This is the lesson I learned yesterday when Corey, Dorin, and I went to the one-night-only film premiere of Love Never Dies, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to his musical phenomenon The Phantom of the Opera. Like many POTO fans, I was understandably apprehensive about this continuation of the story. I mean, who doesn’t love the original ending, particularly on the stage show? When Christine and Raoul row away together and the Phantom mysteriously disappears, leaving only his white mask behind. I’ve seen the stage show twice, and it has never failed to give me goosebumps, that last shot of the illuminated Phantom mask before the spotlight dims. The air of mystery seemed so much more satisfying than any happy-ever-after could have provided. How can you follow it up?
Like I said, understandably nervous. And you know what? I had a reason to be. Because when I walked out of the theatre last night, I was downright conflicted.
To me, the story seemed like bad fanfiction. They made huge, monumental changes to the characters and even to the POTO plotline, which has been around for over 25 years. I spent most of the movie trying to work out how the plot was supposed to make sense. So somehow before the ending of POTO (or maybe after, I’m not sure), the Phantom and Christine had a night of passion together that left her pregnant with his son – who she has since passed off as Raoul’s for ten years? For the life of me, I could not figure out how that timeline was supposed to work. And what they did with Meg and Madame Giry made no sense whatsoever. After the Phantom went on his murder-and-kidnapping spree, they wanted us to believe that the Girys saved him, protected him, brought him to America? Madame Giry feared him, and Meg practically led the mob to his door! And turning her into a hysterical, attention-seeking diva was simply a travesty. After all they went through in POTO, the plot of Love Never Dies just did not make sense as a sequel.
However, that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. Love Never Dies was truly an Andrew Lloyd Webber production. The music was beautiful, awe-inspiring. The cast was truly stellar; I particularly loved Anna O’Byrne as Christine and Ben Lewis as the Phantom. I was still caught up in the story, and if the sniffling all around me was any indication, so was everyone else in the theatre. And the medium was perfect. Technically, it wasn’t a movie in the sense of the word; there was no post-production or special effects. According to the interview at the beginning with ALW himself, it was filmed exactly how it was staged when it was performed live in Melbourne, Australia. So I just hope that’s a trend that catches on! I could just see them doing similar films of Aida or any of the other musicals I’ve been dying to see. But I digress.
My final reaction to Love Never Dies? I’ll probably never want to watch the movie again, but the soundtrack is already on order. And in terms of musicals on the big screen…well, there’s always Les Miserables.