"Find hungry samurai" -Gisaku



Lately, I’ve found myself identifying with the monsters. A few weeks ago it was King Kong, and then I saw PHANTOM OF THE OPERA back to back with MAY. I’m not sure if it’s a universal thing, or it says more about me. In the film there is a love triangle involving the Phantom, the girl (Christine), and Raoul, the rich Patron of the Opera House. I hated Raoul on sight, but again, maybe I was just rooting for the monster.

I’m not up on Phantom knowledge, but I assume the plot is relatively similar to the Broadway Musical. (Interesting note: I have actually seen Phantom, on Broadway, but as that was one of the five worst nights of my life I don’t have a great memory of the production. Some day I’ll tell you about it.) Anyway, real quickly: there is an opera house in Paris, and the Phantom wants Christine, a young singer/dancer in the group, to sing the lead part. Phanty (or Phanty as I shall now call him) has secretly taught Christine the craft of singing since she was a young girl, and woe to anyone who tries to impede this turn of events. Christine, for her part, has to figure out how to be the most ungrateful bitch who ever lived.

Sorry. There I go again. It’s pretty hard for me to separate my feelings on this one. Yes, Phantom is a monster, but taking into account that the movie doesn’t seem to have a giant problem with that, I don’t see why I should. In that context, for whatever reason Phanty has chosen Christine out of all the young singers, and given her private lessons. Christine hasn’t thought to tell anyone of these strange goings on down in the sewers, because for all she knows, the teacher is the spirit of her departed father.

I’m not sure if I buy Christine’s claim to that, either. If so, that means she has a whale of a daddy issue, if you know what I mean. (Actually, that would be a fascinating aspect for the movie to cover. Dark, but fascinating.)

Anyway, Phanty does all this to help her, and then demands that Christine be given the lead roles, going so far as to cause “accidents” to anyone who might oppose this move. But is the girl grateful? Hell no.

I’d like it noted that Christine doesn’t seem particularly upset by the injury that befalls the main diva star or the other “accidents” that occur. Nor does she feel that these private lessons she received are ill gained, and it would be wrong to jump-start her career because of Phanty’s machinations. It’s just that Raoul is so hot and so…did I mention rich?

I mean, c’mon: take the monster part out, and this is every third girl you’ve ever met. (Then again, how many girls have we met who willingly run to the Monster? I like to call those girls “Hyperion’s potential mates.”)

Perhaps part of my problem is the woman picked for Christine: Emmy Rossum. I’ve seen her now in two movies besides PHANTOM; MYSTIC RIVER and SONGCATCHER. I would go so far as to say that Emmy Rossum is about as beautiful as a woman can be. Not hot like a model or something, but classically beautiful; a timeless beauty that would be admired by any generation. She belongs in a painting at the Tate Museum.

But that said, there is zero sexuality to her. I tried to see it. I waited for the “innocent” act of Christine to drop, and the smoldering sensual woman to emerge. That didn’t happen. I’m forced to conclude that it simply isn’t there with her. There are some women who are pretty, beautiful, even breath-takingly beautiful, but who are not sexy. (Strangely; they are often put in Musicals.)

So Who Cares? You might ask. Well, in this case, it’s important. The first few incarnations of Phantom envisioned it as a Monster movie, a horror to behold. Lon Cheney came creeping up out of the sewers and scared us all to death at his twisted ways.

But once Andrew Webber got a hold of Phantom it became something different: a grand Romance. And I’m telling you, not trying to be dirty or anything, but for a classic love triangle romance to take place, there has to be some sex appeal. It doesn’t mean we have to watch the characters get buck naked (although Hyperion never says no to that), but there should be some longing, longing that comes from deep within them.

Look at it: on the one hand Christine has Raoul, the handsome rich debonair benefactor of the opera, her childhood sweetheart, and someone who loves her back. On the other hand is Phanty, a shadowy figure who isn’t fit company, but who cultured and crafted this amazing gift of singing, which has brought Christine acclaim at a young age. There should be some real bodice-heaving going on here, at least while Christine considers her options and Phanty gets more and more impatient and decides to take matters into his own hands.

But sadly, no. While I’m on the subject, there were a couple of other things I didn’t care for. The opening is incredibly boring, and doesn’t begin to get interesting until Phanty shows up and starts threatening people. (After that, it’s pretty riveting.) Also, I can’t believe a big budget movie could skimp so much on Phanty’s scars. I mean; this is a movie! You can make it look however you want! Go all out!! Make him disfigured as hell! Instead, we get this incredibly fake burn scar that A) looks like a high school drama program had $10 bucks tops to create it and B) isn’t all that bad anyway. I mean, the whole point is that Phanty had to hide in the shadows his whole life because he was so hideous, right? So fug him up!

