Sunday, 3 March 2013

The Phantom (1996)

If you cross Indiana Jones with Tarzan and mix in some 'Goonies' type pirate tomfoolery then you pretty much have this fun cheesy boys own adventure. Actually if I think about it some more you could also throw in some camp Batman and Robin from the classic 60's series in certain sequences, it does get a little bit too hammy in places I must say.

Like Batman The Phantom has no super powers, he merely relies on his strength, intelligence and the fact people think he's an immortal ghost...oh and he lives in a cave. So basically he is Batman but with less cash to have hi-tech...and minus Robin for a couple of wild animals he trained.

Of course it is suppose to be almost a pantomine type flick with lots of silly lines and caddish villains, but it is a touch too childish for me in places, where as other pulp comicbook character adaptations like 'The Shadow' are a bit more serious. The Phantom's world is a pretty looking universe I must say, the jungle lair, 30's New York and the museum set where one of the skulls is kept, are all really well created. They have that lovely thick structured wooden stylish design with that nice dark noirish colour range (much like 'The Shadow').

The story of this character is just as cheesy as his attire. A boy (400 years in the past) witnesses the murder of his father by some pirates who attack their ship. The boy is washed ashore and gets looked after by some tribes folk. They give him the Skull Ring for some reason and because of this he decides to dedicate his life to stopping naughty becoming the masked avenger The Phantom. This role is passed down from father to son over generations (along with the Skull Ring) and leads to the rumour that the Phantom is an immortal crime fighter (everyone thinks all these Phantoms over the hundreds of years are the same one person). So its all a bit Batman-ish really (but Batman came first!), the rest of the plot mainly involves The Phantom searching for skulls that have great power of destruction and stopping bad guys from getting their hands on them (in the present day of 1938). Simple cliched stuff really.

Effects are dated now of course and the fights do look rather gentle, hell even back when the film was released it wasn't that great effects and stunts wise. I almost expected 'Kapow!' to flash across the screen when Zane punched one of the cookie cutter henchmen baddies. Its a good fun film which kids will enjoy and is set totally within the classic period of the comicbook action genre, old school superheroes. You just have to look at the main villains name...Xander Drax, could that be anymore ridiculously over the top? Oh and pools of man eating sharks? is this a Bond movie?

In all honesty The Phantom isn't really a great character to put on film as he's a bit too dated and soft looking with his natty purple tights and simple black face mask which only covers his eyes. The fact he has a wolf and horse as his loyal sidekicks is also kinda odd really, odd combination wouldn't you think, plus he does look a bit daft on that horse in his purple catsuit. Didn't really think much of the pirates that make up the bad guys either, especially at the end which really turns into Schumacher-esque type affair. I must say I think Treat Williams was miscast as the main villain, I'm sure they could have found someone more caddish looking. But overall its all taken from the original source material (three stories) so that's good I suppose, its just the original stories and ideas are predictably very out of time now.

I love how no one recognises Kit Walker when he dons his Phantom black mask, just like Robin its so stupid that no one see right through it...figuratively speaking. Despite the rather familiar plot involving mystical skulls and ancient tribes ('Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom'?), the film doesn't beat around the bush and gives you exactly what it says on the tin. A very light-hearted period set superhero flick with lots of charm dames cads and a dashing hero in a tight purple catsuit.