DVD Review HTF REVIEW: The Phantom Of The Opera - Two Disc Special Edition (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Apr 23, 2005.

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  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]
    The Phantom Of The Opera
    Two Disc Special Edition





    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 2004
    Rated: PG-13
    Film Length: 141 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Enhanced Widescreen
    Audio: DD 5.1
    Color/B&W: Color
    Languages: English & French
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
    MSRP: $29.95
    Package: Two discs in a regular size (double) Amaray Keepcase.




    The Feature:
    As I've followed the reviews closely over the past several months of the 2004 Andrew Lloyd Webber / Joel Schumacher film collaboration, I've seen everything from this being compared to some of the best musicals ever made to those reaching the depths among the worst of films ever produced. All of this should serve to tell us one thing; it's probably not the best musical film ever made, nor is it the worst. It would seem as though one of the greatest single characteristics determining this vast soup-to-nuts reaction, is the expectation moviegoers possess in relation to their stage production experience.

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    Through the evolution of time (15 years to be exact), the film was to star the two original Broadway performers, Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman but they were eventually ruled out as were a number of others including (and interestingly) Antonio Banderas. The leads selected were relative newcomers; Patrick Wilson as Raoul, Gerard Butler as the Phantom and the show stealing Emmy Rossum as Christine. It's not an easy film to critique in terms of their acting skills (for obvious reasons) but there should be no debate as to their ability to sing - whether or not it’s to your liking will be a personal decision. The supporting roles are filled by Miranda Richardson as Madame Giry, Minnie Driver as the incredibly annoying diva Carolotta, and Ciran Hinds and Simon Callow as Firmin and Andre, the new proprietors of the Opera House.

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    I suspect there are very few who don't have at least the most basic knowledge of the storyline but in brief, the 2004 film version is told in flashback. The Phantom Of The Opera is set in 1870 at the Paris Opera House. The beautiful, young chorus girl, Christine Daae is an up-and-coming opera star who steps into the spotlight after the opera’s spoiled diva, Carlotta, quits the production. Christine’s been tutored by a mysterious Phantom for years. Her unseen teacher has taught her well and she sings like an angel, impressing the theater’s new managers enough to allow her to become their new leading lady. While the naïve Christine believes her gentle tutor is the spirit of her father, her adopted mother (the ballet’s mistress) knows the truth. Christine’s teacher is really the disfigured Phantom who haunts the Opera House. A musical genius who’s gone mad, the Phantom has lovingly overseen Christine’s development. As she gets her opportunity to shine onstage, the Phantom’s affection and hold over the young woman is in jeopardy when a wealthy young man, Raoul, falls for the burgeoning beauty. But, once he realizes Christine has slipped away, the Phantom's jealousy has terrible consequences.

    [​IMG]

    There's nothing extraordinarily special about Schumacher's approach as he presents the material in a mostly straightforward and predictable manner - albeit, a beautiful one. However, one could argue that, for a movie like this, his approach is the correct one. He offers a number of tremendous visual images, none greater than the chandelier being raised as the Opera House returns to its splendor of 1870. Ultimately, it would seem that appreciation of The Phantom Of The Opera will hinge upon your opinion of Andrew Lloyd Webber's skills as a composer. However, fans of the stage play should take heart in knowing Webber personally selected Schumacher as the director, with the two working closely on this film, a project that’s been over 15 years in the making. Webber first approached Schumacher about directing Phantom Of The Opera back in 1988.

    There would appear to be as many criticisms as there are characteristics worthy of praise, however the greatest single complaint seems to be the comparison to the stage production in terms of its faithfulness the play. I'm not going to delve too deeply here, but I suspect if the film took a direction that vastly differed from the adaptation of the stage play, there'd be just as many complaints from the opposite camp. In the same vein, in terms of the film being an extension of the stage production, the right decision was made. To be clear, several minor plot changes do exist such as:

    The change of timeframe with respect to chandelier crash, which occurs late in the film. Another nice touch occurs when there is a visit to Christine's grave. Raoul pays a visit to the gravesite and discovers a trinket; a signature rose wrapped in his black ribbon and the ring. A nice touch which verifies the Phantom's continued love after many years.


    Purists may complain and compare this film to the 1925 silent classic with Lon Chaney or the 1943 remake with Claude Rains. The film shouldn't be. Andrew Lloyd Webber was not striving for shock and horror. Instead, he wanted to emphasize the romance and operatic elements.

    [​IMG]

    As for the packaging, The Phantom Of The Opera is available in several versions. The copy I received for review was the Two Disc Special Widescreen Edition. These are housed in a regular (hinged) Amaray Keepcase which also comes with contest information and details surrounding a chance to win a trip to see the stage play on Broadway in New York, in the form of an insert. From what I understand, there are also single disc versions available in Widescreen or Fullscreen which list at $27.95 while the Two Disc SE lists for $29.95.

