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Love Never Dies(2012)
The filmed Australian stage production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's sequel to 'The Phantom of the Opera'. Set in 1907, the story follows the now world-famous soprano Christine Daaé as she accepts an invitation from a mysterious impresario to perform at 'Phantasma', a new attraction at New York's Coney Island. After arriving in Manhattan, Christine, husband Raoul and son Gustave are lured to the resort, unaware that it is the Phantom who has arranged her appearance.
For more about Love Never Dies and the Love Never Dies Blu-ray release, see Love Never Dies Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on May 23, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Ben Lewis, Anna O'Byrne, María Mercedes
Directors: Brett Sullivan, Simon Phillips
» See full cast & crew
Love Never Dies Blu-ray Review
Evidently neither does The Phantom of the Opera.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, May 23, 2012
Universal built much of its early success in talkies around horror and/or monster films, with the one two punch of Dracula and Frankenstein setting the studio off on a lucrative course that would be revisited over and over again in the ensuing decades. Once the success of those features became evident, the studio not only branched out into other projects like The Mummy and The Wolf Man, it also created what were among the first franchises in film history, bringing back the beasts (literal and figurative) from various films, even though more often than not those selfsame beasts were shown meeting their demise at the end of any given film. Mere death couldn't keep a monster like that created by the mad Dr. Frankenstein down, and even when someone "not quite dead yet" like Dracula didn't return to wreak havoc on unsuspecting necks, Universal wasn't shy about purloining his name for obvious knockoffs out to earn a quick buck like Dracula's Daughter. One of the few Universal monsters who never made a return appearance (aside from copious remakes, that is) was The Phantom of the Opera, perhaps because The Phantom's story was so singular and wrapped up in the putative love triangle that was resolved (more or less) by the end of the film. But once again the siren call of lucre has achieved the seemingly impossible (at least according to the laws of physics) and even though the Andrew Lloyd Webber musicalization of The Phantom of the Opera has brought the composer untold riches, evidently there's more moolah to be made, hence this "kind of sequel" (as Lloyd Webber has termed it) to the original musical, one which magically resurrects the tragic masked denizen of Paris' sewers to once again mentor soprano Christine's operatic career.
The Phantom (Ben Lewis) is not only alive, he's distraught. We know this, for in Love Never Dies' prologue, the emotionally and physically scarred erstwhile composer slumps disconsolately over his organ, unable to write his next Top 40 hit (or whatever they had back then) until he's able to hear Christine (Anna O'Byrne) sing again. It turns out The Phantom has secretly emigrated to America where like any good hideously scarred freak he has become an entrepreneur at a Coney Island quasi-circus cum performing arts extravaganza called Phantasma. This isn't just any circus, of course, it's one that needs a top operatic soprano, and so The Phantom writes an anonymous note to Christine, offering her work. Christine arrives with her husband Raoul (Simon Gleeson) and their young son Gustave (played by a rotating cast of young boys on stage, but in this filmed version by Jack Lyall). A couple of other holdovers from the original Phantom of the Opera are also on tap, including Madame Giry (Maria Mercedes) and Meg Giry (Sharon Millerchip).
Love Never Dies has had a very rocky development that included an incredibly long gestational period that saw any number of collaborators come and go (including, believe it or not, thriller writer Frederick Forsyth, who receives a miniscule credit). Obviously Lloyd Webber knew he wanted to craft a furtherance of one of his most successful outings, but the question remained, how exactly to do it? Unfortunately Love Never Dies plays like another kind of opera—namely, soap opera—with a ridiculously smarmy plot involving Gustave's true parentage (three guesses who the lad's real father is) and a shocking change of character in one of the supporting roles that will have Phantom fans shaking their collective heads in disbelief.
Lloyd Webber has received numerous brickbats for writing scores that some cognoscenti accuse of sounding like "Puccini lite", but of course Lloyd Webber is insulated from too much grief by the huge piles of cash that very same music has brought him. That said, Love Never Dies finds the composer in his same fairly hyperbolic power ballad mode, Again, as with The Phantom of the Opera, it's some of Lloyd Webber's pastiche material that is by far the most effective, and some of the frankly kind of spooky circus material is what really lends some flavor to this production.
