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The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

I seem to have been seeing a lot of movies starring Gerard Butler lately – not that I am complaining. He’s a fine actor, and certainly easy on the eye – but whatever possessed director Joel Schumacher to cast him as the Phantom of the Opera? Actually, Schumacher does explain himself on the DVD, in the extras, when he says that he agreed to do this film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage production if he was allowed a young cast. “I didn’t want anyone middle aged,” he said.

Fine. But the Phantom was a creepy old guy who lived in the bowels of the Paris Opera Houses for decades before the young diva, Christine Daae, was born. By casting Butler as the Phantom, he changed the dynamic from high Gothic horror into a kind of hybrid of Mills and Boon and high Gothic camp.

In all previous incarnations (including the stage version) he is a terrifying specter with virtually no face. It is only through the power of his music and his voice that he seduces Christine. When she rips his mask off, it is a genuinely horrifying moment. Described in the original novel by Gaston Leroux as ‘a death’s head skull’, the Phantom had a face that even his mother couldn’t love, with a gaping hole instead of a nose. Plus his subterranean life made him less than healthy looking.

In the movie, however, when we finally see the man beneath the rather fetching half mask, the only possible reaction is – “What’s the fuss about? What’s she getting hysterical for?” It just looks like a rather bad burn, and the rest of him is Gerard Butler, for pity’s sake! He’s still got his nose!

Even his subterranean bachelor pad is no problem. Just persuade him to move topside, find a nice flat with a view of the Eiffel Tower and before long the paps will be camped on his doorstep and he and Christine will be the most photographed couple in the world. All he has to do is make sure his good side is turned to the camera.

It’s darn hard to be horrified and fearful for Christine when she is being romanced by a man with a glorious voice, at least half a gorgeous face and a hot body encased in sexy outfits that show off his hairy chest and sexy buns. Schumacher really missed something basic about this character. Still, as before, I’m not complaining. But it is hard to accept that Christine gives this sexy, talented man the flick, and there isn’t a dry eye in the house when he loses the love of his life, including my young granddaughter, who was utterly inconsolable on the Phantom’s behalf – I told you he wasn’t scary.

In spite of all that, the music is still glorious, the settings are sumptuous, Minnie Driver as the diva Carlotta is absolutely wonderful, and Emmy Rossum as Christine is amazing for a girl of 16, as she was when she made this movie. She makes a truly sweet and innocent Christine – Sarah Brightman always looked a bit mad, like an operatic Kate Bush, with those huge eyes and hair. In fact, she looked a lot scarier than the Phantom does in this movie.

Still, having been immersed in Butler movies lately, I know who I would have chosen.

I purchased this DVD with my own funds.



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