DVD REVIEW: The Phantom
Vivendi introduces fans to a modern take on a classic comic character...
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When I heard Vivendi was remaking The Phantom for a new generation, I was concerned. Now don't get me wrong, I don't think the classic look and design of the character would survive the harsh criticisms of modern day film fans who've grown up with hi-tech effects that can bring even a Transformer to life. However, there's something unique and simple about the concept of a regular guy in a bodysuit (a purple bodysuit!) who seems almost supernatural in his abilities. No doubt one of the inspirations in the creation of the fan-favorite character Batman, The Phantom has been doing his thing since the mid-1930s.
Enter this new two-part made-for-TV movie directed by Paolo Barzman (TV's The Last Templar) and starring Ryan Carnes (TV's General Hospital and Desperate Housewives) as Chris Moore, a risk-taking free runner with incredible abilities and a "take no crap" attitude. Chris' life changes dramatically when he learns he's actually Kit Walker, the son of the previous Phantom and the heir-apparent to the mantel of "The Ghost who Walks." And with a crime spree the likes of which are rarely seen suddenly facing the city, it's up to this newly created superhero to face the evil-doers with guns blazing.
The film's plot is fairly straight forward, with the new Phantom, after discovering who he is, beginning a life of crime-fighting that introduces viewers to new, more hi-tech baddies. These new, hi-tech baddies obviously mean business and thus, the new Phantom must meet them on the battlefield with a new costume ready for the 21st century. Enter the controversial, new Phantom look.
A lot has been said online about this new look - mostly from fans of the original Phantom design who disapprove. That said - and as I said before - viewers would have laughed the original look right to the next channel had they seen the actor Carnes in a skintight purple bodysuit. This new suit seems a bit more realistic, though I have to say the helmet/hood and visor gives the costume almost a sci-fi vibe that doesn't quite sit right with me.
While this isn't a big budget blockbuster, The Phantom has fair production value and does a good job of showing it in the scenery and sets, which are well designed and worth watching. And even if the acting isn't first rate, the attempt to be genuine is real.
However, any good movie, book, or TV show comes down to character and plot and, while I hate to say it, this new Phantom lacks in both. Even with a new, more hip alter-ego and a new, more hi-tech costume, I still found it hard to connect to the characters and their story. That said, it's far better than many of the TV movies seen on SyFy lately.
The DVD release includes two special features: an interview with director Paolo Barzman and an interview with "the new Phantom," Ryan Carnes. While neither are really a "must watch," viewers who enjoy the film might consider checking out both as they give some decent insight into the production of the film, the new Phantom character, and how both were brought to life on the screen.
The Phantom isn't going to win any awards or draw any major crowds. In trying to change a classic character to meet the needs of a modern audience, the creators may have instead created a new character all together and missed the target (something the Phantom would never do!). Overall entertaining at times, The Phantom makes for a decent watch should you be a fan of the classic character or should you find yourself in desperate need of a comic film you've yet to see...
The Phantom is available now on DVD and Blu-ray wherever fine home video are sold.
- Jess C. Horsley