*in bored tones*
"He's here. The phantom of the opera."
It has come to my attention (brought, in fact, by the kind hand of a dear friend on Gmail chat last night) that I seem to possess a knack for what is termed "snarky bash." What is this bash of the snark variety, you may ask? (No. You may not ask. But I will tell you.) Apparently it's a talent that enables one to write humorous movie reviews making fun of movies that deserve to be made fun of. I am still trying to figure out whether this is a good thing or not. (One doesn't necessarily want one's stamp on the blogging world to be one of Sarcasm and Satire, you know...) If it is a good thing, I must say it puts a lot of pressure on me. It is always difficult to measure up to what people expect of you, you know.
However, if people have come to my review of POTO 2004 expecting good-humored jabs at a film that fell pretty flat (in my very 'umble opinion), then they have come to the right place. I know there are some POTO 2004 fans out there (yes, I just spelled that with an F) who may be reading this post and getting their dandruff up even now, and I just want to say from the start that it is not my intention to offend anyone, blah blah blah, you're entitled to your opinions and I'm allowed to have mine, et cetera et cetera et cetera... (I do believe the Phantom phandom is much more aggressive when it comes to Opinions and whatnot than other fandoms in general-- the Mizzers, for instance, tend to be much more accepting of others' viewpoints and ships and all that. Just an observation. Not that the phans are mean. Just that they tend to be more... verbal.)
So I always swore I would never watch this movie. I mean, my first real interest in POTO came through Ally's blog, and she is a vehement member of the POTO 2004 Disapproval Club. So, after reading her opinions on how the filmmakers pretty much ruined the musical in their adaptation, I decided I didn't want to see it. Ever. Then I got more and more engrossed in POTO in general, watched the 25th Anniversary recording... um... a lot of times... and finally became a full-fledged Phan. In the meantime, I managed to get Melody hooked on the 25th Anniversary, and it became Our Second Special Musical of sorts (our First being My Fair Lady). She had previously seen most of POTO 2004 with her sister, before realizing that there was such a thing as the stage play (and that it was SO much better), and one day she suggested we watch it together for the fun of laughing at it.
Now, one of my biggest issues with POTO 2004 was the objectionable content found therein (it's rated PG-13, after all) but since Melody had seen it with her sister (who knew where to skip), she too knew where to skip, so we settled down over Skype one week (a three-day process, it turned out to be) to watch POTO 2004.
And this was pretty much my reaction.
(You do not know how long this I Love Lucy fan has been waiting to use that Ricky Ricardo gif for something. And at last my wish comes true. This has truly made my night.)
Don't get me wrong-- there definitely WERE parts I liked. But they made up about eight percent of the movie, all told, and the remaining ninety-two percent was pure claptrap. Entertaining claptrap, of course. I enjoyed myself immensely while watching it. Whether or not this was because I was "with" Melody (as "with" as one can be over Skype) is not the question at stake.
Ahem. Down to business.
As the film began, I started to think that perhaps the bad things I'd heard of Gerard Butler's Phantom were just overreactions. He didn't really seem that bad... the singing in "Angel of Music" wasn't horrid, and though his "Phantom of the Opera" and "Music of the Night" left a lot to be desired, he wasn't the worst performer I'd ever seen in a musical. But then "All I Ask of You (Reprise" rolled around, and things just plunged downhill after that, and I took it all back. Because this guy was the worst. Phantom. EVER. I mean no offense to Gerard Butler himself-- I'm sure he's a great actor and all that. But he was not the Phantom.
For starters, he just didn't sing properly. I don't mean that he couldn't sing at all. He could. In fact, his "Music of the Night," while not to my taste, was not wounding to the ear. His singing actually rather reminded me of Russell Crowe's in Les Mis-- rough and raspy around the edges and all right if you like that sort of thing, but certainly not the polished perfection that his character is supposed to be able to pull off. I can kind of understand not casting a great singer (but a superb actor) as Javert, but the Phantom???? SERIOUSLY? The Phantom is ALL ABOUT singing. I mean, hello. The guy's whole attraction for Christine lies in his VOICE. Therefore, he needs to sound like a burst of light from heaven itself, not a muppet rasping into a garbage can. He is her angel of music, not her Oscar the Grouch.
