The Phantom 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 Sala.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.
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).
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 voices. Plural.
Al only hears the Phantom's side of the conversation in the cab, though...
Dem Bones: Styles, one of the thieves, has the misfortune of being strangled to death by a skeleton that inexplicably comes to life.
Eye Scream: When Drax finds out that librarian Dr. Fleming has been ratting on him to Diana's uncle, he asks him to look into a binocular microscope. When Fleming turns the adjustment knobs, blades shoot out of the eyepieces and blind him.
High Heel-Face Turn: After growing angry with the way the pirates 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.
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.
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.
Schmuck Bait: "Oh, uh, one more thing if you don't mind. I'd like your professional opinion on something under this microscope."
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.
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: Quill 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.