as revealed by a badly designed mask with over large eye holes. The Phantom should be a virtuoso singer, kept off the stage by his appearance. In the case of Gerard Butler's Phantom, his voice would be reason enough. (His voice and some of the brass instruments suffered distortion, but I'll be charitable and blame that on the cinema reproduction equipment rather than the filmmakers.) The actors in the stage version are due credit for their live performances. When the songs have been pre-recorded in a studio, there is no excuse for a flawed performance.
Emmy Rossum as Christine is not bad but she isn't quite operatic enough for the role. At least Ciaran Hinds and Miranda Richardson are good (although for some reason she is the only one of the French characters to sport a French accent) and Minnie Driver was entertaining if, in my opinion, entirely wrong for the role of operatic prima donna.
The Phantom of the Opera: The Movie is an opportunity missed. Insufficiently adapted from the version written for the stage, blandly directed and dull in too many places, this film is worth a wide berth.