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The Phantom of the Opera is a 2004 film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1986 musical of the same name. Directed by Joel Schumacher, the film was also produced and co-written by Lloyd Webber. The Phantom of the Opera stars Gerard Butler in the title role, Emmy Rossum as Christine Daaé, as well as Patrick Wilson, Miranda Richardson, Minnie Driver and Jennifer Ellison.

Plot

Derived from the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, which was based on the novel by Gaston Leroux, the film begins in 1919, as the effects of a dilapidated Paris Opera House are being sold off at auction. Raoul the Vicomte de Chagny (Patrick Wilson), now an old wheelchair-bound man, purchases a coveted music box. During the auction, Raoul spots a familiar figure: Madame Giry (Miranda Richardson), whom he met as a young man. Madame Giry is now an old woman, almost 50 years later. But he is distracted by the next piece for auction, Lot 666; a chandelier in pieces which has been restored and newly electrically wired. As the auctioneers display the restored chandelier, the opening crescendo of music wipes away the years of decay from the opera house as the black and white turns into color, and the audience is transported back in time to 1870, the beginning of the story, when the opera was in its prime.

A disfigured musical genius called "The Phantom," (Gerard Butler), lives within the deepest recess of the opera house. Tormented by his scarred face, the Phantom lives in the watery labyrinths beneath the Opéra Populaire in Parismarker. After nearly ten years of quiet obsession with the delicate, ethereal voice of Christine Daaé (Emmy Rossum) and the beautiful young soprano herself, he plots to place his protégé at center stage.

Christine is caught between her love for Raoul, her childhood sweetheart who has returned into her life, and her fascination and pity for the Phantom. Jealous and possessive, the Phantom plots to make Christine his, resorting to stalking her wherever she goes as well as killing several people including Piangi. A swordfight later ensues in the cemetery, where Raoul eventually disarms him and is about to kill him when Christine pleads for him not to, "not like this." His rage seemingly augmented, the Phantom angrily states as Christine and Raoul walk away: "Now, let it be war upon you both." During the night's play, he steals Christine away and avoids the trap to be captured by Raoul and the managers. After a series of tense, chaotic sequences, including dropping the chandelier (the one from the beginning of the movie) and setting the opera house on fire, the Phantom imprisons Raoul, who attempts to save Christine, and threatens to strangle him to death if Christine does not choose the Phantom.

Struck by the desperation of his actions as well as a revelation of how dark his past must be, Christine kisses the phantom and displays her pity and compassion for him. Her kindness and the love in her eyes so deeply touches the Phantom that, ashamed of what he's done, he allows Christine and Raoul to leave. Just before she departs with Raoul on the boat, Christine approaches the Phantom, who helplessly tells her that he loves her, and gives him the diamond ring from her finger. Heartbroken, the Phantom begins to cry. Christine and Raoul row away singing to each other and Christine glances back at the Phantom. After they leave, the Phantom then uses a candelabra to smash every mirror in his underground lair and he disappears behind a velvet curtain into an empty glass mirror portal, before the police arrive. Upon entering, Meg, the ballet mistress's daughter, finds only the phantom's white mask.

Later, the grainy black and white picture dominates as the elderly Raoul rides to a cemetery where he goes to visit Christine's tomb, which reveals that she died only two years before, in 1917, at age 63. Her tombstone says "Vicomtess of Chagny" and "beloved wife and mother", suggesting she married Raoul, had children and died of old age. He lays the toy monkey at her grave site, and notices that on the left of the tombstone lies a red rose with a black ribbon tied around it (a trademark of the Phantom) with the engagement ring attached to it.

Cast



Hugh Jackman was offered the chance to audition for the Phantom, but he faced scheduling conflicts with Van Helsing. "They rang to ask about my availability," Jackman explained in an April 2003 interview, "probably about 20 other actors as well. I wasn't available, unfortunately. So, that was a bummer." "We needed somebody who has a bit of rock and roll sensibility in him," Andrew Lloyd Webber explained. "He's got to be a bit rough, a bit dangerous; not a conventional singer. Christine is attracted to the Phantom because he's the right side of danger." Director Joel Schumacher had been impressed with Gerard Butler's performance in Dracula 2000. Prior to his audition, Butler had no professional singing experience and only undertook four whole lessons before singing in front of Lloyd Weber with "The Music of the Night."

Katie Holmes, who began working with a vocal coach, was the front-runner for Christine Daaé in March 2003, before she was replaced with Emmy Rossum. The actress modeled the relationship between the Phantom and Christine after Suzanne Farrell and George Balanchine. Patrick Wilson was cast as Raoul based on his previous Broadway theatremarker career. For the role of Carlotta, Minnie Driver devised an over-the-top, camp performance as the egotistical prima donna. Despite having also no singing experience, Schumacher cast Ciarán Hinds as Richard Firmin, with whom he worked with on Veronica Guerin.

Production

Development

Warner Bros. purchased the film rights to The Phantom of the Opera in early-1989, granting Andrew Lloyd Webber total artistic control. Despite interest from A-list directors, Andrew Lloyd Weber and Warner Bros. instantly hired Joel Schumacher to direct; Lloyd Webber had been impressed with Schumacher's use of music in The Lost Boys. The duo wrote the screenplay that same year, while Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman were cast to reprise their roles from the original stage production. Filming was set to begin at Pinewood Studiosmarker in England in July 1990, under a $25 million budget.