    The Feature: 4/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Video:
    The film is shown in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is enhanced for widescreen. To say that this film is gorgeous looking would, really, be selling it short. There is an awful lot going on in terms of the elaborate (and beautiful) theater, numerous bouquets of flowers and beautifully detailed costumes. It’s as though you feel you're always a second or two behind trying to capture the visual surroundings, while watching the film itself. It really is a visual feast.

    Colors, as you can imagine, leap from the screen - extremely lush and vibrant. Saturation was absolutely perfect as never did the colors bleed. Hues were spot on. Flesh tones looked very real and accurate. Black levels were extremely dark, though never crushed, while whites were crisp and clean. Shadow detail was nice although some of the shots of Christine appeared to be slightly contrasty - something I don't recall from the theatrical showing – perhaps an effect to emphasize the angelic aspect of Christine.

    The level of image definition was also impressive - for the most part. The film didn't really have many ultra close-ups (facial close-ups, that is), but clarity was most satisfying on facials as well as wider and longer shots. Really, my only complaint here is a slight amount of glossiness to the overall look of the film – a very very slightly processed look; although nowhere close to the extent we have seen on many of the recent films. While virtually no film grain was visible (save for the intentional grain during the B&W sequences), there is an impressive amount of depth to the overall look of the film.

    As we would expect, this print is immaculate and free of any dust or dirt blemishes - nor were any scratches visible. The overall image was rock solid and free of any shimmer or jitter.

    Compression and authoring seems to have been handled nicely as artifacting and edge enhancement are virtually non-existent.

    A very nice job indeed, save for some slight - extremely slight glossiness.

    Video: 4.5/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Audio:
    I was as equally impressed with the audio track as I was with the video presentation. The soundtrack is DD 5.1 encoded. While not on the same level as Master And Commander in terms of dynamics, what's impressive about this track is its ability to show off the soundstage - as we would hope and expect for a new musical. Rarely does a minute or two go by without music in some form or another and the front stage was incredibly vast and expansive. The music sounded wonderful. Regardless of the range, these musical numbers were impressive, always hearty and full bodied.

    The track was crystal clear and absolutely free of any noise or other distractions. Dialogue was always exceptionally bold and clear but seemed a bit low, particularly during the first few scenes of the film... maybe it was just me after the raising of the chandelier sequence when the music kicks in. As Keanu would say... "whoa". I wouldn't necessarily call the track overly aggressive, but it certainly gets done, what needs to.

    There is decent employment of the surrounds. While they’re used mostly for music filler and envelopment, there are a few examples of effects and so forth. There is also some decent LFE info which kicks in during several scenes, particularly during musical numbers with organ music.

    An extremely nice track that affords the music an impressively wide soundstage.

    Audio: 4.5/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Special Features:
    The set is comprised of two discs. The first disc contains the film as well as the:
    [*] Theatrical Trailer. It is in perfect condition. Duration: 2:24 minutes.

    The remainder of the features are located on disc two starting with:
    [*] Behind The Mask: The Story of The Phantom Of The Opera which is a documentary narrated by Paul Hickey and covers everything from the original novel written by Gaston Leroux and includes the development of the stage production including the original film version starring Lon Chaney. The focus of this featurette is on ALW and his adaptation of the stage production. Here, we’re treated to a number of terrific performances from Crawford and Brightman. A number of participants appear here including Andrew Lloyd Webber, the original director, producer, lyricist, and numerous stage actors. An interesting feature if you’re a fan of Phantom. Duration: 65:08 minutes.
    [*] The Making Of The Phantom Of The Opera consists of three features including:

    - Origins And Casting of The Phantom Of The Opera and includes brief comments from numerous cast and crew members during the London Theatrical Premiere. Comments include ALW’s decision to hire Joel Schumacher as the director. Duration: 17:31 minutes.

    - Designing The Phantom Of The Opera highlights the technical aspects of the movie including miniatures (particularly of the Paris Opera House). The intricate and elaborate set creation is also featured. Duration: 11:05 minutes.

    - Supporting Cast And Recording The Album Of The Phantom Of The Opera features comments from several members of the supporting cast. The extensive orchestra is also featured here and discussed. There is also more discussion including technical effects, such as the one-take crashing of the chandelier scene. Duration: 17:15 minutes.
    [*] Additional Scene: No One Would Listen is a short clip which features the Phantom singing number in the basement of the Opera House. Duration: 2:24 minutes.
    [*] The disc also lists DVD-ROM features.