Besides which, his Phantom was just TOO creepy and stalker-ish. I know the Phantom is supposed to be kind of creepy, but this was overdoing it. The whole film in general was overly sensual and ickyful... as a (hopefully) mature eighteen-year-old, I didn't feel damaged by watching it or anything (especially considering that we skipped through several bits) but I would definitely not recommend this film to younger viewers.
Well, actually, I really wouldn't recommend it to anyone at all. Spoiler alert: that's kind of the message of this review. In case you hadn't caught on yet.
As for Emmy Rossum as Miss Christine Daae... it's true, her voice is good. She should know though, should she wish to excel, she has MUCH still to learn. (Heeeeehee. Sorry. Couldn't resist.)
To be honest, I think as an actress Emmy Rossum gives the strongest performance in the movie. She really does have the potential to be good (er, did-- she's pretty successful now, nine years later, I believe) but she just wasn't quite right for the role at that time. Her biggest flaw is being too young for the part (which totally isn't HER fault, of course, but the directors could easily have cast someone else). At sixteen (while they were filming, anyway) she was at least five years younger than Christine is supposed to be, and quite frankly she makes the Phantom (and Raoul, for that matter) look like creepy pedophiles. Gross.
Her voice, too, strikes me as being much too young and undeveloped. She has a very pretty, crystalline quality to her singing (kind of reminiscent of Younger Sarah Brightman without the vibrato and scooping) but she doesn't sound rich and operatic enough to be a convincing Christine. Sierra Boggess and Gina Beck do the best job of singing the way *I* think Christine ought to sound-- a maturing opera voice. Though POTO is NOT an opera (you wouldn't believe how many people actually think it is...), it does revolve around opera, and Christine is an opera singer. She's Adelina Patti, not Taylor Swift.
Oh, and you will find full-on pictures of Christine to be few and far between in this post, unfortunately, because one of my biggest issues with Emmy's Christine is her SEVERE lack of modesty. Sheeeeeeeesh. Some of her dresses make Marguerite's in TSP look like those of a Victorian spinster.
My thoughts on Patrick Wilson as Raoul-- UGH UGH UGH UGH UGH.
Folks, if Steve Barton lit the flame of the idea that Raoul is an air-headed wimp with no personality, then Patrick Wilson took that flame, blew on it, fanned it and doused it with Pointless Acts of Idiotic Bravado juice. (It's like gasoline, only more potent.) His Raoul seriously had me in stitches. The chin-length hair and general dandified appearance were bad enough ("insolent boy, the slave of fashion!" made total sense here) but his severe lack of facial expressions and random running-around-snowy-graveyards-with-a-sword and doing-Tarzan-leaps-into-a-flaming-orchestra pit were just the icing and chocolate chips on the cake. (If the cake was made of Bad Characterization Decisions batter with a custard filling of This Guy Needs a Shampoo Pronto, that is.)
His voice, however, though not particularly strange and spirit-filling, had a sweet sound, and I really can't complain about his "All I Ask of You" except to point out that it seemed really... flat. Vocally it was fine. Emotionally it was blah. His Raoul just didn't seem to have much of a personality in general, except at spontaneous and unexpected moments in which he burst forth with a sudden flare of I Must Assert My Male Dominance and Smash Things With Anger. Which is totally not the way Raoul is supposed to be.
|The rather blurry subtitle reads "The only character with a |
French accent... in a French story!"
Miranda Richardson as Madame Giry is kind of weird. I mean, I know Madame Giry's supposed to be a little Strange and Mysterious. But this Mme. wasn't really Strange or Mysterious at all, or even slightly Spooky like Liz Robertson in the RAH version. She was just kind of an oddball. Popping up in random places to give Warnings about the Phantom and looking at people as if she were putting a spell on them or something. And her French accent was just as out of place as Sacha Baron Cohen's in Les Mis. Either everyone should be French or no one should be French. You try my patience. Make your choice.
