The Phantom (1996) – Review

4 Stars

The Phantom hit theaters at a time before superheroes ruled the multiplexes. During the 1990’s numerous properties were trotted out in hopes of hitting that elusive franchise home-run. Lee Falk’s 1936 comic strip character is the focus of this gorgeous big-studio hopeful, that despite its quality in every department, was shunned by audiences in the summer of 1996. This is a perfectly executed film in every aspect. Every role is spot on with the right actor or actress, the production design is exquisite, the score is grand, and the writing has wit. A perfect cinematic cocktail for fans of Batman and Indian Jones pictures.

New York thug Xander Drax (Treat Williams) is in search of three mystical skulls that will give him the power to rule the world. This puts him in direct conflict with Kit aka The Phantom (Billy Zane) who oversees the sacred jungles that house the skulls. Socialite Diane Palmer (Kristy Swanson) is Kit’s former flame and now a hostage to Drax’s goons. It’s up to The Phantom to stop the madman bent on complete domination, rescue the damsel, and protect the sacred resting place of the skulls.

Director Simon Wincer hits it dead solid perfect on this one, staging and mounting this production with confidence and inspired choices. Billy Zane is a dashing and semi self-deprecating protagonist with just the right hint of Christopher Reeves in his ‘awe shucks’ performance. Treat Williams is allowed to be his dastardly best and steals the show in his scenery chewing role. The Phantom is not only an ideal family film, it’s just plain fun to watch.

Director: Simon Wincer
Stars: Billy Zane, Treat Williams, Kristy Swanson

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