Musicals: sometimes I like them. It helps if the entire world doesn’t join in randomly and without feeling the slightest bit self-conscious about it (see South Pacific, although there are exceptions that can make this work, such as if it’s happening due to demonic interference). And it probably makes me overly trendy and without taste that I like Andrew Lloyd Webber better than the generic musicalisician, but nevertheless I do, and it’s too late to do anything about it now. Although in my defense, I hate Cats, as is good and proper.
The upshot of all this is that it was inevitable that I’d go see The Phantom of the Opera as a movie, despite the near universal panning it took. And here’s the thing. It didn’t only not suck, but was, with just a few exceptions, really good. In some aspects better than I’ve ever seen it onstage.
Problems: Too melodramatic. This went away after the first few scenes, which is good. Because that kind of thing works on stage, but makes a movie feel goofy. I’m not sure why there should be such a difference here, but there is. Also: too musical. Like I said, the singing randomly thing, it grates in a cinematic experience. I think it bugged me this time because I was prepared for all the singing, but then they did some of the scenes straight, speaking where I was expecting music. Thusly was the illusion broken, so that when they did sing, some of that failed to fit after all. And, too much naked statuary. Yes, it was in the time before Victorian England took over the social mores of the western world. And it’s not like exquisite (and I should think frightfully expensive) gold statues of women quarter-dressed in sheets bothers me, either aesthetically or pruriently, in an opera house. But the equally detailed granite naked statuary in the cemetary seemed, well, out of place. I’m just saying.
Now, the good stuff. I’m not going to worry about spoilers, a) because if you don’t know the basic story by now, it was by choice and so why should you care about being spoiled, and b) because for a movie like this, the comparison with forebears is the only really important thing to review.
In no particular order, things I liked: The gradual reveal of the Phantom’s madness, via the skew between his perceptions of himself and his world, and external perceptions of the way his world really was. Emmy Rossum‘s portrayal of Christine as a sympathetic character, which is the first I’ve ever seen. (I’ll come back to that.) The chandelier scene, which was greatly improved over past productions (and I’m not talking about the limitations of a movie vs. the stage here, so don’t start). Oh, and the opera house itself, although clearly too large to fit in the external structure they showed, was just really cool in every room.
The random over-exposition scenes were a wash, because on the one hand, blatant exposition makes for a bad film, but on the other, it was (mostly, and here I do not include the cringeworthy Little Lotte lines) interesting and depth-adding exposition.
Cutting here, as the rest contains spoilers for the movie only. Still, they’re the reasons to see the movie, so you should click through anyway.