Recently I found a copy of The Phantom (1996) when I was op-shopping, and, realising that I was remiss in never having seen it, I promptly added it to my pile of DVDs to buy. I watched it the same night I took it home, and completely fell in love.
Essentially, my enjoyment boils down to having a lot of fun while watching this movie. It’s not surprising, considering it has a very similar feel to one of my all-time favourites, The Shadow, another pulp/comic adaptation set in the 1930s. Sure, it’s cheesy and ridiculous but that’s why I loved it. It’s nearly all I could ever ask for from a film like this.
Billy Zane is quite stiff in his dual role as both The Phantom and Kit Walker but he’s not entirely without charm and he’s so pretty… so pretty. Even in the costume. Treat Williams as Xander Drax is fantastic – there’s definitely some scenery chewing going on in his performance.
I had no idea that both Kristy Swanson and Catherine Zeta-Jones were in this (rocking some awesome lady-adventurer/aviatrix style outfits) so I was super excited when they showed up. I think Swanson is really charming and adorable, largely because of my love of the 1992 Buffy film. She looked great with the short curled bob and Amelia Earheart-esque getup in this and I really liked her character.
I kind of got hung up thinking about Diana (Swanson) and Sala (Zeta-Jones) when writing this, which is probably evident from the screencaps. I love that it basically ends with them flying off together. Sure, the narration tells us Diana is determined to come back for Kit/The Phantom, but I can just pretend that she soon realised she’d rather be with Sala, right? I’ve started to imagine a spinoff sequel of their adventures together. How cool would that have been? Maybe one day there’ll be more films like this with women as the central characters.
I loved the moment in the car when Diana turns to Sala and asks her why she’s so mean, if she cares about anyone but herself. There is a look of realisation on Sala’s face when she starts to think that she’s not on the right path after all. I love that Diana is the catalyst for her turnaround, rather than Kit or another man. (I also love that all of Sala’s pilots were women). I’m not saying that makes it a feminist film, or that the characters themselves are feminist, I just thought it was cool, a bit refreshing, and was something I could connect with.
There’s not necessarily a lot of substance – the plot is simple enough, which I like, and the characters aren’t necessarily that well rounded (which isn’t unusual), but it’s fun. I feel like I should write some more (I’ve barely touched on the plot, the baddies…anything really) but I’ve dithered over this long enough.
A friend of mine said he always tries to watch it with The Rocketeer and The Shadow, and I think I’m going to try to do that next time, too.