Wednesday, January 3, 2007

The Phantom (1996)

1996! It has been ten years since this movie was released and I am surprised I did not bother to watch it before. I've read a lot of The Phantom comic strips as a kid (along with Mandrake the Magician), and it was pleasing to see the hero on screen.

Altough the movie ends up being quite campy and 90-ish (action over intelligence), it remains quite true to the Phantom-lore. The depictin of the comic book elements: Phantom himself, Gurran, Diana palmer, Devil, Hero, Skull Island, Bangalla Forest - even the costume and trade-mark rings & pistols have been done very convincingly but by someone who was maybe more a fan than a filmmaker. The plot is as outrageous & fun-filled as it was in the strips: Some magic skulls that need to be collected together for extraordinary powers wanted by a wannabe meglomaniac.

Billy Zane plays the legendary "Ghost Who Walks" in the only major movie made on the pioneer of Super Heroes. He looks and acts the part very well - and maybe in the hands of a more able dierctor would have been the initiator of the Super Hero franchise we are seeing today. He fills his suit with his muscles and persona well enough for the make believe. As Kit Walker*, Billy Zane's is visibly excited by the character he is playing and hence tends to lose a bit of the gravitas expected of the Alter Ego. Yet, with a budding romance with Diana Palmer and a limited yet pretty close to precise wardrobe, he imprints his image on the Phantom character so well that like with Prof. Snape & Alan Rickman it becomes quite impossible to imagine the fictional character without the real person (for me atleast).

Apart from a minor role by a then upcoming Catherine Zeta Jones, the film offers nothing else much. So unless you are a fan of the man who was the first Tights & Mask comic book hero, you may not find fun here. Oh, how I wish this would have been done today!

My rating --> 2.5 of 5

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