However, the start date was pushed to November 1990 at both Babelsberg Studiosmarker in Munich, Germany and Barrandov Studiosmarker in Prague, Czech Republic. Production for The Phantom of the Opera was stalled with Lloyd Weber and Brightman's divorce. "Everything got tied up in settlements," Schumacher reflected. "Then my career took off and I was really busy." As a result, The Phantom of the Opera languished in development hell for Warner Bros. throughout the 1990s. In February 1997, Schumacher considered returning, but eventually dropped out in favor of Batman Triumphant, Runaway Jury and Dreamgirls. The studio was heavily interested in John Travolta for the lead role, but also held discussions with Antonio Banderas, who undertook vocal preparation and sang the role of the Phantom in the TV special, Andrew Lloyd Webber: The Royal Albert Hallmarker Celebration.

Schumacher and Lloyd Webber re-started development for The Phantom of the Opera in December 2002. It was then announced in January 2003 that Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group had purchased the film rights from Warner Bros. in an attempt to produce The Phantom of the Opera independently. As a result, Lloyd Webber invested $6 million of his own money. The Phantom of the Opera was produced on a $55 million budget. A further $15 million was used for marketing, bringing the final budget to $70 million. Warner Bros. was given a first look deal for distribution; the studio did not sign on until June 2003, when the principal cast was chosen.

Filming

Principal photography for Phantom of the Opera lasted from September 15, 2003 to January 15, 2004. The film was shot entirely using eight sound stages at Pinewood Studiosmarker, where, on the Pinewood backlot, the bottom half exterior of the Palais Garniermarker was constructed. The top half was implemented using a combination of computer-generated imagery (CGI) and a scale model created by Cinesite. The surrounding Paris skyline for "All I Ask of You" was entirely composed of matte paintings.

Production designer Anthony D. G. Pratt was influenced by French architect Charle Garnier, designer of the original Paris opera house, as well as Edgar Degas, John Singer Sargent, Gustave Caillebotte, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Schumacher was also inspired by Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast (1946). The cemetery was based on the Père Lachaisemarker and Montparnassemarker. Costume designer Alexandra Byrne utilized a limited black, white, gold and silver color palette for the Masquerade ball.

Reception

Release

The Phantom of the Opera was released in the United States on December 22, 2004, grossing $51,225,796 in domestic totals. A further $107 million was earned internationally, coming to a worldwide total of $158,225,796. Observers connected the film's early competition mostly due to Ocean's Twelve, The Incredibles and The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.

Anthony Pratt and Celia Bobak were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Art Direction, as was John Mathieson for Cinematography, however, both categories were awarded to The Aviator. Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Charles Hart were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song, as well as Golden Globe. Emmy Rossum lost the Best Actress in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy nomination to Annette Bening in Being Julia. The Phantom of the Opera received the Saturn Award for Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film, as did Alexandra Byrne for Costume Design. In addition, Rossum (cast at sixteen-years-old), won Best Performance by a Younger Actor.

Critical analysis

Based on 163 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, 33% of the critics enjoyed The Phantom of the Opera, with an average score of 5/10. "The music of the night has hit something of a sour note: Critics are calling the screen adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s popular musical histrionic, boring, and lacking in both romance and danger," the consensus read. "Still, some have praised the film for its sheer spectacle." Phantom was more balanced with Rotten Tomatoes' "Top Critics" poll, receiving a 28% approval rating from 36 reviews, based on a 4.7/10 average score. By comparison, Metacritic calculated an average score of 40/100 from its 39 reviews collected.

"The film looks and sounds fabulous and I think it's an extraordinarily fine document of the stage show. While it doesn't deviate much from the stage material, the film has given it an even deeper emotional center. It's not based on the theatre visually or direction-wise, but it's still got exactly the same essence. And that's all I could have ever hoped for."
— Andrew Lloyd Webber


Despite having been impressed with the cast, Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader wrote that "Teen romance and operetta-style singing replace the horror elements familiar to moviegoers, and director Joel Schumacher obscures any remnants of classy stage spectacle with the same disco overkill he brought to Batman Forever." Stephanie Zacharek of Salon.com believed that Phantom of the Opera "takes everything that's wrong with Broadway and puts it on the big screen in a gaudy splat."

In a mixed review for Newsweek, David Ansen praised Emmy Rossum's performance, but criticized the filmmakers for their focus on visual design rather than presenting a cohesive storyline. "Its kitschy romanticism bored me on Broadway and it bores me here-I may not be the most reliable witness. Still, I can easily imagine a more dashing, charismatic Phantom than Butler's. Rest assured, however, Lloyd Webber's neo-Puccinian songs are reprised and reprised and reprised until you're guaranteed to go out humming." Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly believed Schumacher did not add enough dimension in adapting The Phantom of the Opera. "Schumacher, the man who added nipples to Batman's suit, has staged Phantom chastely, as if his job were to adhere the audience to every note."

Roger Ebert reasoned that "Part of the pleasure of moviegoing is pure spectacle - of just sitting there and looking at great stuff and knowing it looks terrific. There wasn't much Schumacher could have done with the story or the music he was handed, but in the areas over which he held sway, he has triumphed." In contrasting between the popularity of the Broadway musical, Michael Dequina of Film Threat magazine explained that "it conjures up this unexplainable spell that leaves audiences sad, sentimental, swooning, smiling--in some way transported and moved. Now, in Schumacher's film, that spell lives on.

References

  1. DVD production notes
  2. The Making of The Phantom of the Opera, [DVD, 2005], Warner Home Video


External links




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