The Phantom – TV Movie Review
Before Batman even contemplated pulling on a onesie, before Superman looked at his undies and thought “what would these look like OVER my trousers?” In fact pretty much before anyone even had heard the term “Superhero” Lee Falk was busy creating the most enduring costumed crime-fighter the world has ever seen. The Phantom has run around the jungles of Bengalla for the last sixty something years and continues to prance through our newspaper comics daily constantly reminding us that Kit Walker (* For The Ghost Who Walks) is nowhere near as lame a name as some of his other illustrious super-friends, and that Purple does not necessarily mean “Sexually Frustrated.”
Yet while the The Phantom has been around longer than any of the “Big Three” of Batman, Superman, or Spider-man, he has never really seen the same level of attention in the media. Yes, the Comics have been constantly on shelves, but in the epic time-line of The Phantom, we’ve had surprisingly few forays into film. Apart from a fifteen part serial in the 40′s the character has had only one notably successful attempt to bring it to the live action screen. (oh and an un-aired TV pilot and some Turkish films that are best not spoken of) Billy Zane, the really cool dude, took on the challenge of making a purple bodysuit not look silly in 1996, and pretty much failed to do so at every turn. The film had all the hallmarks of the Phantom storyline; it had the Skull Cave, the horse “Hero” and the Wolf “Devil” and the bad guys of the Singh Brotherhood. But it’s knowingly silly style and over the top tongue in cheek dialogue alienated a lot of the core fans.
Now we’re in 2010 and the SyFy Channel is clearly aiming to update this old school hero into the new millennium by making the Phantom a late teen Parkour exponent, for whom becoming The Phantom is not so much about taking on the mantle of a great hero, but a coming of age tale, with purple body-armour. This Phantom has grown up away from his heritage and finds himself dragged forcibly back to take on the role of his forefathers and save the world from the evil TIVO. No really. Chris (who later becomes Kit) finds out that the legacy of the Phantom is a long and lucrative one. He is now a secretive billionaire with a worldwide network of operatives and a collection of evil stereotypes menacing him at every turn. From evil french twin “Free Runners” to crazy psychological scientist and sword wielding corporate suits, (who clearly wish they looked as hot as Lucy Liu in her boardroom decapitation scene) this miniseries never misses a trick in going for the shlocky or just plain stupid.
All that said, it’s not actually THAT bad. Sure, the new Phantom suit is pretty awful, but there are some elements of it which look kinda cool. The action beats are not terrible and some of the fight sequences are even enjoyable. It has some terrible pacing issues and the main plot of the bad guys is weak beyond all belief, but I came out of these 3 hours feeling like i could possibly stand to watch some more of this character. It is nowhere near as appalling as the SyFy version of The Phantom’s “Defenders of the Earth” team-mate Flash Gordon, and I even think that wish some tweaking the costume could be made to look like quite a cool update on the classic suit. I do feel that this would have worked better as a shorter 2 hour style film however… there are some incredibly tedious sections in which a lot of old ground is covered and the whole thing feels sorely lacking in pace and urgency. Our lead actor Ryan Carnes is pretty watchable and does his best to carry the film through some pretty long winded boring bits, however one of the bigger names in the production, Isabella Rosellini does little more than phone it in. (And the line is crackly to boot!)
I do think the biggest problem is the main evil plot however. Sadly no matter how well played the lead character is, he can’t help the fact that a gun slinging superhero is fighting a golf playing corporate suit. But to make it worse, they NEVER face off. Oh and just so you know, the nasty evil plan really is all about evil TIVO and that dear friends is an unquantifiable FAIL.
Overall, A SHITE Plus… it’s a bit crap, but i’ve seen many worse. And if SyFy ever makes their “Defenders of the Earth” miniseries, i’ll watch it just for this Phantom. Though by then the bad guy will no doubt be “File Sharing”.
What did you think, was the Phantom as dead as it’s namesake or is it a fun little romp that is just in need of some serious pruning? Feedback and let us know!
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