The physical production of this Melbourne presentation is quite impressive, and in fact the gargantuan set design is a large part of what the one supplementary featurette talks about. This is a huge and colorful production that may not offer huge set pieces like the chandelier collapse or even the candlelit river beneath the Opera Populaire, but the sort of seedy world of The Phantom's new Coney Island home is very sumptuously presented here and gives the musical a lot of visual flair. The cast is all in fine voice, although O'Byrne doesn't quite have the ethereal presence of, say, Sarah Brightman. This is an actual staged piece on a proscenium stage, unlike the recent Royal Albert Hall concert reading of The Phantom of the Opera. As such, there's a certain figurative distance from these characters, although the filming here manages to get up close and personal a lot of the time, weaving in and out between the people on stage and trying (though not always succeeding) to break through the fourth wall.
Love Never Dies may introduce a new adage to go hand in hand with the old saying "you can't go home again." Evidently it seems that perhaps you also can't go anywhere different, either, as many longtime fans of The Phantom of the Opera have left Love Never Dies with disappointment and in some cases, actual anger. It's understandable why Lloyd Webber would want to revisit one of his most iconic success stories. What's less understandable is why he would want to treat his (or actually Gaston Leroux's) characters with such apparent disdain and disregard for how they were in the original piece. Some diehard fans will no doubt still swoon to the overarching melodies and Gothic romance on display here, but this is a three ring circus without much happening in the center ring.
Love Never Dies Blu-ray, Video Quality
Love Never Dies is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Pictures with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1. This stage recording has a very nice filmic look, albeit one that is hampered at times from a prevalence of mist enshrouded scenes that are invariably lit in blue, robbing the image both of shadow detail and fine object detail. The more brightly lit scenes, including even those cast in a sort of ghoulish red hue, look great, with fine object detail popping very nicely. Colors are quite bold and very well saturated, though again there are some passing issues with shadow detail with regard to The Phantom's dark outfit against dimly lit upstage areas. (It should be mentioned that quite a bit of Love Never Dies plays out on a rather dimly lit stage.) The physical production here is extremely impressive, and the high definition presentation offers the sumptuous sets and costumes with eye popping sharpness and clarity. The transfer here has no outright artifacting to mention, something especially impressive given the abundance of busy upstage lighting arrays in the Phantasma sequences, an element which could have easily led to moiré patterns.
Love Never Dies Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Love Never Dies' DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio mix gets off to a nicely bombastic start right off the bat, with some rumbling low organ notes as The Phantom tries to write his next big hit, albeit without his muse Christine in attendance. Fidelity is excellent throughout this track, especially with regard to the really full sounding midrange and lower frequencies. O'Byrne's voice is no match for some of the overpowering orchestrations at times, and as a result some of what she's singing gets lost in the fray. There's nice consistent spill into the surrounds with regard to the accompaniment and even occasionally the ensemble singing, and audience applause also erupts from the side and rear channels with regularity.
Love Never Dies Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Love Never Dies Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Phantom of the Opera has become such a legendary musical that probably any sequel would have paled in comparison, but I was personally gobsmacked by the cavalier attitude toward at least a couple of characters in this follow- up, and my hunch is my consternation will be shared by at least some of Phantom's cadre of hardcore fans. This is an elegantly sumptuous production, and it moves along with a lot of flash and panache, but the basic story is kind of unseemly and the denouement seems designed to alienate audiences. Webber's music is typically hyperbolic, and the lyrics are often execrable ("Love never dies/Love will continue"—like love is a television show coming back after a commercial). That leaves a lot of visual pomp and circumstance without much behind the curtain, so to speak.
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Love Never Dies Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Love Never Dies Blu-ray - December 6, 2011
Next May, Universal Studios Home Entertainment will bring Love Never Dies to Blu-ray. Filmed before a live audience, this lavish musical picks up ten years after the events of The Phantom of the Opera in order to further examine the relationship between Christine ...
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