Since I’ve spent the entire time bitching, you might think I didn’t like PHANTOM, and would recommend you skip it. Au contraire. (Which is French for “Quit playing Contra, and go watch it.”) The sets were gorgeous. I mean, freaking gorgeous. There are scenes that just took my breath away. (Note: I make one last appeal here for Widescreen, so you don’t miss 39% of the action. Please? For me?)

Hyperion’s Rating System

Suspension of Disbelief (out of 10): The hardest part for my mom and me to believe was how 4000 candles in the sewers were always lit. I mean; you’d have to hire a team of full-time candle-lighting dwarves. 6.

Genre Grade: This is obviously a Musical, and more than that a romantic Musical, which I think is enough of a sub-genre to make its own category. I would say MOULIN ROUGE is an A+, while CHICAGO is a B. PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is a B+.

Sex/Violence? Phanty kills people, but it’s fairly bloodless. Sadly, there is no sex to speak of, although there are some tightly laces corsets, if you know what I mean. I would think a 12 year old girl could watch this. (A 12 year old boy too, for that matter, if you’re punishing him for not doing his chores.)

Family Film? If your family loves Musicals, absolutely. Otherwise, let the girls watch this while the guys check out TOMBSTONE or something.

Asskickingness: not nearly enough. I guess the Phantom was pretty studly. 35

Pantheon Percentile: Ranking Musicals in the pantheon of all movies ever is tough, because some folks won’t watch movies if their life depends on it. Still, that’s why I get paid the nothing, and I give PHANTOM OF THE OPERA a 76.

The songs are…well, let’s be honest: if you’re not a musical kind of person, you’re not going to watch Phantom or any other Musical Movie, and that’s that. If you are into Musicals, I can’t imagine you would be anything but enchanted. The songs are bright, well-articulated, and not hard to understand, a rarity when the actors are running around a lot.

If you’re familiar with the Broadway Musical then you will know most of them, but there are a few extras. My favorite scene actually contains one of those extra songs; an eerie and spectral vignette that takes place in a grave yard.

The casting seems superb (with the aforementioned 10 paragraphs on the non-sexiness of Emmy Rossum). Minnie Driver is the diva, and she’s quite good. The other characters are all into it as well. Phanty doesn’t have as much menace as I could hope for, and they cast a lot younger than I thought he’s supposed to be (probably to make the chicks happy), but the actor does a fine job.

All in all, I enjoyed watching PHANTOM OF THE OPERA much more than CHICAGO, and that won Best Picture!

Bottom line if you’re a guy: you either like Musicals or you don’t. If you don’t, I can’t imagine why you’re still reading this review. If you do, I think PHANTOM would be a worthy entry to see. At the very least, seeing it with a girl will make her happy and win you points. (Just make sure and bitch about how you don’t want to see it, and you’re doing her this huge favor, and then say that in return she has to watch STARSHIP TROOPERS with you.)

Bottom line if you’re a Girl: Girls either gravitate toward the Phantom or Raoul. They either want the rich handsome dude who doesn’t kill people, or they look beyond the menace of the Beast to find the wounded child beneath. (Possibly even a beast who can be fixed, with the love of just the right woman!) Either way, I would think PHANTOM OF THE OPERA would make you happy. I won’t give away who she chooses in the end, but there is still plenty of Romance, Angst, and Heartbreak for Christine (and by extension, the girls who are watching) to satisfy any chick-flick wish-list.

I just wish Christine had a libido; know what I mean?


Bethany said...

I agree with you on many points. I thought the music and singing was fantastic. I didn't get to see the Broadway version with Sarah Brightman, although I do have the CD, and her voice is quite incredible, but I thought this entire production musically was breathtaking. However, I agree about Phanty's scars. I did like the scene at the end with his little dungeon, however improbable it was. What I do find interesting, though, is the entire premise of Phanty, and how in each production of the Phantom how the way he becomes scarred and twisted, and why, is changed so completed. I still kind of like the old original Phantom the best for the sheer scariness of it, but I must say this one has the others beat all to pieces for the brillance of the singing and musical production. That part of it took my breath away, even watching it at home on DVD.

Bethany said...

P. S. I agree with you and your mom about all the candles--I wondered the same thing!!

Faithful Joy said...

I loved this movie. It was magical. I thought that Christine and Raoul voices were flawless, and blended beautifully. I was, however, disappointed by the Phantom's voice. After seeing it on Broadway and listening to Michael Crawford on CD growing up, it just...well...not good enough. There was an edge to his voice that just let all the wind out of my sail. It was a good movie regardless, very well done and creative.