Being such an ardent phan of the Phantom of the Opera, I was curiously compelled to buy the DVD of the theatrical production of the sequel, Love Never Dies, filmed in Australia.
I know it got luke warm, to frigid reviews when it opened up in London. In fact there is also a website and Facebook group called Love Should Die (tsk, tsk)- set up by those who feel The Phantom of the Opera needs no sequel.
With excitement and trepidation, I slotted the DVD into the player and began to watch. If you want to know about the basic plot, please read it on the Love Never Dies Website.
**Please note, there are major spoilers below. Read at your peril!**
Upon on initial viewing, the Coney Island setting freaked me out, but then again I generally hate circuses and clowns... oh God, clowns! The songs did not grab my attention at first, the haunting melodies from the Phantom that made me such a phan to start off with, seemed absent - at first. But then I searched for the lyrics and listened to them some more, and hey, there are few gems in terms of music - "Beneath a Moonless Sky", "Look with Your Heart", "Devil Take the Hindmost" and "Love Never Dies".
Putting my antagonism for circuses and all associations aside, the Coney Island sets are amazingly beautiful and some of the effects does leave your jaw dropping to the floor, especially when the song "The Beauty Underneath" is sung.
As for character development, it had to happen, else the story could not have continued - you might as well watch the original again if you wanted things to remain the same.
I think Christine seemed stronger in this version. She admitted she loves the phantom (hooray!), she admits to having spent a night with him before her wedding, was heartbroken to find him vanished in the morning because she was ready to 'declare her love for him'. Upon finding him alive she was fiercely angry that he made them all think he was dead. And the whopper - their night together resulted in a son, Gustave!
Raoul turns out to be one helluva drinker and gambler. In fact, the family is in debt. A dashing, young Vicomte he is no longer. He admits to not being able to understand Christine's passion for music and the stage. This is obviously how she connected with the phantom - their passions complemented each other, their souls connected and it exploded into brilliance on the stage. The initial puppy love between her and Raoul did not sustain into a solid relationship. I did not find this surprising. Maybe I even silently cheered on Raoul's demise, even though I felt incredible pity for his wretched state.
Madame Giry and Meg - I think their development led most to the plot's soap-opera-feel. Turns out, Madame Giry becomes quite resentful when the phantom lures Christine to New York, feeling slighted that all she has done for him in the past 10 years, will be for nothing. After all, he is going to leave his inheritance to his son! Meg, it turns out, wants nothing more than the phantom's approval and attention. And it was thanks to her 'bedding so many men' that the phantom had the financial resources to set up the Coney Island wonderland. She even attempts to drown Gustave, but ends up shooting Christine by accident. Did I not say it became like a soap opera? I still shake my head thinking about this plot progression.
Finally, the phantom! After 10 years, he is still a tortured soul, longing for the one who can bring his music to life. Even though he is in Coney Island, he seems less powerful, alluring and charismatic compared to the original, despite revealing aspects of his dark side in Love Never Dies. When he realises he has a son, he becomes more human in my eyes and I don't think I like that very much. He still has a powerful voice, and his musical genius is still present, but he is no longer on the right-side-of-danger that I found appealing. As one of my friends have said: "They took the phantom up from the sky and crushed him down to the human level." Despite Christine dying, at least he finds acceptance from his son, acceptance he has always sought, despite his disfigurement. And maybe that, along with Christine admitting she does love the phantom, were the two saving graces that emerged from Love Never Dies.