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Category:    Home > Reviews > Superhero > Action > Adventure > The Phantom (1996/Paramount/Lionsgate Blu-ray)

The Phantom (1996/Paramount/Lionsgate Blu-ray)


Picture: B     Sound: B     Extras: C-     Film: B



In all honesty I have always found The Phantom comic series quite drab and boring; right up there with Prince Valiant in my mind.  The serial nature of it is interesting, but in the end is simply underwhelming.  The potential of the comic series, however, was something that was not lost on Paramount studios in 1996.  There was an original film serial from 1943 that also featured the heroic Phantom character, but the 1996 version attempted to do a much needed overhaul.  The Lee Falk creation began in 1936 with a black and white newspaper comic (later updated to color in 1939), but has seen a variety of media interpretations over the years as Falk’s character has been seen in film, video games and even television.  The 1996 film stars Billy Zane as the title character and Kristy Swanson as the leading lady Diana Palmer.  Other notable names make appearances such as Catherine Zeta-Jones and James Remar.


The plot somewhat follows the comic series as a young boy (the last survivor of a pirate attack) washes up on the shore of a mysterious island called Bengalla.  On shore the young boy swears to devote his life to wiping out cruelty, piracy and greed; as an adult adopting the persona of “The Phantom” and under that disguise he fights injustice in all its forms.  For generations “The Phantom” persona is passed down from father to son; giving it the appearance that The Phantom never dies.  This film focuses on the 21st Phantom, Kit Walker (Billy Zane), who fights the evils of diabolical rich man Xander Drax.  Drax is looking for a dooms day device called The Skulls of Touganda, whose power will allow him to have world domination.  A boat load of issues arise as The Phantom finds the girl of his dreams (Kristy Swanson), as well as the man who killed his father.  A series of choices and hardships make his battle against evil increasingly difficult, but as always The Phantom must prevail and live on.


The Simon Wincer film was ultimately a flop, fairing better on home video than in theaters.  To this reviewer the film is quite enjoyable, more enjoyable than the comic book.  Truth of the matter is that this film comes from a time in the film industry when bunch of classic comic commodities flopped; including The Shadow and The Rocketeer, both of which I loved.  The film is a tad campy at times, as if the actors are trying too hard; but all in all it is entertaining.  The money was there and it truly brings the classic comic series to life.  Zane was a good choice for The Phantom and his supporting cast isn’t half bad either.  I recommend The Phantom as it recaptures the comic in a more thrilling light.


The technical features of this Lionsgate Blu-ray are quite good overall.  The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition video presentation is wonderful as the color palette pops and the blacks are deep and inky to frame the picture nicely.  The most impress part of this seemingly simply release are the detail rich scenes as every aspect is clearly visualized with great textures and facial features that demonstrate what Blu-ray can do.  The sound explodes from the surrounds as the 7.1 DTS Lossless HD Master Audio brings a great sense of adventure to the film and takes it to the next level.  The surrounds are fully immersive and utilized quite well.  The dialogue is crisp and clean with a well balanced surround track of music and adventure to support it.


The extras are the only disappointing part of the Blu-ray as only a Theatrical Trailer is available for viewing.  With the plethora of deleted scenes that apparently exist for this film it is surprising we see no extra features on this disc.


All in all, I really like this film and it is fun for both adults and children.



-  Michael P. Dougherty II


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