Monday, July 25, 2016

Paper to Popcorn #8: The Phantom of Manhattan vs. Love Never Dies

Welcome to Paper to Popcorn! Paper to Popcorn is not be your typical book vs. movie comparison. The focus is on retellings, although there will be some features of movie vs. the source material.

Each chosen book/movie combo will battle it out in a showdown to prove which one is the best on its own merits. Posts will feature reviews of both the film and book, rating scales, a brief outline of differences between the two, and characters, and ultimately a victor will be chosen.

This week I'm featuring two Phantom of the Opera sequels, one book and one musical. While both have received their fair share of criticism, I was determined to give both a chance since I love the Phantom so much!

The Book

Title: The Phantom of Manhattan
Author: Frederick Forsyth
Narrator: Roger Rees & a full cast
Publication Date: June 1, 1996
Publisher: Martin's Press
Add to Goodreads

The stunning continuation of the timeless classic The Phantom of the Opera.

In The Phantom of Manhattan, acclaimed, bestselling suspense novelist Frederick Forsyth pens a magnificent work of historical fiction, rife with the insights and sounds of turn-of-the-century New York City, while continuing the dramatic saga which began with Gaston Leroux's brilliant novel The Phantom of the Opera...

More than two decades have passed since Antoinette Giry, the mistress of the corps de ballet at the Paris Opera, rescued a hideously disfigured boy named Erik from a carnival and brought him to live in the labyrinthine cellars of the opera house. Soon thereafter, his intense, unrequited love for a beautiful chorus girl set in motion a tragic string of events, forcing him to flee Paris forever. Now, as she lies dying in a convent, Madam Giry tells the untold story of the Phantom and his clandestine journey to New York City to start anew, where he would become a wealthy entrepreneur and build the glorious Manhattan Opera House...all so he could see his beloved, now a famous diva, once again. But the outcome of her visit would prove even more devastating than before-- and yet, would allow the Phantom to know, for the first time in his brutal life, the true meaning of love...

I have been eying this sequel to The Phantom of the Opera for years, but had been very hesitant to pick it up because of the awful rating on Goodreads. Upon further inspection, it seemed the rating was largely due to the arrogance of the author in his introduction to the book. My love for Phantom has stemmed largely from the musical, so I'm not too terribly upset by another author saying he could basically do it better than Gaston Leroux. I went into The Phantom of Manhattan not knowing what to expect, but fully intending to give it a fair chance!

This book is... strange. I'll start by saying the audiobook production of The Phantom of Manhattan is fantastic! It's performed by a full cast and each narrator truly acts their part. Throughout the reading experience, I'll admit I got excited every time Eric was present. Strangely enough, this didn't happen often. The majority of book is told in exposition and dialogue and most of it is told by random, new, inconsequential characters. Although this is the continuation of Christine and Eric's story, they are barely involved at all other than a mention here and there.

As you can see, my main issue with The Phantom of Manhattan is that there are way too many new characters and too few of the old. There are a couple reporters, one of whom basically tells us his entire life story. There is an Irish priest who we get to know way too intimately than we need to. Then there's the strangest character of all - Eric's business partner, Darius. I didn't understand his purpose at all. At. All. Similarly, there is a huge focus on gods - the Catholic God and the god of gold, who (I'm pretty sure) has an actual name. Both of these gods speak back to their worshippers in really weird dialogue that seemed totally out of place.

Along with the strange new characters, old characters are missing and are definitely missed. Meg Giry has a very brief part as Christine's maid, which... what now? Meg's mother dies in the very first chapter and is the ball that gets the whole story rolling. I can't even believe I'm saying this, but I absolutely HATE what the author has done to Raoul. I have never liked Raoul as a character, but I at least want him to be a decent rival for the Phantom instead of what he has become here. (Let me know if you want spoilers.)

The story itself is just all over the place. I did like that there was some background on how Eric came into his wealth, but that is about where the positive notes end for this one. I really feel that if there had been more focus on Christine and Eric, this would have been much, much better. The ending was far too abrupt and just didn't make sense when taken as part of the whole.

Unfortunately, I can't really recommend this as a sequel. If you're looking for more Phantom in book format, I definitely recommend Of Metal and Wishes, an amazing Phantom retelling.

