Saturday, April 25, 2009


SUPER POWER GAINED FROM WATCHING THIS MOVIE: The Ability To Wear A Skintight Outfit That Doesn't Expose Your Veiny Junk


The hilarity of child abuse, Dexter's Dad the white slaver, a slumming Number Six, Prince of the Shitty, the original pre-Xanax Buffy, Catherine Zeta-Cheeseball, a slitherly Shang Tsung, the Phantom peeper, a smoke-free Skull Cave, more That Guys than a Hollywood deli lunch counter, and the hypnotic power of Billy Zane's sucked-in abs.

More details here.


Back in the pre-sexy non-Somali pirate days, a young boy on a ship witnesses his father’s murder by said non-sexy pirates of the Sheng Brotherhood. He escapes their wrath and washes up on the shores of the African land of Bengala where he is raised by the local natives. The tribesmen take the boy’s arrival as a sign from their god, so he is trained to become the land’s protector – The Phantom (aka The Ghost Who Walks), a masked mystery man with amazing abilities and a dedication to preserving his homeland. Flash forward 400 years, the legacy of the Phantom continues with his descendent Kit Walker (Billy Zane) who fights off treasure seekers and kidnappers including tough thug Quill (James Remar). Walker’s compatriots include plucky Asian kid Zak (Chatpong “Jim” Petchlor), token Asian servant whose name I don’t remember, and faithful pet wolf Devil. Quill is searching for ancient artifacts called The Skulls of Togando that will aid his New York crime boss Xander Drax (Treat Williams) attain mystical powers to expand his enterprise across the world. New York anti-socialite Diana Palmer (Kristy Swanson) arrives on the island to investigate the goings-on for her uncle’s newspaper but is kidnapped by Drax’s henchwoman Sala (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Wacky chases involving sea planes, horses, and the Phantom’s crotch ensue but Quill and Sala manage to steal two of the three skulls and return to New York. There, the Phantom battles Drax’s henchmen, discovers Drax’s evil plot, and plays hopscotch with New York City taxicabs. Drax and his peeps return to Bengala to find the final skull with Phantom and Diana hot on their tail. They all encounter the fearsome Sheng Brotherhood led by Kabai Sengh (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) and all hell breaks loose on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride where bored men told this tale.


The Phantom was created seventy years ago as a comic strip by Lee Falk, one of the most prolific comic book writers of all time. One could argue that his creation gave birth to the genre of the pulp superhero as he was one of the first to wear tights and a mask. Since then, there have been comic books, a movie serial, and two animated TV shows featuring the adventures of the Ghost Who Walks. And in the wake of 1989’s Batman, Hollywood struggled to ignite a similar movie franchise to appease the superhero-hungry movie audience. What they came up with are mostly bombs including 1991’s The Rocketeer and 1994’s The Shadow, both set in roughly the same time period as 1996’s The Phantom, a confused jumble of a movie that never really satisfies. (As an aside, I really like The Rocketeer). The film tries to reproduce and update the free-spirited adventure of movie serials while presenting an alternative to the dark sets and atmosphere of Batman with campy characters (Williams is hammed to the hilt as Drax), Indiana Jones-esque action, and a super duper keen do-gooder hero. But the characters are never fleshed out and the story is uninteresting. Plus, the origin of the Phantom is not clarified enough to allow you to give a shit about him or his cause. Swanson sleepwalks through her role as the spunky female lead and as Zane’s love interest resulting in below zero chemistry between the two. On the other hand, Zane is a total pro. He approaches everything he does with his own touch and infectious personality, from his heel role in Titanic to his charismatic demon in Demon Knight to the direct-to-DVD crap he’s unfortunately consigned to nowadays. I don’t understand why he’s not a bigger star. He’s a little odd looking (the pencil-thin eyebrows are distracting) but no more strange than say Val Kilmer. It’s possible that Zane was made to be a bad guy, making the transition to hero extraordinarily difficult. The ugly oozes a strange dark magnetism, the kind of shadowy back alley charm that would make you give up your only kid or drop your granny’s drawers. Although he constantly gets work, it’s a shame we don’t see him more in big releases and I wonder if we ever will see him as the big star he really should be. Anyway, The Phantom is a lame attempt to capture the spirit of a time long gone, and instead of wide-eyed youngsters cheering the seats, you have a wide-mouthed dorky blogger yawning on his couch.

1 comment:

GoddessofGore said...

SQUEEEEE! The Phantom is a not-so-guilty pleasure of mine (as I am completely unashamed of my reverence for Billy Zane). Although he excels as a villain (think Demon Knight, Dead Calm, and even Titanic -- which I hate to even mention), he's a swell guy and a fine actor. Unfortunately, Treat Williams is often the sign of a shitty movie and the Phantom is no exception (must I mention Hair to get an "amen"?).
*sigh* Me thinks it's time for me to dig out my posters and skull ring, pop some corn, and curl up with this semi-precious gem again.