    Special Features: 4/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**



    Final Thoughts:
    I must admit, regardless of the enthusiasm expressed by my wife and her love of the stage production as well as the film, I entered the theater slightly (and snobbishly) apprehensive probably due to the fact that Joel Schumacher was at the helm. While there might be some who’ll want to seize my “arthouse privilege card”, I left the theater quite impressed. Considering the vast popularity of the stage production, this is a film that is sure to have its fair share of critics. Obviously those who adored the stage version will have certain (perhaps lofty) expectations, while those who were unimpressed with the stage production, probably need not apply here in terms of the film version.

    All expectations aside, we watch films to be transported and entertained. In this case, The Phantom Of The Opera is a beautiful film with a number of outstanding performances, none greater than Emmy Rossum but paramount to the film (and really, the stage version too) was the music which I adore. I most certainly was entertained.

    As for the DVD, well regardless of your feelings for the film – the DVD is extremely impressive. The film is a vision of beauty to look at and it is captured digitally with precision and magnificence. Disc two comes with a number of entertaining and informative supplements to round out the package quite nicely. If you’re a fan of the film, you’re in for a nice surprise.

    Overall Rating: 4.5/5 (not an average)
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Highly Recommended...!





    Release Date: May 3rd, 2005
     
  2. Jack _Webster

    Jack _Webster Stunt Coordinator

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    Very good review!

    After experiencing the horrid reviews this got last year, I was finally convinced to never listen to professional critics ever again. This was definitely one of my favorite movies from last year and I can't wait to pick it up.
     
  3. JohnMor

    JohnMor Producer

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    Thanks for the review, Herb. I didn't see the film in the theatre and was undecided if I wanted to give it a try, but your review convinced me. Definitely a blind buy for me on release day.
     
  4. Chris Will

    Chris Will Screenwriter

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    I love this film, can't wait to pick this DVD up! Great review!
     
  5. Jordan_E

    Jordan_E Cinematographer

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    Herb, thank you for putting my mind at ease! I pre-ordered the 2-disc edition for my wife's birthday (we saw the movie in the theaters and enjoyed it), but I was worried that something would make it a less than enjoyable addition to our collection. Now it's just a matter of waiting, especially when it arrives because I'd want to see that auction scene when the theater comes to life right away but know my wife wouldn't appreciate that at all! [​IMG]
     
  6. AaronMK

    AaronMK Supporting Actor

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    I've only seen the stage production once, but love its soundtrack and really liked this feature film rendition. Some of the changes to the stage version stuck out like sore thumbs, but that did not detract much at all from the overall experience. I got scared when I heard Schumacher was directing, but he pulled this off nicely. It plays more like a stage production expanded to fill an on-screen world, with nice sets and great use of lighting. He could have easily fallen into the trap of cheap quick editing tricks and overbearing style that Chicago fell into.

    From what I understand, the stage production has people who either adore it or abhor it, and not many in between, so its not surprising that many reviewers trashed it. The group you fall into with the stage prodution is most likely the group you will fall into with the movie.

    Hmm, the two-disc is only $2 more MSRP than the single-disc. Wonder which one I will be getting. [​IMG]
     
  7. GarySchrock

    GarySchrock Second Unit

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    Haven't completely made up my mind whether I want to get it. I'm probably leaning towards picking it up (I haven't seen the movie). I absolutely love the musical.

    Amusingly last time I saw the musical was earlier this year, and a fair number of us were sitting in the basement until the last minute before we had to be seated trying to catch the end of the MSU-Kentucky game, all desperately waiting to see if the shot at the end of regulation was a 2 or 3 point shot. We had to give up before they made up their mind [​IMG].

    So, as someone that really likes the stage version, what's the likelyhood I'll like the movie? I'll probably end up picking it up, I just like the music too much.
     
  8. David Williams

    David Williams Cinematographer

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    This was the best movie I saw last year, closely followed by The Incredibles. [​IMG] Thanks, Herb, for a outstanding review that succeeded in making the wait until May 3rd that much more excruciating! [​IMG]


    I'd say good, if you can let go of Brightman/Crawford. After listening to the unabridged original cast recording all these years that was the biggest thing for me to get over. The minor plot changes aren't that bad and I truly believe Emmy Rossum does a better job with Christine than Sarah Brightman. For the first time ever, I could clearly understand all the words to "Think of Me". This movie has ALW's 'fingerprints' all over it.
     
  9. MikeDE

    MikeDE Stunt Coordinator

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    What a relief to read the review. I've never seen the stage production, and the local movie palace shoved the film out the door so quickly I wasn't able to see it there. My fear was that, with my luck, the DVD would be a muddy disappointment. Now I'm looking forward to finally seeing this and finding out if the wait was worth it.

    Mike
     
  10. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    Herb,

    I hope I don't come off as sounding
    like American Idol's Paula Abdul
    by gushing all over you, but....

