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The Phantom

The Phantom (1996)

June. 07,1996
| Adventure Action

The 21st successor to the role of Bengalla's resident superhero must travel to New York to prevent a rich madman from obtaining three magic skulls that would give him the secret to ultimate power.


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Even though I absolutely hated Treat Williams as Drax, I gave the film an 8 out of 10 because it's great fun and doesn't take itself too seriously. As a period piece I enjoyed it in a way one can't enjoy more contemporary movies. Great art? No, but a great Saturday matinée. I liked Billy Jane's portrayal an Catherine Zeta-Jones is as beautiful as ever.


I'm sure I've read the odd "Phantom" cartoon strip in a newspaper, although never in a full- length comic, but that was enough to tempt me to watch this boy's own adventure brought to life. I gather the film was a major flop on original release and I can see it slightly uneasily balancing itself somewhere between the likes of the sublime "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and the later, less-so "National Treasure". In fact the film it most resembles is the soon-come "The Mummy" which of course was a commercial smash and spawned a similarly cash-generating sequel.No such luck for the team here though which is a little bit of a shame as it's an entertaining romp and with better timing may have caught a similar wave of success. It's a touch light on the special effects but then again, "The Phantom" isn't super-powered anyway, just being very athletic, a good horseman and nifty with his two-toting guns. The cinematography is excellent throughout, from the recreation of 1930's New York streets, to the climactic scenes in the Brotherhood's underground cave and in particular, some excellent landscape shots of the Bengalla jungle, the Phantom's habitat.Billy Zane makes for an energetic but genial hero, knowing that he's not really scary- looking in his purple onesie, Kristy Swanson does well as his spirited tomboy girlfriend and Treat Williams scores as the dastardly villain Xander Drax. Catherine Zeta-Jones is less convincing as a bad-girl-turned-good and the great Patrick McGoohan is wasted as the Phantom's ghostly father who makes intermittent appearances as his son's conscience. There are fight scenes a plenty and especially a fine duel between the hero and major baddie at the end which respects the traditions of swashbucklers of Hollywood's golden age.A little like its eponymous hero then, this movie was a little out of time but was otherwise light, enjoyable old-fashioned entertainment.


Billy Zane, Kristy Swanson, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Treat Williams star in this 1996 action/adventure based on the comic book. This takes place in 1939 and Zane (Titanic) plays Kit Walker, a mild-mannered man who masquerades as hero, The Phantom aka "The Ghost who Walks" following in his ancestors footsteps. He makes his way from the Bengala jungle to New York City where he tries to stop corrupt businessman, Xander Drax (Williams) from finding 3 powerful skulls that will make him unstoppable. Swanson (Buffy The Vampire Slayer) plays Diana Palmer, Kit's college friend & love-interest and Jones (The Haunting) plays Sala, a woman who works for Drax, but eventually becomes an ally to Kit and Diana. James Remar, Patrick McGoohan, David Proval and Casey Siemaszko also appear. This isn't bad, Zane is OK as the lead and the film sort of has an Indiana Jones vibe to it. I still recommend this.

Darrell Till

At the time of its release The Phantom had a lot going against it. The recent renewed interest in superhero movies had not yet begun. The only such movies that had enjoyed any success by 1996 were the original Superman and the Tim Burton Batman series. Fact is, unless you were a complete comics nerd nobody had really heard of any other characters. Add to that the fact that the Phantom was not particularly well known outside of the USA where it did not begin life as either a Marvel OR a DC comic and you realise how brave it was to make this movie without any A-list actors in it either. Fact is, I enjoyed this at the time of its release because it successfully achieved the feat of telling a classic comic yarn without requiring any particular special effects. It is completely story driven. The script isn't a work of genius but there is a lot to enjoy. It doesn't spoon-feed you the story or bore you with an 'origin' story - a quick 2 minute recap is given and then its on with the story. This won't please everybody - but if you can get around the faults with mid-nineties film-making in general, and that comics place other values way above realism, then you might enjoy this even now. I recently re-watched this after it appeared on Netflix and I stand by my original opinions after nearly 20 years!