Characters Terrible Just okay Pretty good Really good Amazing!
Setting Terrible Just okay Pretty good Really good Amazing!
Writing Terrible Just okay Pretty good Really good Amazing!
Storyline Terrible Just okay Pretty good Really good Amazing!
Cover Terrible Just okay Pretty good Really good Amazing!
Overall Rating 1/5 2/5 3/5 4/5 5/5

The Movie

Title: Love Never Dies
Directors: Brett Sullivan, Simon Phillips
Actors: Ben Lewis, Anna O'Byrne
Release Date: April 11, 2012
Runtime: 121 minutes
View on IMDB

The year is 1907. It is 10 years after his disappearance from the Paris Opera House and the Phantom has escaped to a new life in New York where he lives amongst the screaming joy rides and freak-shows of Coney Island. In this new electrically-charged world, he has finally found a place for his music to soar. All that is missing is his love – Christine DaaĆ©. Now one of the world’s finest sopranos, Christine is struggling in an ailing marriage to Raoul. So, it is with excitement she accepts an invitation to travel to New York and perform at a renowned opera house. In a final bid to win back her love, the Phantom lures Christine, her husband, and their young son Gustave from Manhattan; to the glittering and glorious world of Coney Island... not knowing what is in store for them...

I will admit, I was wary about Love Never Dies simply because there were new actors and new music and I adore The Phantom of the Opera! Still, how could I say no to watching Andre Lloyd Webber's official sequel?

This sequel begins ten years after the fire at the opera house. Christine and Raoul are still married with a son, but they aren't happy as they once were. Christine has been invited to sing at a new New York opera house, which is owned by the mysterious Mister Hammerstein. Although Raoul doesn't particularly want Christine singing at an American opera house, they desperately need the money because Raoul has a gambling problem and they're hurting for money. Not long after they arrive, Christine realizes that the owner of the opera house is none other than the Phantom, who she has long thought dead. And thus my evil grin appears...

I have always been #teamphantom since day one. I love Eric so much and I was so excited to see the rivalry between Eric and Raoul begin again! I was not let down. The Phantom is just as he was before, desperately seeking love and approval from those he loves. This time the stakes are higher and, although he's still a little bit insane, he's just as heartbreaking and perfect. I've seen people say that Raoul is too out of character, but I didn't think so. I feel like ten years is a lot of time for someone to change, especially with gambling problems weighing them down.

There were things I didn't love about this sequel though. After the first time I watched it, I've fast forwarded most of Meg's scenes as well as those with the three clowns (?) from Coney Island. I don't particularly love what was done with Meg and Madame Giry in this story, but at least it was believable. The Coney Island characters seemed mostly unecessary when watching the blu ray, although I can see why they might be needed in the stage production.

But this is the sequel to The Phantom of the Opera Broadway musical! Let's talk about the elephant in the room: the music. I'm going to be honest and say that I enjoyed some of the music in Love Never Dies more than that in the original show. Ben Lewis is especially fantastic as the Phantom. I'm pretty sure he was made for this role! Perhaps my favorite song in the entire show is Devil Take the Hindmost, the Phantom/Raoul duet in which they place their bets and is just fantastic.

The music combined with the story and the characters makes this sequel just incredible and heartbreaking. After watching several times, I can confidently say I basically tear up from the opening number just knowing how tragic the Phantom's story is. Yes, this show has its weird bits, but overall I think it's close to being a masterpiece!

The only reason this isn't getting 5 stars from me is because I do skip over some of the weirder bits of the story, but even those songs are really good, honestly. I've actually watched it more times than The Phantom of the Opera at this point and even my husband loves it. I definitely recommend this to every Phantom fan!

Cast Terrible Just okay Pretty good Really good Amazing!
Cinematography Terrible Just okay Pretty good Really good Amazing!
Story Terrible Just okay Pretty good Really good Amazing!
Performances Terrible Just okay Pretty good Really good Amazing!
Music Terrible Just okay Pretty good Really good Amazing!
Overall Rating 1/5 2/5 3/5 4/5 5/5

Notable Differences
  • » Meg has strong feelings for Eric in Love Never Dies, but seems afraid of him in Phantom of Manhattan.
  • » In PoM, Madame Giry dies immediately. In LND, Madame Giry and Meg have accompanied Eric to NY.
  • » PoM gives backstory on how Eric became wealthy, while LND doesn't give any backstory. 
  • » The big twist is revealed almost immediately in PoM, but is revealed about halfway into LND. 
  • » In PoM, Eric works with Hammerstein, but in LND, I got the impression that he WAS Hammerstein. 
  • » Eric writes an opera for Christine to sing in both. The opera is about the Civil War in PoM, but we never really learn what it's about in LND. 
  • » The rivalry between Eric and Raoul is a huge plot point in LND, but I never got this feeling when reading PoM. 
  • » The characters on Coney Island are a big part of LND, but are barely mentioned in PoM.
  • » The endings are similar, but come about because of different characters. 

The Bottom Line

While these sequels are similar (The Phantom of Manhattan was one of several inspirations for Love Never Dies), Love Never Dies is clearly the better of the two. If I could cut out some of the scenes with Meg, I would give it 5 stars with no hesitation! The Phantom of Manhattan suffers from unnecessary characters and really weird writing. Love Never Dies is close to being perfect, in my opinion!