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Movie Review

After a young boy saw his parents killed by pirates known as Sengh Brotherhood (a scene not nearly as brutal or personalized as one might imagine), he was raised by natives in the Bengalla Jungle and swore an oath of vengeance to fight piracy, cruelty and injustice in all its forms. That boy became the first Phantom—a crime-fighting identity passed down from father to son for 20 generations. Because no one could imagine one person living that long, The Phantom was believed to be immortal, and became referred to as "The Ghost Who Walks." (Actually, he's very mortal, but every descendent gets the same funky suit, so ...)

Flash forward to the 1930s. Four-hundred years after the first Phantom put on those stylish purple tights, actor Billy Zane steps in to take over the family business when his own dad bites the dust. Taking a page from Obi Wan Kenobi and Mufasa, dear old dad pops in now and again to give Zane pep talks. His quest requires that he keep a power-hungry villain (Treat Williams) from acquiring three magic skulls that, when someone puts their heads together, unleash a deadly ray that can disintegrate stuff (as Williams and one of his henchmen learn first-hand). Naturally, this bad guy in a good suit plans to use the skulls to increase his empire (why is controlling one metropolis never enough for these greedy goons?).

The action combines elements of Indiana Jones, Tarzan and Batman. Lots of big-budget stunts, effects and set pieces. Too bad some of the violence borders on the PG-13 variety. One man gets a javelin in the back. Another is shot at close range with a cannon. Another is devoured by carnivorous fish. Yet another has his eyes sliced open via the old "exacto-blades in the microscope lenses that pop up when you try to focus it" trick (implied, but not shown). Elsewhere, a skeleton mystically comes to life and strangles a grave robber. There are also lots of explosions and flying bodies. The Phantom himself, however, doesn't kill anybody. He carries guns but—fine PG superhero that he is—has become quite keen at shooting knives, swords, lugers and other weapons out of the hands of his assailants without actually breaking the skin or drawing blood. Unlikely, but praiseworthy!

As far as sexual content, one woman comes on to anything with a pulse. A few sexual innuendoes are exchanged by this raven-haired hussy—a villainess who switches sides following a totally unmotivated change of heart. Also, profanity ranges from h---, d--- and the s-word to the more inflammatory bulls--- and even an a-- or two. As a PG summer-fun flick, The Phantom is disappointing. Sure, the stunts and scenery are attractive, but anyone older than 12 has seen this stuff before. And anyone under 12 has no business seeing it now. A little too violent and verbally abusive to recommend.

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Billy Zane, Treat Williams, Kristy Swanson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, James Remar


Simon Wincer ( )




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Bob Smithouser

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