Friday, 15 July 2016

Classic Movie Review: The Phantom (1996)

Long before the current wave of superhero movies, but after Batman had appeared on our screens, there was The Phantom. Based on one of the oldest masked heroes in comic book history, this movie is fun mix of action and adventure. It's also one of the most 90s-ist (that's a real word) movies out there.

In the 1500s, a merchant vessel is attacked by the Sengh Brotherhood and the only survivor is a young boy who is raised by natives on the island of Bengalla. Four hundred years later, that boy survives as the Phantom (Billy Zane), a masked avenger who is seemingly immortal. Just kidding, the role is passed down from father to son, but don't tell the bad guys that. Quill (James Remar) is one of these bad guys, working for the evil Xander Drax (Treat Williams), and has been sent to Bengalla to retrieve one of the Skulls of Togunda. Whoever owns all three will become an immortal force. Along with the Phantom, comes Diana Palmer (Kristy Swanson) who is investigating Drax, as well as being the ex-girlfriend of the Phantom's alter ego, Kit Walker.

Now I'm going to be completely honest with you. I didn't pick The Phantom because it's a good movie. I picked it because it is a fun, incredibly cheesy action adventure flick. It almost plays out like a mixture between an Indiana Jones and a Robin Hood movie, with plenty of swords and gunplay. In fact the opening sequence is taken right out of Temple of Doom, with a rickety bridge being destroyed. The only difference is that this one is full of that awfully fantastic 90s CGI. The whole story of the skulls and the ancient pirate brotherhood is the sort of exciting story that sends chills down my spine. As for the Phantom himself, he's got enough exciting backstory told, but not so much that he still isn't mysterious by the end of the movie.

The performances in this movie are pretty cheesy, especially Billy Zane. His way of fighting people seems to be to flash his pearly whites and then shoot them, but it's not necessarily a bad thing, it's one of the best things. Treat Williams' Drax is such an over the top bad guy that it absolutely believable that he would have actually existed in 1930s New York. Catherine Zeta Jones' Sala is one of those old stereotypical femme fatales and she plays it so well. And as for James Remar, well he's Indiana Jones' evil twin brother.

This superhero is more Indiana Jones than Iron Man, but that doesn't stop it from being a more interesting one than anything that Marvel or DC are bringing out over the next couple of years. Why is that? It's just so 90s!

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