I’m a big fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber (despite how he is looked down upon by the music establishment) and Phantom of the Opera is my favourite of his musicals. I think I’ve seen it three times on stage and was quite eager to see this 2004 movie version, which he produced.
On screen, I found the tone a bit melodramatic, not helped by poor direction at many parts (over-the-top scene transitions such as going down through the ground, very slow fades, and glowing halos around the characters that recalled the stereotype of a soap). There was also some exaggerated comic antics that function better on stage.
I liked the peek at the backstage bustling at a popular theatre, and the choreography was fantastic (in particular I liked the masquerade dance on the staircase though I was disappointed the Phantom didn’t wear his awesome scarlet Death costume).
Much of the dialogue is spoken rather than sung. I found that the music seemed a bit rushed, with the actors unable to hold their notes as long as they do in the musical. Christine sings a much less difficult ornament during her breakout solo.
Nevertheless, the movie worked as intended: I was sympathetic towards the Phantom, felt for Christine, and really enjoyed the music. Even the rich pretty-boy Raoul was more sympathetic than I expected, though the black-and-white scenes seemed superfluous. There was plenty of new lyrics, perhaps even new songs, as well as fairly major changes and additions to the story. Madame Giry now is almost an accomplice of the Phantom, with a shared history, and there is a swordfight in a graveyard. The chandelier fall is spectacular, occurring during a full-house performance – some things are much better with a large budget. However the metafictional element of a musical within a musical is diminished a little as a film – the box seats are no longer almost real box seats.