As for her daughter... well, Jennifer Ellison's Meg was completely bland and uninteresting. Meg is supposed to prance around shrieking that the Phantom of the Opera is here, not whisper it in a blase manner that you half expect to be followed up with, "by the way, what's for lunch?" We don't get any sense of her closeness to Christine and desire for Christine to be safe, because we don't get any sense of her character at all. Not to mention, she rivaled Christine as far as low-necked costumes went. (Which is why her picture is from Il Muto, because it's the only halfway decent one I could find. Notice I say halfway.)
Minnie Driver, while not my favorite Carlotta, was pretty hilarious. Her singing during the movie is all dubbed, but her real voice can be heard in "Learn to be Lonely" during the credits. She was very over-the-top and self-centered, which is great for Carlotta, but I felt her portrayal was a little too childish to be accurate. Carlotta is a successful middle-aged diva who's willing to scream and storm when she doesn't get her way, but she isn't a two-year-old pouting and throwing tantrums. (Yes, there's a difference.)
Ciaran Hinds and Simon Callow played Firmin and Andre, respectively. Though it was pretty hysterical to see Captain Wentworth pomping about (it's the verb form of "pompous," you know) with a handlebar mustache in a purple Lord Fauntleroy getup, Simon Callow (whom I keep wanting to call Simon Cowell) was incredibly boring. Well, his mustache was cool, but that was it. Gareth Snook and Barry James are just the best managers ever, world without end, amen, and no one can match them.
Also, Firmin's masquerade costume (see above) was ridiculous. The stupid kind, not the funny kind. ...Well, okay, it was a little funny.
I'm not going to touch on every song here, but I will say that "Hannibal" was beyond awful (if you thought the costumes in the stage version were a bit risque, you should see the movie ones-- no, actually you shouldn't) and that "Think of Me," while very nice, was not particularly memorable. Christine's dress, however (despite its less-than-ideal neckline) was GORGEOUS. So much prettier than the circus tent from the stage version, even though it looks completely out of place in a musical that supposedly takes place in ancient Alexandria. This gown was based on one worn by Empress Elisabeth of Austria (the two are side-by-side in the picture above) and I honestly can't decide which I like better. (I'd raise the neck and shoulders on both, of course, if I were making replicas. Which I'd love to do someday if I can acquire the funds and skills.)
|"Come with me to my Lair, Christine, and I will teach you the|
proper way to toast a marshmallow."
I'd like to be able to say something nice about "The Phantom of the Opera" (nah, just kidding, I don't really) but I'm afraid it was just really, really dumb. It was like a bad horror movie-- trying way too hard to be spooky and chilling ("ooh, look, Phantom's Lair! It's DARK and SCARY down here!") and succeeding only in being cringeworthy. Not that I've actually ever seen a bad horror movie-- or any horror movie at all, for that matter. Unless you count this one.
Christine's costume, too, annoyed me no end. She was basically wearing a corset and drawers under the dressing gown. *facepalm* The dressing gown is supposed to go OVER your COSTUME to keep it CLEAN, peeps. It's not a BATHROBE. And her hair was just crazy in this sequence. I did not like it at all. (I didn't dislike it throughout the whole movie, though. During "Masquerade" it was quite pretty.) And the amount of eye makeup she had on would terrify a raccoon. Yikes.
Plus, what was up with the random horse? Does the Phantom just have a convenient horse stowed away in his lake for this opportune moment? Or is it his special pet, and if so why doesn't it appear again? Does it have a name? Who feeds it and takes care of it? Does Madame Giry have to do it? Why does she have to do everything? Has the horse ever bitten her, and if so, did the Phantom apologize to Mme. or did he bite the horse back to teach it a lesson?
So. Many. Questions.
"Music of the Night" was so blah-slash-touchy-feely that it made me summarily uncomfortable and therefore we will skip over it and move right on to... Il Muto!
