It’s February, time to get romantic! If your idea of romance is to go around killing people to impress the woman you think is pretty neat, then our next villain might just be the guy for you! Erik Destler is the name given to the horribly disfigured physically and emotionally version of the Phantom in the 1989 movie The Phantom of the Opera.
Now before I go any further I need to be honest with you reader, Phantom of the Opera is important to me. It’s important to me on a weird fangirl level, like Phantom helped me through tough times as a young teenager trying not to lose my mind while growing up. Now as protective as I am of the story overall I am insanely protective over the character of the Phantom/Erik. The man is locked away in a part of my brain that if you attempt to poke at it I will become strangely defensive and verbally thrash you. It doesn’t make any time of sense but it is what it is. I tell you this dear reader simply because this movie slanderized (is that a word?) the sacred name of the Phantom and I am seriously not happy or impressed. However I will attempt to put my personal feelings aside, maybe, no it’s bad, wait yes, ok I’m trying. So, here we go!
The 1989 version of The Phantom of the Opera is a gory horror version of the original French novel by Gaston Leroux. Starring Robert Englund, yes the guy behind Freddie Krugar, as Erik Destler/The Phantom. The movie starts out in New York City where we meet Christine Day, not Daae, going into a weird basement library in I’m assuming an opera house to meet up with Meg, who is played by Molly Shannon by the way, and Meg shows her this unfinished opera that has this song she could use for an audition. Now I have to say that the song is actually quite beautiful and I enjoy it throughout the movie. So Christine finds the rest of the unfinished opera that looks like it is burned and she starts singing the song. While she starts to sing it the music starts oozing blood and obviously she starts to freak out. But being a horror movie as soon as she is interrupted by Meg the blood magically disappears. The next scene shows Christine showing up for the audition and as she starts to sing and a sand bag falls from the ceiling and shatters a mirror sending modern day Christine back into the past. No you read that right, she was sent into the past by a falling sand bag.
Anyway now we are in Victorian London and it shows Christine, an American opera singer who crossed the pond to try to make it big in London. Meg, who is now played by a woman with a bad British accent, takes Christine back to her dressing room to rest. The Phantom makes a short appearance to have a short lesson with Christine and then tells her she will soon make the world fall in love with her voice. Erik accomplishing this by finding the stage hand Joseph and splits him open, skins him and then sticks him the opera house’s diva Carlotta’s wardrobe. When she discovers him she screams so much that she loses her voice. Christine goes on and does a great job at horribly lip syncing as Erik watches on with his creepy, creepy face. Oh, did I mention that he takes the skin of all of his victims to create a human mask for himself? Because that’s important.
After the show Erik has to go get his rocks off with a prostitute that could pass for Christine. The guy even tells the girl that for that night her name is Christine. How wonderfully romantic! Christine goes to dinner with Richard, her beau, and we see the opera house owner convincing a theater critique to bash Christine so people will not want to see her and put Carlotta back on top. This doesn’t sit well with Erik when he sees the review and when the guy refuses to change it he kills him in a sauna with a towel. Death by towel, what a way to go. We find out that the reason why Erik is the way he is, is because he sold his soul to the devil disguised as a little person who turned him into a musician demon who can only be destroyed when his music is destroyed. Anyway Erik takes Christine down to his creep lair and makes her promise herself to him as his bride. Again, romantic. When Christine makes Richard meet her in disguise at the masquerade ball that night Erik doesn’t react very well and decides to cut off Carlotta’s head and put in the punch bowel as a nice surprise for the party goers and steal Christine.
Eventually Richard and a few cops find their way into Erik’s lair and two of them are killed along with the weird Peter Pettigrew look-a-like guy who served as their guide to the lair. Once they get into the lair I’m not sure if Richard is killed but Erik throws fire on him so I don’t know. Christine shoots Erik and then knocks over a mirror and sends herself back to 1989 New York City.
Modern Christine wakes up with Molly Shannon Meg and a bunch of stage hands around her. Then, it’s him, that’s right Erik with a totally normal face is standing over her. He gives her some weird fake name and takes her to his apartment to celebrate her getting the role. The girl goes willingly to a strange man’s apartment, let that sink in. Erik goes up to change and then we see his skin mask flaking and he has to switch out his fancy 1980’s normal masks he has in a cool blue freezer. While waiting for this total stranger Christine notices that he has the music for the opera no one knew about until yesterday and realizes that yet again she has fallen into the Phantoms hand. When he discovers her trying to destroy the music he tells her that they are bound together forever, she fakes him out pretending to be going in for a kiss and then RIPS HIS DAMN FACE OFF. Christine runs out into the streets of New York with the sheet music and floppy disk and then rips the music and throws it and the floppy disk down a storm drain. Apparently this kills Erik and all is well, until Christine walks by a street performer who starts playing the nice melody Erik composed for her. So who knows if this is really the end or not.
