My parents have been trying to ingrain The Phantom of the Opera in my brain since I was a young boy. All my mom could talk about was how “great” the play was and how amazing it was to see this scene where a chandelier fell. So naturally, when I was younger, about 18, they took me to see this musical and I expected great things. I wanted to love this play and I thought that I would. Wearing a little suit, I sat in the theater watching this play and I was anything but mesmerized. The sound was bad, the mood boring and when the “chandelier” fell I thought it was anything but amazing. Yes, I know that it was in the theater and they had to do the play over again the next night, but when I all I hear about for years is how great it is to see this chandelier fall, the chandelier in question had better smash into the floor, break up into a million pieces and then those pieces of glass should fly into the eyes of the folks in the first row. No offense, but Terry Schiavo could have gotten out of the way of that falling chandelier. After the play, when asked for my opinion, I gave a similar account to the one I just gave you and I was promptly rebuked and yelled out.
Flash forward to 2004. The Phantom of the Opera has been brought to the big screen and I have every intention not to see it. Although, it is out around the time of my mom’s birthday so I decide to extend an olive branch on this sore subject. Before my mom can reply, my father pipes in with, ”Why would we take you to see it? You’re just going to sit there and act stupid.” So, I never saw Joel Schumacher’s rendering of this now classic play in a movie theater. This story of a love triangle and a mysterious phantom who haunts a theater, just went way over my head. It isn’t that I find this tale confusing, it’s just to me, it is so simple, yet freighted with such grandeur that I end up wondering just what the big deal is?
So, the movie comes out on DVD and of course I end up reviewing it. My parents are thrilled. To them this is the best kind of justice. My aunt calls me after she hears about this(her favorite plays and movies are musicals) and wonders if I have watched it yet. At that point I hadn’t. When I finally do sit down and screen this DVD, I am filled with feelings of awe. I always knew that Joel Schumacher was a capable director, but with this film, he has created such a lush and amazingly large spectacle that I feel he has gone to another place in his filmmaking career. The singing is great, highlighted in my opinion by the beautiful Emmy Rossum and it is apparent that Schumacher has captured what has made this play such an amazing success. However, this doesn’t mean that I liked watching this movie on DVD any better then when I saw it in the theater. Okay, I guess I liked it on DVD a little more but this was because I was afforded the creature comfort of being able to watch it in my own home.
To my parents, my aunt and all the other fans of this movie ... I am sorry but 13 years later, this movie still leaves me cold, a bit bored and wondering what the heck all the fuss was about?
No extras came with this DVD. There is a 2 disc special edition but I don’t think those extras would have made me like this movie any more. My ill feelings about The Phantom of the Opera are more feelings of taste then they are anything else. To fans of this play, I suggest not picking up the single disc version mainly because if you are a fan(and most likely you have been one for some time now) you will get a lot more out the extras then someone like myself ever could.
2.40:1 Widescreen Version presented in a letterbox widescreen format preserving the “scope” aspect ratio of it’s original theatrical exhibition. Enhanced for widescreen TVs. This movie was made for the widescreen, big TV, home theater experience. As I stated above, this is is a wildly ambitious movie. It is big, grand, alive ... and for people with the HD set ups they are going to eat this movie up. They will love the way that it plays. The transfer and compression seem almost non existent. At no point did I notice any pixilation of the images that were being presented. The look of this film all the way around is crisp and clear. I watched this movie on my small TV and at times I thought my set was going to explode. I say this because the movie was that large. The dancing and singing ... Schumacher has really captured the feeling of The Phantom of the Opera as I remember it from the theater. I just wish that I could appreciate it more. Sadly, even with how amazing this film looks, I would rather see two people in a diner making small talk.
Dolby Digital Surround 5.1. This movie can be watched in English or French. How could it not be dolby? How could the sound for this musical not be anything but perfect or pristine? I mean, how much chutzpah would the DVDs creators have had if they had released these discs in mono somehow? The fans(especially my parents) would be furious. The sound is something that really stands out. Everyone who sings in this movie has a great voice. There is never a moment where it seems like anybody phones in their performance. It’s just that these songs really have a way of getting on my nerves. In fact, I have heard all these songs so many times, I can sing them now. I inadvertently think I have accidentally learned the words to all the sounds. As much as I dislike the music and this musical, I must admit that when you first hear the initial Phantom theme, it does something to you. The notes swell and take on an air of bigness. Sadly, by the end of the movie(and the play) when you hear the same song, with the same notes, it seems to do nothing more then add to my headache.
The classic pose of The Phantom and Christine. Love that just cannot be. The back features more pictures from this period piece, a very brief description of the movie, tech specs and all the rest of the things you have come to expect from your DVD boxes. To really sum up how I fell about not only this packaging but this movie as a whole, I will leave this summation to the immortal words of Quentin Tarantino. “I don’t know about you, but I love violent movies. What I find offensive is that Merchant-Ivory shit.” Okay, I know that this movie isn’t a Merchant-Ivory picture but I think you get the general idea that I am bringing across right?
Movies like The Phantom of the Opera just don’t do it for me. The story can be great but does it need to be so drawn out? Does there need to be music and singing to highlight and underscore EVERY LITTLE THING? I know that this is a musical, but I think that they do this in almost every movie. Look, we get the point of what The Phantom of the Opera is about? The story, the ideas, the emotions ... and still even with all that, I would rather watch Risky Business.
Okay, I am getting off the subject here. This movie is well done, well told but at the end of it’s 141 minute run time this movie gives me the same feelings I had when I first saw the play 13 years ago. I just don’t get what all the big fuss is about. Fans of the play, people who love musicals, take heart because this DVD is for you!
Andrew Lloyd Webber's the Phantom of the Opera was released December 8, 2004.