(Oh, but first I should say that "Notes" was rather a flop and that "Prima Donna" is unmemorable and indeed should probably be fast-forwarded, as there's a rather unsavory bit involving a crew member showing the audience what he thinks of Carlotta's behavior.)
"Il Muto," I must say, was pretty doggone funny. Not as good as the 25th Anniversary one, of course, but then what is. Carlotta's "Your part is silent. Leetle toad," cracked Melody and me up into a bunch of giggling little pieces, and the little vignette of the Phantom tinkering with Carlotta's throat spray made her croaking later on a lot more believable. (I'm not sure, however, if I don't just prefer it all to be a mystery-never-fully-explained.)
One thing I definitely think could have been left out was the scene in which Erik kills Buquet-- we totally did not need to see him being chased, terrified, through the rafters and finally strangled. Yick.
After the phenomenal performance Hadley Fraser and Sierra Boggess gave during 25th, pretty much any version of "All I Ask of You" will pale in comparison. The one in the movie turned white as a sheet and threw up over the railing on the roof. It was really gross. So is the amount of nuzzling and caressing and what have you in this song. I realize they were probably trying to be cute, but it came across like two high schoolers slurping at each other's faces in public. Like I said. Gross. The singing wasn't half bad, and the little spin at the end was sweet (I'm a sucker for spins, as I said in my 25th anniversary review) but all in all this version of the song was flatter than a saxophonist's B. (Yes, I used Wikipedia in order to make that joke. Don't judge me.)
And the Phantom and his rose crouching behind that statue... I think this was supposed to be sad, but there was too much snot mixed with tears for it to be sad. It was, again, gross. So was Gerard Butler's pathetic attempt at the "all that the Phantom asked of you" line. This is where the singing really began to go downhill.
Well, except for "Masquerade." Because "Masquerade" is always epic no matter what. I adore this song, and this version was really quite fun. I loved seeing all the ballgowns and choreographed dancing-with-fans-- it felt much more authentic for the time period than the boisterious Mardi Gras of the stage version. (Not that I don't love the stage version.) This song always makes me feel happy and dance-ful, and this version was no exception.
I do think Raoul and Christine are kind of cute in this scene, though I don't understand why their little duet about the engagement had to be spoken. It sounds stupid when it's spoken. As for their costumes, Raoul's outfit is nothing spectacular, and his hair is laughable in this scene, but Christine's dress... sigh, I've been drooling over it since I first saw a picture on Ally's blog.
I mean, seriously, LOOK at that SKIRT. Wow.
The Phantom's entrance is anticlimactic somehow, and his Red Death costume (if indeed it's supposed to even BE the Red Death) is unimpressive. I don't like how Raoul just runs off to desert Christine as soon as things start looking ugly (yes, I realize he was going to get his sword, but still... something could have happened to her while he was gone. Duh). As for Madame Giry's flashback immediately following, I like how it gives us some of the Phantom's backstory, but it seems really abrupt. You don't even realize until she's done that she was talking to Raoul the whole time-- it sounds like she's just randomly reminiscing about Stuff, and if you didn't know the story you might be sitting there thinking, "who is this strange woman again?"
~Christine leaving wherever-it-is at, like, five in the morning to go to who-knows-where, completely oblivious to the fact that the Phantom is driving her. Whaaaaaaaaa? How'd he know she was planning to go for a graveyard stroll? Was he watching her through the mirror again? THAT'S JUST CREEPY.
~Raoul randomly waking up and seeing Christine leaving at, like, five in the morning for who-knows-where. Naturally, he follows her at a full gallop on a white horse. HERO SYMBOLISM. Yeah, thanks, I don't need it shoved in my face like that. Plus, there's snow on the ground. What is up with the open shirt? Who wants to see that? (Don't answer that question if your answer is going to annoy me.)
