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Guilty Pleasures – The Phantom

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Batman, Superman and The Avengers, these are all great films starring iconic heroes. But they aren’t the first heroes to ever appear. No, there were men risking life and limb in colourful spandex outfits long before Bruce Wayne developed daddy issues, heroes like the man who cannot die. The ghost who walks, a spectre of Africa…

The Phantom!

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.

Based on the Lee Falk created character, The Phantom never exactly received rave reviews when it was released back in 1996. Sure, the main plot of Treat Williams assembling a mystical weapon that can like shoot laaiser laaights may be laughable, but everything else building up to the film, was superb.

In a role originally meant for Bruce “Evil Dead” Campbell, Billy Zane knocked it out of the park as the latest purple-suited Phantom. Zane was intimidating, heroic and had the moves as Kit Walker, but most of all, he came off as an actual human being when the mask was off, not some demented vigilante with issues. At the end of the film, that’s what The Phantom felt like, an actual hero, with a heart underneath his suit.

That’s another trademark of this classic film, one that made it a cult classic, as the 1930s vibe made it a more retrotastic adventure, a classic that stayed true to the spirit of the original.

That’s possibly also the downfall of this film, as audiences just weren’t ready to embrace such faithful adaptations. Spawn would also fail in this regard, as they grittiness of that comic gave way to cheesy action and lines, and The Phantom was no different.

But for all it’s faults, the love and attention to detail within this film is phenomenal. Just look at the intricacies of the suit worn by Zane as an example, or the epic stunts that took place in both authentic and concrete jungles, creating some epic visuals in the process.

And while Treat Williams has a lame plan in place, his acting is top notch, as he chews scenery, but in a subtle manner. Likewise with the rest of the cast, from Kristy Swanson to James Remar and more, everyone out in a great performance.

Until The Avengers came along, this was the one superhero movie that wanted to give audiences a fun experience at the box office. Light-hearted and serious at the right times, exhilarating and faithful, The Phantom is a ghost that walks the aisles of cult favourite movies these days.

Last Updated: October 17, 2012

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