    You have such a wonderful way with
    writing your reviews. You manage to
    really capture your readers and make
    convincing arguments as to whether a
    film is worth a purchase or rental.

    I have been a huge fan of Broadway's
    Phantom of the Opera ever since
    I saw it 10 years ago. I think Webber's
    music is perhaps some of the most
    beautiful music ever written -- especially
    when sung by the likes of Crawford and
    Brightman.

    To make a film that can do justice to the
    Broadway play is difficult to do. It seems
    from your review that Webber and Schumacher
    took the right approach and brought something
    extraordinary to the screen.

    As you can tell, I have not yet seen this
    film -- but it has been preordered. I rarely
    get to watch anything I buy anymore but your
    review solidifies my feelings that this is one
    that should be opened and watched the day I
    receive it.

    Thanks for the review, Herb!
     
  11. Adam_WM

    Adam_WM Screenwriter

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    Ron, I really liked the movie, but because you are a big fan of the show (especially Crawford and Brightman), your enjoyment of the movie will depend on how much you believe that Crawford and Brightman are Phantom and Christine... can you have other people playing the roles? if so, I can't see how you can't like this movie. It was the show almost scene for scene (with just a few tweaks) and it looked AWESOME.

    Great review, can't wait for the DVD.
     
  12. Jake Lipson

    Jake Lipson Supporting Actor

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    I'm in the dangerously obsessed with Phantom camp and am very proud to call this my favorite movie of all time.

    The DVD sounds solid enough, but it is a pity; the UK release (which is not being handled by Warner, who only distributed this in the US and Canada) is getting four hours worth of extra material, including (from what I can tell) a whole lot more on the stage show, including the even the cheesy '80s music videos used to promote it when it opened. It's a shame we don't get that, too -- double dip in the future, possibly? I also lament the fact that the teaser trailer is not included (the movie had a teaser trailer in June, and the full length one in November; from your review it seems that the full trailer is included but the teaser's missing.) Pity.

    Well, at least the movie presentation quality is terrific. Thanks for the review.
     
  13. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Producer

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    You list your location as "Middle Earth", your sig quotes LOTR, but Phantom is your all-time favorite movie? [​IMG]
     
  14. Jordan_E

    Jordan_E Cinematographer

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    Simply a clever bit of misdirection![​IMG]
     
  15. andrew markworthy

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    Many thanks for this review. I think I'll still get the R2 version, because, as has been noted, it has a lot more extras.
     
  16. Larry Sutliff

    Larry Sutliff Cinematographer

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    I have my copy pre-ordered, this was my favorite film of 2004. Butler and Rossum are very good, different from Crawford and Brightman, but in a good way.
     
  17. Jake Lipson

    Jake Lipson Supporting Actor

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    I first registered for the board after I came home from a theatrical viewing of The Two Towers a couple years ago, so I was in LOTR mode at the time (hence Middle Earth) and haven't ever thought to change my location. But, yeah, Phantom's on top.

    I'm hoping this will be a big seller/rental title, since it did well-but-not-great in theaters and deserves more of an audience. If in fact the DVD does do well (and it's currently the #1 DVD on Amazon), I think I smell a double dip on this in the future since the R2 has so much more material on it...but I'll do it.
     
  18. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    Excellent writeup as always, Herbeleh!


    Somebody give Ron a hand here -- if it wasn't for him, think of all the DVDs the rest of us would be missing out on!

    I'm looking forward to this movie. I enjoyed the original musical (well, the Webber version -- there were others before), even though I consider the majority of Webber's shows to be complete garbage (and I'm not *really* a theater snob).
     
  19. David Williams

    David Williams Cinematographer

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    I really want to hope so, but I sincerely doubt it just for the fact that they are already releasing 2 different versions on release: the 1 disc standard movie edition and 2 disc SE that was reviewed here. I guess WB doesn't see a market for all the extra goodies here. [​IMG]
     
  20. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

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    A couple of things came to mind when I saw this in the theater:

    1) Joel Schumacher may have directed this movie, but ALW clearly had his hands all over it. There was not going to be a Phantom costume with nipples, ala Schumacher's Batman.

    2) No one is Michael Crawford except Michael Crawford. But by the time I saw Phantom in the theater, Crawford was touring solo.

    That in mind, the movie has to stand on its own. I think it did. The look was great. The Phantom was not Michael Crawford, but no one can be. And Emmy Rossum was perfect as Christine. She has an incredible voice.

    The supporting cast was good, too. The structure changes to the story rank right up there with the switch of Cool/Krupke from West Side Story. They work.

    And on the subject of Sondheim, I still prefer him to ALW. But I'll be picking up this DVD, and seriously looking into the R2 version for the supplements.

    - Steve
     

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