Phans of Phantom, beware of this deceptive movie. While Andrew Lloyd Webber did produce the movie and rewrote the music, the opera was ruined. Instead of hiring professionally trained singers, he let the actors sing their parts. Most of the songs are sung an octave or two lower in order to let the cast, namely Gerard Butler (Phantom) hit the notes. Many times instead of singing the passage as in the Original Cast Recording, it is rather delivered as a dramatic speech. On or two of these would be ok, but it seems as if they keep going back to this device as if they have discovered something new that will bring the picture to new heights. One would think that the filmmakers would have taken a hint the first time around. It didn't work the first time, so how can it possibly work the twenty-seventh time around? If you're attached to the original cast recording of 1986, don't bother wasting the time or money to go see this film.
Someone once commented about Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto no. 2 in B Flat Major that it was "a royal stench to the ear." Whoever said this was born too early. He must have been having visions of what was to come in this terrible attempt to put such a grand opera on the silver screen.
Visually, the images of grandeur are pleasing, but anytime director Shitmaker (Joel Schumacher) goes in for anything even a hair tighter then a mid shot, the picture falls apart and immediately becomes a B film. Camera movement is decent, despite rumors of motion sickness. The film opens in black and white resembling what film would have looked like in 1919, approximately fifty years after the events involving the Phantom. This flashback device is used several times during the film, and is annoying with the exception of the first and last time that the device was employed. Again, one would think that the filmmakers would have taken a hint.
Casting is a bit of a problem too. Patrick Wilson playing the part of Raoul doesn't measure up to the character at all. The hair was wrong…visually it was just a mess. The depiction of Raoul seems more like the depiction of an ugly, outcast schoolboy than he does a character that the audience can gradually come to accept. The sympathy that this story usually evokes for the Phantom was non-present. Gerard Butler does a decent job as the Phantom, but again the visual was just wrong. In some shots, he was too pudgy for the role while in others the hair flat out just didn't work. Minnie Driver as Carlotta is the only actor in this abortion of a movie that correctly captures her character; indeed upon her introduction the audience immediately hates Carlotta and the spoiled brat that she is. Even so, overacting was the style of Minnie's performance. Emmy Rossum didn't cut it as Christine either, particularly when she is sitting in the boat after the Phantom takes her to his lair. Her stockings suggested that she was more than a chorus girl; perhaps an outright harlot.
Oddly enough, while no one expected the movie to draw on the book (the opera, while a great work in and of itself is nothing like the grand tome) there are two scenes in which there is a nod to the origins of the tale. (One will recall that the book came first and was published in 1911 by Gaston Leroux.) When the Phantom takes Christine to his lair for the first time, he put her on a white horse. The second, more reminiscent scene that draws upon the book is the scene where Raoul (in the movie) falls into a chamber of mirrors. While the scene in the movie plays nothing like it did in the book, it was visually interesting, but doesn't fit. In fact, those who have read the book and listened to the Original Cast Recording are left scratching their heads vehemently.
Overall, it seems that the movie is just a glorified version of what one could expect to see on the stage. It may have seemed that way because so much of the movie takes place on the stage of the Opera Populaire and then stemming from this, the production designer decided to be realistic to a "T". Still, one would expect grandeur in every shot in this production, even if it is just simple beauty like an elegant, un-made-up woman. Director Shitmaker paints pretty pictures, but for a production with a legacy such as Phantom of the Opera, this film is highly disappointing in every respect.