Who says superhero movies need rubber armor for their costumes? One the most fascinating things about this movie is that it shows us that not only can a cloth costume be done without looking hokey, but it can look even better than the silly belief that rubber armor must be used for “realism.” This movie excels in not only providing a great looking Phantom costume, worn well by Billy Zane, but the costumes and set pieces of the time period throughout the movie never cease to look spectacular. They easily pull you into the era that the movie takes place, and somehow manage to do it without questioning how a superhero can possibly be so efficient in such a setting. Furthermore, the Phantom himself, is explained quite well at the beginning so that the audience doesn’t feel lost in being introduced to this ye olde superhero, spawned during the Golden Age of heroes that eventually gave us the likes of Batman and Superman (the Phantom predates the earliest (Superman) by a year).
Kit Walker discovers that he’s the 21st in a line of purple-clad African superheroes known as “The Phantom” or, to superstitious Bengalla Island natives, “the Ghost Who Walks.” As Kit learns how to deal with his other identity he find outs that Xander Drax, a slimy industrialist, is plotting to take over the world by uniting the three long lost magical Skulls of Touganda. So he travels to New York, where he finds allies in crusading newspaper publisher Dave and his niece, Diana, who’s also Kit’s ex-girlfriend. Kit and Diana tackle Drax’s forces, including the conflicted Sala, in a quest for the Skulls that brings both sides back to Bengalla for a showdown. The Blu-ray Disc is presented in 1080P High Definition 2.35 Widescreen and 7.1 DTS HD Master Audio.
The premise of the movie never falls short of feeling like a proper comic book story, which will be great some audiences, but perhaps not so great to attract everybody. Delving into a skull-centric lore involving an unrivaled power brought the formation of three skulls, the plot leaves something to be desired for audiences that may want something less convoluted than unexplained sources of ultimate power. It has pirates, though. Who doesn’t love pirates? Even though the plot feels shaky at times, and too convenient at other times, it is a fun movie that should be easy to enjoy for most people – especially kids. I speak from experience as I truly loved this movie when I saw it, when I was only 9. It seems to help that this isn’t the normal type of superhero movie that panders solely to those that are fans of people in tights battling relentless evil, but it also serves a proper old time adventure movie harkening back to the days of King Kong, and Journey to the Center of the Earth, and similar stories. This sort of setting had been long gone from cinematic consciousness in the era of this movie’s release, and hasn’t seen much of a return since then. The only thing this movie can be said to really suffer from is the poor CGI efforts. Whether budgetary or through a lack of will to find the proper studio, the movie loses it’s consistent pacing as your focus is distracted whenever the CGI skulls are involved during the latter part of the movie.
Aside from the previously mentioned Billy Zane, the movie isn’t populated by all that well-known actors, aside from a relatively unheard of Catherine Zeta Jones. That isn’t to say that this movie doesn’t have some find talent, however, as the majority of the cast may be underrated but they all play their parts well, aside from an occasional bit of overacting. At times it’s difficult to tell whether that’s to be said for Treat Williams, who plays Xander Drax, as he is frequently the liveliest performance of the whole movie. If it is truly a case of overacting, then it just happened to fit the character well. He’s not the most menacing or compelling villain, but he is entertaining and conniving in a way you enjoy without realizing it. Overall, I Highly Recommend this for a viewing, especially if you’re a fan of adventure movies, and/or superheroes.
Lionsgate releases The Phantom on a release not so dissimilar to the previous DVD outing…in that this is completely barebones. The video and audio are new, of course, but nothing else on this disc is. No new extras, no new…well, anything. Sure, the cover is new (and rather awkward), but apart from that it’s a very standard release. Disc art matches the cover art and an insert for other Lionsgate Blu-ray’s is included inside the Elite Eco casing and nothing else. Menus are simple and easy to navigate…what little of them there are, at least.
Video arrives in the form of an AVC encoded transfer and…well, wow. This is an old film (and I can still remember seeing it in the theaters with my Dad…but never again after that, despite thoroughly enjoying it as I recall), but the 14 years it has in age doesn’t really show through on this transfer at all. Yeah, there’s some grain and the usual film-like qualities present here, but the level of detail and color levels are just…really top notch throughout. I’m genuinely surprised and pleased with the transfer here and anyone who enjoyed this film in the least (and owned the previous DVD release) will no doubt be filled with immediate joy as they see the clarity of the picture. There are elements where the transfer is less than impressive, but that’s mostly due to poor lighting in some shots, so that can be chalked up to the original print more than the transfer given here.
The audio mix is impressive too, with a DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack blasting around the room. Some of the effects do sound a bit dated (as expected), but aside from those few minor instances I was really quite surprised with how boisterous and lively this mix was. It seems that while Lionsgate didn’t invest in any new extras, they did at the very least put some effort into the Blu-ray presentation which we can be thankful for at least.
While there are no extras (aside from the original theatrical trailer in standard definintion), the disc is so cheap that anyone looking to swap out their old DVD for this newer and prettier Blu-ray will find it hard not to just give in and do so. Recommended for fans at the very least, but at around $11, it’s hard to pass this title up even if you haven’t seen it before. It’s corny and has some questionable CGI, sure…but it’s a fun film nonetheless.
The Phantom is now available on Blu-ray.
Movie review by Andrew
Blu-ray review by Zach Demeter