is a 1996 film based on the long-running comic strip of the same name
. It stars Billy Zane as the Phantom, Kristy Swanson as his love interest Diana Palmer, Treat Williams as the villain Xander Drax, and Catherine Zeta Jones as Dark Action Girl
The film is set in the 1930s, when the comic strip debuted, and draws characters and plot points from the comic's first few story arcs. This also means that it shows the Phantom's home as being in Southeast Asia, when the comic strip had long since retconned
it to Africa.
Even though some fans responded well to the film, and Roger Ebert
gave a favourable review, it bombed at the box office. It earned $17,323,326 in the United States market, the 93rd most successful film of its year. But that failed to even cover its budget. At least, it has since sold well on VHS and DVD.
The film provides examples of:
- Adaptation Dye-Job: Diana has much lighter hair than in the comics, possibly to help distinguish her from the raven-haired Sala.
- Beam-O-War: When Drax tries to destroy Phantom with a death ray from his completed skull set, he answers with a ray of his own from his ring.
- The Bermuda Triangle: The Devil's Vortex is a serial-numbers-filed-off version of the Bermuda Triangle, a region of ocean that has a reputation for ships disappearing in it; this turns out to be because the home base of the Sengh Brotherhood is in the middle of it, and they take strong measures against anybody who gets too close.
- Blasting It out of Their Hands: What the Phantom mainly uses his two handguns for.
- Cave Behind the Falls: The home of the Phantom is in a valley that can only be entered through a tunnel hidden by a waterfall.
- Clark Kenting: The Phantom's body language hardly changes when he's being Kit Walker, and his voice not at all; despite this, nobody seems to realise that they're the same person even after encountering both of them in quick succession. (Well, Diana figures it out eventually, and before Kit makes up his mind to tell her; but seriously, how is it not immediately obvious?)
- Diana figuring out the Phantom's secret identity is foreshadowed in the scene at the newspaper office where Kit talks and poses exactly like the Phantom did just a few scenes before.
- Continuity Cameo: The film includes a number of passing references to continuity elements from the comics, including names on background signage and cameo characters (such as Corporal Weeks of the Jungle Patrol).
- Crystal Skull
- Dead Person Conversation: The Phantom has several conversations with his dead father, who acts as his Spirit Advisor. At least one of the conversations includes the ghost telling him something he didn't already know, suggesting it's a real ghost and not just his imagination.
- In another Guran walks in on Kit claiming he heard voicees. Plural.
- Eye Scream: Drax's punishment for an underling who talks to a reporter is tricking him to use a modified microscope which produces blades to its user's eyes when adjusted.
- Effortless Amazonian Lift / Over-the-Shoulder Carry: A restrained Diana Palmer gets this treatment from Sala when she is captured.
- Faux Affably Evil: Xander Drax has impeccable manners even when he's killing or maiming underlings in horrible ways, which really makes it worse.
- Flynning: The sword fight scenes at the end of the movie are (painfully) full of this.
- Gotta Catch Them All: The villain is tracking down the three silver "Skulls of Touganda", which will grant him immense power. There is a fourth skull, on the Phantom's Ring of Power.
- Groin Attack: One of Sala's favourite fighting moves.
- High Heel-Face Turn: After growing angry with the way Drax's goons were treating them both, Sala abruptly switches gears and starts helping Diana on the grounds that "us girls gotta stick together."
- Hood Hopping: The Phantom does this while pursuing Drax's car in New York.
- In Medias Res: The film begins and ends smack in the middle of the 21st Phantom's career. Backstory is provided by dialogue and the movie ends with the romantic pair going their separate ways again (but with Diana planning to return later). Just a regular week for The Phantom.
- In the Back: Quill stabbed the previous Phantom in the back, both literally and figuratively.
- It's Personal: Said word-for-word for Diane when she punches out Sala.
- Jungle Drums: The Bangalla natives use message drums to summon the Phantom when trouble is brewing.
- Large Ham: Xander Drax.
- Leave Him to Me: During the battle with the Sengh Brotherhood, their leader claims the right to be the one to kill the Phantom, and even stabs one of his own men who's about to beat him to it.
- The Movie
- Movie Superheroes Wear Black: Spectacularly averted!
- Another thing about The Phantom's costume in the movie is that it's even designed to "change color" depending on the lighting. It can shift from bright to dark purple, red, grey, or blue in a Shout Out to how various publishers over the world change the color of his costume based of preference.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Xander Drax.
Drax: It begins and ends with an X.
- Nature Hero: The Phantom is really good with animals.
- Not Listening to Me, Are You?: Diana talking to her mother.
Lily Palmer: How are you anyway, sweetheart?
Diana Palmer: I've contracted malaria, mother.
Lily Palmer: That's nice.
- Outside Ride: The Phantom does this on the villains' truck near the beginning, and later hitches a ride to the showdown on the landing pontoon of Sala's seaplane.
- A Pirate 400 Years Too Late: The Sengh brotherhood.
- Pirate Girl: Sala.
- Plummet Perspective: Used during the first crossing of the rope bridge.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: Attempting to tie together three very different (albeit classic) storylines from the comics into a coherent whole and still trying to maintain the Kit Walker/Diana Palmer romance. The reason the film fails is because it collapses under its own ambition.
- Ring of Power: The Phantom's ring which has the fourth Skull of Touganda.
- Rope Bridge: Which inevitably kicks off an action sequence when it starts coming apart as it's being crossed.
- Shout Out: The Palmer family's bulter, Falkmoore, is named in honor of Lee Falk and Ray Moore, the writer and first artist of the comic strip.
- Sky Pirates: Sala's crew.
- Spirit Advisor: Kit's dad appears to him to goad him on his quest. A cabby driving the Phantom around is freaked out when Kit starts arguing with himself. He also doubles as The Narrator.
- Threatening Shark: There are sharks circling around the wreck that Kabai Sengh uses as his throne.
- Thrown from the Zeppelin: When Ray Zephro voices his dissatisfaction with Drax's plans and tries to leave the room, he gets a spear thrown on his back.
- Totally Radical: Thankfully averted in the film itself, but played very straight with the tag line:
- Two-Fisted Tales: They did get that right at least.
- Unfinished Business: The ghost of the previous Phantom is still hanging around because of this. He doesn't mind having been murdered so much — it's an occupational hazard — but he can't rest easy until he knows that the Phantom line has been secured for another generation.
- Upper-Class Twit: Diana's unwanted admirer Jimmy Wells, whose idea of a business trip is coming into town to be measured for a new suit.
- Viewers Are Geniuses: One complaint about the film is that it assumes the audience already knows who The Phantom is and what he does. The introduction has a very condensed version of the origin story (taken almost directly from the first panel of many of the comics) but other than that it pretty much starts in the middle of the 21st Phantom's career with no backstory.
- You Killed My Father: Drax's head mook is the man who killed the previous Phantom. He spends much of the movie disturbed by the discovery that the man he killed is apparently still in business. Kit explains the truth to him at the onset of their inevitable final duel.