Friday, September 13, 2013

The Phantom (1996)

The PhantomIt doesn't surprise me that "The Phantom" failed at the box office. It lacked the star power of other films of that time, relied on the name recognition of a hero who isn't as flashy as Batman, Spiderman, or a multitude of other characters, and, honestly, it wasn't summer blockbuster material. Perhaps if it came out in the dead of winter when most studios toss out their artsy flicks hoping for Oscar recognition, it would have done better.

With that said, I have to admit that "The Phantom" is a wonderful flick to watch. Granted, it doesn't have flying heroes or webslingers, but it does have a wonderful story to it in the classic vein of those old 1930's cliffhangers. Billy Zane is game as Kit Walker/Phantom. He has that classic Hollywood look to him that makes him perfect for the role. Kristy Swanson (the original Buffy) does a wonderful job as Diane Palmer, the damsel in not-so-much-distress. Catherine Zeta Jones, James Remar, and the underrated Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa head up a stellar supporting cast. The real "treat" here, however, is Treat Williams as Xander Drax, the evil mastermind behind all of the Phantom's problems in this film. He's completely over the top, delivering smug lines like, "Show me the power!" with enough cinematic flair that you can't help but love his devilish character.

The story involves the search for three skulls: one of bronze, one of jade, and one of gold, that will give their owner ultimate power. Drax, being the power-hungry man that he is, is on the hunt for these three skulls. The only things in his way are the Sang Brotherhood, who are responsible for creating the Phantom many centuries ago, and the Phantom himself. The tale bounces from the lush jungles of Africa (but actually Australia and the backlots of California) to the mean streets of 1930's New York City, and then to the dreaded Devil's Vortex. It's full of swashbuckling, gunplay, high adventure, and a few explosions.

The cinematography is brilliant, capturing the beauty of the Australian locations it was filmed on. The blues and greens fill the TV screen wonderfully, and the vibrant purple of Phantom's suit supplies a wonderful contrast to the deep greens and browns of the jungles.

Overall, there isn't too much that's offensive in this flick for youngsters. The language does get a little bit strong for the younger lot, but if you let your kids watch recent the recent PG-13 hero flicks, I'm sure they can handle this one. There is quite a bit of violence, including a couple of impalings, but all of it is done in a way that is no worse than most other superhero films.

I highly recommend this flick to fans of films like "The Shadow" and "The Rocketeer," as well as most other superhero flicks. It might take awhile to get beyond the VERY purple outfit that our hero wears in this flick, but it's all played out with great intentions and a nod to the classic cliffhangers from long ago.

I bought this movie just because of Billy Zane. I really didn't expect much else from it. But I found myself really enjoying it. The sets were fantastic.They really captured the 1930's feel.The jungle shots were beautiful.I thought Billy made the perfect Phantom. I only wish they had showed more of the romance between Diana and the Phantom.I really loved that part.

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Where to start?

Billy Zane, better known as Cal Hockley the evil fiancee in Titanic, is absolutely stellar in this movie. I realize that the sinking boat movie helps pay his bills, but the role was certainly beneath him. The Billy Zane in the sinking boat movie is a corpse compared to the Billy Zane in the Phantom. Yes, it is that different!

Second, the sets were superbly, beyond the sets seen in other 1930's films such as the Shadow, or even *gulp* Indiana Jones. Except for the Pirates of the Caribbean set at the end of the movies, but the city scenes are stelar for any art deco afficionados.

Thirdly, Hitchcock observed that heroes and villains are almost indistinguishable. We have created anti-heroes and gentelman villains (ie Wolf Larsen and Hannibal Lecter). You actually root for Zane/Phantom.

The Bad: There were several things wrong with the film. First, some of the stunts seemed to be rehashed Indiana Jones stunts. Writers, please try to stretch yourself and come up with new ideas! Second, Mr. Drax, the villain, beside using the name of a 007 villain (Moonraker), he was not believable as a criminal mastermind. He was too much of a mouth. Maybe different casting. Third, the cinematography was nonexistent. Good cinematography can maker a film, as n Lang's "M."

In conclusion, this was a nice surprise. They had a lot going for the film, the franchise/name recognition, a great actor, good sets, few if no anachronisms, no Nazi's. But the film didn't quite take it over the top. I would like to see a Phantom II, but that may never happen. Sigh!

Read Best Reviews of The Phantom (1996) Here

Having been a reader of Lee Falk's classic newspaper comic strip on which this film is based,I was prepared to be disappointed as the translation from one medium to another can sometimes be problematic. Having gone in with those reservations, I'm happy to say that this is a very entertaining movie that respects its source material and embellishes upon it in the way only a big-budget Hollywood film can. Billy Zane is terrific as the mysterious "Ghost who walks". This film only received luke-warm reviews from the top name film critics but merited more consideration. If you liked The Shadow or The Mask of Zorro,this movie is one worth checking out.

Want The Phantom (1996) Discount?

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this movie. I had heard comments that it was boring and slow. Well, let me tell you: IT IS NOT SO! It's a great, fun movie. It has great action sequences, great humor and great performances.

The title role is played by Billy Zane, and he is completly believable as The Phantom/Kit Walker. Handsome, charming, VERY athletic, muscular (he looks great in that purple outfit ;D) and all the superhero character qualities as well: kind, honest, courteous, the whole package. Kristy Swanson plays the love interest, Diana Palmer. I liked the fact that she's not some silly damsel in distress that spends the whole movie screaming for help. Instead Diana's a strong, corageous and intelligent woman. Very good example for girls. The villain is Xander Drax, played well by Treat Williams, and the villaness is played by Catherine Zeta Jones. All in all, very good perfomances.

Another fine element in this movie is the scenery. Wow! Beautiful landscapes and locations, exquisite beaches with glorious blue-green waters, the breathtaking jungle...makes you wish you could be there. Believe me, it's amazing, and worth seeing more that once.

The movie stays true to the spirit of the comic strip it is based on (which is such a rare achievement for a Hollywood movie). Parents can rest easy with this movie, it good clean fun for kids, it's not very violent, and no foul language. Plus, you'll enjoy it as much as the kids.

All in all, a VERY good movie, that I fully recomend to everyone.

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