Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

20 February 1997 Edition

Resize: A A A Print


The ghost of phantoms past

As a kid I remember being kept quiet on a Sunday afternoon, at least for a while, by the full colour comic section of the newspaper, the only part of any remote interest. One of the highlights of those endless adventure cartoon strips was the Phantom, who has had to wait rather a long time to make it to the big screen - although, thankfully, Mandrake the Magician is still waiting.

Basically, the film of the Phantom is Indiana Jones with a ridiculous costume but without enough self-deprecating humour to leaven the suspension of disbelief necessary to enjoy the adventure.

Not a lot of people know this, but the Phantom actually predates Superman and Batman. Unfortunately, much as Acrington Stanley were once the mainstay of English soccer, the Phantom now ranks somewhere in the lower divisions. He has no superpowers and very few gadgets and is forced to rely instead on strength and agility. This lack of immortality does provide a family trade for sons and heirs but also weakens the masked avenger image.

In the lead role, Billy Zane is an excellent pretty boy but as an actor he sucks. Catherine Zeta Jones is more fun as a villainess than Kristy Swanson who plays the independent and fiery love interest. Treat Williams, who plays arch villain Drax, could have been darker, more evil and had better lines. But then I'm picky.

On a positive note, the special effects are bizarre and incredible, always a good sign in an action-driven movie of this sort. The stereotypical bad guys are believable in a stereotypical kind of way but even the appearance of Patrick McGoohan as the ghost of the Phantom's father doesn't save this from being a run of the mill action adventure yarn, albeit good clean fun.


Reminiscent of Edward Scissorshands, Powder tells the story of the eponymous youth (played by Sean Patrick Flanery) who is found in a cellar after the death of his grandfather. Rejected by his father at birth, raised by his grandparents and hidden because of his albinism, Powder is super-intelligent and possessed of strange powers. He is sent to the state home where he is inevitably bullied as a ``freak show''. Deeply wounded himself, he uses his powers to heal the mental scars of others but only really wants to return home. This is a moral tale of human intelligence and human limits with fantasy as the vehicle. But sadly the fantasy does not go far enough and the movie does not live up to early expectations. What could have been inspirational becomes sentimental. Not bad for a rainy night, though.


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