the phantom of the opera

trashing the phantom of the opera
schumacher’s folley

saw this last week. was texting diane (mod poink 123) and jm (epikunwari) and mike (checkeredegg) if they wanted to watch it with me one friday night (or was it a thursday). diane was off to baguio to do her thesis and jm was with a group date. mike and zee couldnt make it so it was gonna be just jetro (no cyber counterpart) and me.

spoiler alert. i will be nitpicking phantom here so if you havent seen it or dont want to read my review of a bad film, dont proceed hehehe

i had my reservations when i heard gerard butler’s voice in the trailer, he isnt musical theater material in the first place. i read he had a rock band background, but his voice, well, it seemed he was talking through his lines and you could only go so far as to doing this technique. and since some notes would need to be sustained for 4 bits or 16 bits, his droning becomes disturbing more than his character.

thankfully he was an actor enough to express all angst the phantom felt on the day they did not do all that the phantom asked of them. but what mainly got my goat with this film is schumacher. joel f*****’ schumacher. he is the curse of the phantom. no doubt about the set, which was fabulous, and the music of webber, a classic, the phantom of the opera was a ready hit for greatness on film. and then a director like schumacher comes in.

there are ways of course, on how to handle such a material and still make a killing at the mainstream movie box office. get good looking actors. schumacher got butler, who we saw as lara croft’s tomb raider boyfriend in the cradle of life and in crichton’s timeline. it however turned unfortunate that butler is too handsome to be terrifying or too young to be the phantom, i think. he lacked seniority and this particular dominating presence to overpower christine daae with his greatness at master class. on scenes when you should be enraptured not by all this mystery about the phantom but also the power of his singing performance, the actor doesnt soar. he however looks pathetic and comes out as some insane opera ghost, a fool roaming around the halls. and i dont blame butler for this, he was miscast.

another way to tackle this film is get a good-looking actor who could sing. emma rossum is beautiful and looks perfect as christine daae, angelic, sweet, innocent and likely to be victim to the angel of music’s hypnotic presence. and she can sing. unfortunately, she cant sing opera. and the role of christine requires you sing opera. it is amusingly irritating that after carlotta sings “think of me” christine replaces her with a below-standard rendition of the aria. an added blow yet, she sang it pop! in fact, there were a lot of singing that was made easy for her by singing in pop and the orchestra getting louder to drown out her sustained, unsustained notes, like her high c at the end of the song “the phantom of the opera.” again, another unfortunate casting. i was thinking they should have picked actors from broadway instead. and i hated when her notes is already sang out loud yet her mouth opens as if she was singing at a whisper! kainis. her face should have been distorted, with her mouth wide open and her veins sticking out, or at least like sarah brightman (who sang the original christine), her eyes would be wide open and you could see her brain from her esophagus. again i blame schumacher.

patrick wilson (playing the vicomte raoul de chagny) was a saving grace in the singing department. his performance in key songs like “all i ask of you” was more than welcome, to say the least. that would probably be all i can say about him. he was, btw, in angels in america. didnt know he could sing, and that was an interesting revelation.

schumacher directing the phantom of the opera is abysmal. choice of actors, treatment of the musical (pop singing in an opera?), acting direction (christine and her dazed, unaffected performance), blocking and staging (masquerade, point of no return, and wishing you were here again, among others, were sorely lacking of emotional and plot-driven direction), story development (schumacher too early revealed phantom’s itsura by putting too much light on him in the lair scene with christine) and so on and so forth.

so is it really that bad? not really. loved miranda richardson (as madam giry) and minnie driver (as carlotta) was great in the film. webber’s music is still magical, except that singing performances matter a big deal in musicals and we have substandard singers hitting his notes. didnt schumacher learn anything from the recent musicals that came out? chicago! moulin rouge! evita! aside from being good actors, everybody sang well and with so much emotion you cant help but cry.

dont get me wrong, i love the phantom of the opera. i havent seen the show onstage but i listened to the original london cast a whole lot and ive read the libretto. michael crawford, sarah brightman and michael ball. man, they were the best. and im not saying that because they were the original performers. like with les miserables, the singers change but the quality of the singing does not.

and comparing the works of past directors tackling a webber musical, alan parker and norman jewison did magnificently with evita and jesus christ superstar respectively. madonna may not be an actor but she outdid herself in evita, and her singing got a whole deal better. antonio banderas IS che. even if webber company released JCS 2000 i still loved jewison’s film version of jesus christ superstar. thing is, the singing was never compromised. they are musicals in the first place. and i cant help but compare POTO to evita especially. parker did such a great job with evita, the scope and grandeur of argentina, evita’s campaign for leadership and monopoly, historical facts and whatnot, they were all there. schumacher made crap of his film version. if he wanted great acting, he should have just gone to the real source and not based it from the musical. besides the acting wasnt even that good.

if baz lhurmann did the phantom of the opera, he might take it into a totally different direction but judging from his direction in strictly ballroom and his musical experience with moulin rouge, id think he’d do greatly with POTO. parker already done fame the film and evita. why didnt he just do phantom too? im griping and bitter. jhem (evil teleri) told me this has turned into another passion of the christ for me. i so wanted to love the film but it just left me frustrated and disappointed. i hope they dont compromise les miserables and miss saigon in the film versions. and rent should remain true to its spirit.