My mom had been dying to see this for quite some time since she's a big fan of the stage production. Having heard the CD a few times (never all the way through, just bits and pieces) I eventually agreed to go with her.
First off, the theater was packed, even though it'd been out for over a week, and I noticed that most of the audience members were older, middling to elderly age. There were a scattered number of teenagers (I think all girls) but little to none children. There were some really good previews - Cinderella Man, Bewitched, Miss Congeniality 2, and that Colin Farrell Pocohontas/John Smith movie.
Anyhoo...about the movie. I personally thought the flashbacks were a little too predictable. When the auctioner's crew lifted the cloth on the chandelier in the beginning, it was waaaaaay too obvious that it was going to be a flashback. Perhaps the bits would have been improved by 'flashforwards'. Also, I had the hardest time figuring out who the old man in the wheel chair was and wasn't until like halfway through the third flashback that I got who he was. Props to the makeup people for that.
Yes, the movie was gaudy, with lavish attention to the details and production sets. However at times, it seemed almost overbearing, like it was trying too hard to impress. I've heard the original is supposed to be very dark, forboding almost; this one I wasn't like on the edge of my seat or anticipating what was going to happen. At times, it was just like, "Wait. So the phantom's coming? Uh....okay." I wasn't really excited or you know that feeling you get on the back of your neck when you realize something really extraordinary is going to happen?
On to the actors. Starting with the minor ones: Miranda Richardson was creepily matronly. Ever since seeing her in Sleepy Hollow, she's just always been creepy to me. I mean, she's a good actress, but everything thing she does, it's just a tiny bit scary. Wasn't it weird while in 1919, she looked like she had barely aged? Minnie Driver made a great diva. At times incoherent because of her fake accent, she was still funny. I loved the part where she lost her voice. Patric Wilson as Roaul was okay. I read about how they were attempting to make the character much less 'wimpy,' but somehow his weak chin always screams out "wimp, loser, pushover, etc." at me. He has a nice voice though. Emily Rossum surprised me tremendously with her voice. Very operatic (is that a word?), which was of course suiting for the role, and the times she was singing for the Angel of Music was touching. Throughout the movie however, it seemed like she had about three emotions - deer in headlights, wide-eyed innocence, and (please forgive me for using it) 'wilting flower.' The Phantom, played by Gerard Butler with more of a cynical edge, was a stark contrast to the naive Christine. His voice, though unsettling at first, began to grow on me. During the "Point of No Return," it was full of emotion, albeit a little raspy (Jacek Koman, anyone?), but I felt Gerard Butler played the part very well.
I know this is really long, but I can't seem to sleep, so I'm just going to ramble on a tad bit more. There are parts of the movie where the music nearly lulled me to sleep and there are definitely some shots reminiscent of Baz, such as the spinning vortex ones inside the opera house and backstage. And the rooftop scene, which was dominated by a bluish hue, I did expect Raoul and Christine to begin waltzing among the clouds. At the end of the movie, I looked over at my mom, who was crying, and noticed that she wasn't the only one. In the end, this is a story of unrequited love and sacrifice, and overlooking its minor flaws, definitely worth at least a matinee ticket price. The movie as a whole was beautifully moving and I found myself walking out of the theater whistling "The Phantom of the Opera."