~Speaking of strange choices in clothing, what's up with Christine's dress? Girl, do you even know that a neckline and a waistband are two different things? What's the point of even wearing a cloak if half your upper body is still exposed to The Elements? You should take some of the bottom of your dress and hang it around your neck where it can do some good. Just a suggestion.
~Why, exactly, does Christine's father have the biggest monument in the cemetery? If he were a rich and famous violinist as his crypt seems to suggest, why on earth was his daughter struggling along as a chorus girl taking free music lessons?
~WHY IS THERE A NEED FOR A RANDOM SWORD FIGHT????? Sword fights are all well and good, but trying to pretend that Raoul is Sir Percy or Inigo Montoya is just not gonna fly, folks.
~Okay, fine, Christine getting Raoul to spare the Phantom's life is a nice touch, I guess, but did it strike no one else that his "now let it be war upon you BOTH" makes absolutely NO sense after that? If she just saved his life, why would he suddenly be all, "thanks, but no thanks, I'M GOING TO MURDER YOUUUUUUUUUU"?
Yeah.... I really don't like this movie.
We skipped "Point of No Return." For obvious reasons. Up until the moment when she pulls his mask off, of course. That part is kind of important.
Or it would be if the disfigurement actually made him look, y'know, deformed. Instead, as several people have put it, he looks like he got a bad sunburn or something. It's really rather pathetic. And not in a good way.
I'm still not sure what to think about the chandelier crash happening when it did. On the one hand, it's really, really cool to see it actually plunge down and crash and set everything on fire. (Not that I'm a pyromaniac or anything, but let's face it, Big Disasters in films can be fascinating.) And it does make the sequence leading up to "Final Lair" very dramatic. But I'm a stickler for Staying True to the Original, and as such I think I really prefer the way it happens in the stage version (at the end of Act One).
You probably know by now that I judge a POTO performance based majorly on how well they do "Final Lair." And this one is the worst ever. From Raoul's whining and flailing around and his stringy hair flopping about (shallow complaint, I know, but it's so ugly) to Christine's sappy melodramatic "don't make me choooooooose" faces to the Phantom's prancing around with his ropes and maniacal laughter that somehow wasn't really scary at all... yeah, it was a flop. A major, major flop. The lines that are supposed to be sung in such a heartfelt way were either spoken or just kind of tossed out without much feeling. And though The Kiss wasn't all that bad, all I could think of was, "She's SIXTEEN, for Pete's sake! SIX! TEEN! THIS IS CREEPY AND GROSS!"
Which is why it's so difficult for me to admit that, um, I... cried at the end.
I COULDN'T HELP IT GUYS HE WAS ALL ALONE THERE IN HIS LAKE WITH HIS MONKEY AND HIS SMASHED MIRRORS AND HE WAS CRYING AND IT WAS SAD.
And then that rose on the gravestone? That single red rose? And the look on Old Raoul's face (still Patrick Wilson, by the way, under all that makeup) when he saw it and realized he wasn't the only one visiting Christine's grave? Yup, I lost it again there, too. And I really didn't want to. Because I tend to cry over movies I love, y'know? And I didn't love this movie. At all. I may have enjoyed the entertainment it gave me and the opportunity it presented to watch something with my Tween, but all in all it was a Miss-Dashwood-office bomb.
Yet I still cried at the end. I'm not really sure why. I think perhaps it had something to do with the way the story still "got" me, deep down inside, despite the lousy casting and less-than-perfect singing and ridiculously unnecessary elements that totally didn't need to be there. It's still a tragically beautiful romance, and even a bad film can't kill that.
Don't get me started on musical-sequels, though. Because they are another story altogether.
...Though I may just have to watch Love Never Dies one of these days, if only to bring you your recommended daily dose of Snarky Bash.
In conclusion, I think Mary Poppins can best express what I thought of POTO 2004.
That woman is just practically perfect in every way, y'know?
And to end this review on a happy note, here's a gif of Aaron Tveit being a bunny. Because a gif like that makes any post a good one. Even if it's a post about the worst adaptation of POTO ever. Because bunnies just make the world a happier place.