Have Cheetah,Will View #232 – “The Phantom” (2009)

Its 11:30 pm

I have written many times about the my genesis of becoming a fanboy. Be it collecting comic books as a pre-teen or diving into pages of fantastic heroes like The Shadow or Doc Savage and his Fabulous Five or listening to the wonderful CBS Mystery Theater,my love for fun fantasy has never wavered.
One of my favorite books to read were (are) Lee Falk’s “The Phantom”. Started as a comic strip in 1936 and which is still running today,the Phantom also known as “The Ghost Who Walks”. Myth has it that the Phantom,who has been around since the 1500s,is immortal but the truth is that lineage of the Phantom has spanned 22 generations. The mantle of the Phantom is passed from father to son as they battle crime on global scale to protect the innocent.

Unlike a lot of more popular superheroes,there hasn’t been a lot of effort to get The Phantom on the movie or TV screen. There was a 15 part movie serial in 1943 in which kids would flock to see the various cliffhanger endings on a weekly basis.
It wasn’t until 1996 that a big screen movie was attempted. Despite casting a game Billy Zane as Kit Walker and featuring an all-star cast including Catherine Zeta-Jones in American film debut,the movie bombed terribly and that seemed the end of the efforts to established The Phantom as a screen presence.

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Flash forward to 2008. I remember reading and then seeing promos for a new Phantom movie on the SyFy Channel. Somehow I never got a chance to see it when it came on in 2009. But during a recent foray into my local video store,I stumbled across a copy and bought it for a buck. I told the cheetah the story I just told you above and asked if he would like to see it with me. He agreed and away we went.

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I want to say I really liked this Canadian production of “The Phantom”. There was a lot to like,the producers made it a two part mini-series which a 3 hour run time instead of the usual 90 minutes. The cast of relatively unknown actors,led by Ryan Carnes as Chris Moore/Kit Walker/The Phantom is quite good. Cameron Goodman plays the love interest Renny Davidson and she is quite stunning.

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Long time sci-fi genre favorite Sandrine Holt plays The Phantom’s loyal right hand person Guran and as always,deliver the goods.
Jean Marchand plays Abel Vandermarrk,the leader of the Bjaa Thap,a secret crimefighting group founded by an earlier Phantom. Abel is the one who finds Chris and share with him the real truth of who Chris is.

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In the comics and the comic strip,the main bad guys The Phantom tangles with is The Singh Brotherhood,a huge organization that promotes crime and chaos on a global scale.
This go-around,the Brotherhood is led by Rhatib Singh (Cas Anvar),a very nasty character who has teamed up with war criminal and mad scientist Dr. Bella Lithia (Isabella Rossellini) to create a mind control platform. The subjects are brainwashed to do a terrible criminal act and then commit suicide afterwards. Rhatib’s plan is to assassinate a well known peacemaker name Ben-David and spark a war in the Middle East where the Singh Brotherhood will reap huge profits from supplying weapons and logistics to each side.

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At first glance this would have made an exciting two part film and it would have except the pacing just CRUSHES the movie,especially in the second half. The first half is a bit sluggish as expected in a origin story,Chris finding out he is the 22nd Phantom,meeting the various players,the training montage. Director Paolo Barzman does a steady job of setting the table for an action packed second half and then just dropped the ball. The second has a lot of running around doing nothing for the first hour and ten minutes. We see Anvar chewing more grass then a herd of sheep and while its fun to watch,we saw it in the first half,we know he is bad and his plan is dastardly.

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While the story introduces a mole in The Phantom’s camp,it is never properly explored and it seemed like a random name was pulled from the hat and was told “You’re the mole” with zero motivation or reason. Instead we get a mindlessly long car chase…small things like this can really kill any good flow you has established in your film and grinds it to a halt.
Barzman is interviewed and he had hopes that this film would serve as a pilot to a series,I think it could have had a chance if it hadn’t wasted a fine cast in such a boring tale. Carnes and Goodman made a great looking couple onscreen. The new Phantom uniform was pretty spiffy as well,the upgrade looked very cool. The pieces were there for a series but execution wasn’t.

THE Phantom

The Phantom has a run time of 3 hours and I would suggest a PG-13 rating for stronger then expected violence. Special features include a interview with Ryan Carnes and director Paolo Barzman.

The cheetah and I haven’t seen the 1996 movie,if anyone would care to donate a copy to us,we would be grateful. Our info can be found here

7 thoughts on “Have Cheetah,Will View #232 – “The Phantom” (2009)

    1. When the movie came out in 96,I was working at night at Agenda and didn’t have a way to the bigger theaters to see it. I’m hoping I’ll run across it during one of our hunting trips….

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  1. Until I started reading your review I was assuming this was the Billy Zane version (the year in the title should have tipped me off but I guess I’m more tired than I want to admit). I’d say you are better off not having seen the 1996 film but it wasn’t as terrible as its box office results suggest. But on the other hand, it also wasn’t good enough to deserve to be a hit.

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    1. The bane of almost every superhero film is the origin story,very rarely has anyone gotten it right. I don’t envy any director who is asked to helm one….James Cameron hired Zane for “Titanic” based on his Phantom performance…

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    1. I was so bummed this version was so sluggish,the director got three hours and to see such a lackluster result. But the cast was really good…and thank you for your comments,John! I really enjoy your blog….

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