Ok, everyone still with me? Good. Because oh my God that movie hurt me! Not only do they make Erik a demon but they make him a horrible guy! The real story is Erik was born a disfigured genius that is simply looking for love. Yes he is still violent but it is not presented in a psycho kind of way, but this was a horror story so I can move past it. The scene with the prostitute seriously upset me, the Phantom was supposed to be deprived of love so that when Christine finally does kiss him in the end it shocks his system and makes him see the error of his ways. That one kiss is enough to change him. It’s beautiful and they ruined it, also the whole “Tonight your name is Christine” thing made me almost lose my dinner. Stop it. Stop it right now. I won’t even go into the weird inconsistencies in the story, like it being in London, and Richard. Just….Richard?!?
So let’s compare our villain to our characteristics. Let’s start with intelligence, Erik is supposed to be a musical genius, which in the movie he is. However the guy is pretty dumb otherwise. He doesn’t do much to hide his existence, the head detective already knows his name and everything. He goes around killing people in the street and shows them his face all of the time. He even has a servant guy who keeps the rats away from his home. So someone can literally bring them to him, which Madame Giry can in the original story but she is fiercely loyal to the Phantom and only takes Raoul, not Richard, there after the Phantom steals Christine. This rat man takes the cops and Richard down just because they pay him enough. Throughout the entire movie I sat there thinking this guy must really not care about the whole Phantom part because the point of being the opera ghost is being a mystery. When you go around terrorizing London, you lose a little mystery.
Erik Destler has no morality to him. There’s nothing there as far as morals go, probably due to the whole selling of his soul thing. He doesn’t care what he has to do to get his music heard he will do it. I don’t think he honestly cares for Christine, I think she is simply a means to an end for him. Christine is beautiful and talented and really bad at lip syncing so she is the vehicle he can use to get his music heard. That’s all, the whole bride of Frankenstein shtick is simply because he is a demented pervert who wants some. Toward the end of the movie it looks like he is getting ready to rape Christine, which seriously angered me. Erik in the original story does get mad and in Christine’s face at one point but never would he have ever hurt her. The whole idea of letting him violate her in that way is wrong and a misrepresentation of the character as a whole. Can you tell I love him? Because I do.
Erik Destler’s obsession is his music. It’s not Christine, like I stated before he sells his soul to the devil to have his music be heard and become as big as Mozart. Again Christine is just how he figured out he can do it. Erik is obsessive over his music, he pours his entire being into it. That’s why he is so willingly killing people and I guess not caring because as long as his music gets out there who cares right? Side note; how the hell did his music travel from London to New York where modern day Christine is able to find it? Just a question.
Wounded is an understatement at this point for this character. He thinks so little of his own talent that he sells his soul to become a great musician, which he already was! Then after getting what he wants he is again wounded by his face, because no one wants to see that back then. Differences were not such a big seller in Victorian England, go figure. So now he can’t achieve his goal because of the way he looks, that’s not anything he can change. Again he is stopped, again more obstacles are put in the way of his dreams.
Erik is neither sexy nor relatable. I don’t find him sexy at all, he is a giant creep predator and makes me upset to see on screen. I think they tried to make him sexy, but the whole prostitute, flesh mask, raper thing kinda threw that out the window. Erik is not relatable either. I don’t know many people who would sell their soul for talent, but who knows. This is actually what upsets me the most, they took every ounce of relatability away from the character. The Phantom in the original story is relatable because all he wants is someone to love him. Love is the most basic of human wanting and Erik Destler just trashes it and makes it into something tainted. It’s not ok.
So in the end we leave Erik Destler the way he should be, alone in his creeper lair writing his actually beautiful music for a girl who will only rip his face off. Erik is the first of our villains I will openly say wasn’t that great of a villain. He was a half-baked idea of a villain, missing the mark on many levels. He just upset me, villains can be upsetting but there is usually a real reason behind it. Erik is just a pervert, there isn’t anything too special about him and he doesn’t do a good enough job to scare me. He’s like a toothless Lion, intimidating in theory but in the end can do no harm. Good-bye Erik Destler, please don’t write.
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