The Phantom (1996)

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The Phantom (1996)

Post  BoG on Thu Sep 15, 2011 9:17 pm

This was a throwback to old-fashioned adventure, such as the other obvious examples, The Rocketeer (91) and The Shadow (94). It's based on a very old comic strip - the first with a costumed do-gooder - created by Lee Falk a good 60 years before this film. As such, I'm thinking that mostly fans of an older generation will 'get it' to any extent. Like those two films, its box office was poor (Rocketeer's was better though); I read that it did do better on home video since then. Maybe some of the problem was setting this way back in 1938, but such a period piece setting didn't hurt Raiders of the Lost Ark - so go figure. confused
I found it to be charming for the most part - that's the word I'd first use if I had to apply a one-word description. It also benefitted from some interesting characters; my personal favorite is the quasi-femme fatale played by Catherine Zeta-Jones (when I first watched this movie in a theater, I wondered why she wasn't a big star; well, she did become one a couple of years later - but I spotted that star quality early). I also like Treat Williams as an evil Errol Flynn-type or a Barrymore, one of those - again, a throwback. Kristy Swanson was cute but feisty.
It's easy to criticize Billy Zane; one might accuse him of being just too affable in the hero role or maybe lightweight. But, I liked the slightly different bent he brought to the stereotypical costumed hero role; there was a consistency to his performance that, by the end, just rang true. Also, telling by his shirtless scene, you could see that he took this role seriously - this guy worked out for the role, to put it mildly (unlike, say, Ben Affleck in Daredevil-2003). The plot involves three mystical skulls of power which the dastardly Drax (Williams) is after. A lot of the action takes place in the jungle wilderness but it also switches to 1930s New York City, so there's this strong retro noir feel to some scenes.

I did note a lot of similarity to the Batman superhero model. One aspect sprang out at me for some reason - The Phantom's main contact was the local top cop, just like commissioner Gordon and Batman. But, wait a moment -- The Phantom was created in 1936, about 3 years before Batman. So, what is copying what..?     confused  BoG's Score:7 out of 10
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