Sep 2, 2010

[TV] The Phantom (2009)

The Phantom (2009)I'm not sure how this particular TV movie stayed under the radar for me for so long, but it did. When I did finally get around to acquiring a copy, I wasn't all excited to see it. Let's face it - this TV miniseries manage to debut months ago with little fanfare and eventually little attention in the media sphere. Either that means the movie is so avant garde that people are still trying to figure it out , or it's just not as good as everyone had hoped and they decided to keep mum about it.

And a TV miniseries about a 1930's pulp comic book hero is a bit of a tricky subject for a revival / reimagination. I mean, it's not like I have anything against the Phantom as a character - I just don't quite understand the need to revisit his story and play around with his origins. It would have made more sense if there was some recent fan petition for its return to the screen but I don't recall anything of that nature in recent months.

Still, every show / movie deserves a chance to be watched in its entirety in order to be evaluated, right? And who knows, some reimaginations may not have made sense from a fan context, but became wild successes like Battlestar Galactica.

The Phantom miniseries was produced by RHI Entertainment and Muse Entertainment and debuted on two different channels - The Movie Network in Canada and on SyFy in the US. Like many other shows and movies before it, it was inspired by the Lee Falks comic strip of the same name.

The story begins with Chris Moore (Ryan Carnes), a law student and parkour enthusiast who find his life turned around when a stranger reveals that he's actually Kit Walker, the son of the legendary crime fighter, The Phantom, as part of a long line of succession over the past few decades. Initially he is unable to accept this reality but when his adoptive parents are murdered because of his identity, he agrees to go with Abel Vandermaark (Jean Marchand) to Bengalla to learn more about his heritage.

The Phantom CostumeThere he is inducted into the rigorous training program of The Phantom in order to prepare him to become the 22nd Kit Walker to take on the mantle. At his disposal are a team of scientists and other experts who turn him into the mysterious protector of the innocent. In this incarnation, the team has developed a new suit that not only gives him greater protection, but it also boosts his physical abilities in terms of strength and speed. All this is done so that he can face the forces of the Singh Brotherhood, longtime enemies of the Phantoms throughout the years. The Brotherhood has developed a new technology that can allow them to brainwash people into following their commands in order to fulfill some greater, darker design.

First of all, I really can't agree with Ryan Carnes as their choice for the Phantom. Yes, I understand that the character does change through the years since different members of the Walker family take on the role. However, I think we still need to show some respect for the general nature of the character and who takes on the mantle - the Phantom just has to look a certain way with a certain build! Plus, if Carnes was really a parkour professional, he would probably have a body that's closer to that of the Phantom instead of this weird skinny body of his. I know some people find him cute or even hot, but he's not THAT hot quite frankly. And worst of all, he can't really act. The last time I accidentally watched a TV show with him in it was because he was wearing a pig-faced mask for Doctor Who. Seriously.

And don't get me started on Cas Anvar as the head of the Singh Brotherhood. Seriously - this is supposed to be the big villain we're all afraid of? He's a joke all throughout the movie and his inconsistent delivery of his lines does nothing for the character. He never feels menacing or threatening and one can't help but wonder why the Brotherhood tolerate him as a leader at all.
Marchand makes for a weird mentor / companion figure and the foreshadowing around his character is as subtle as a crash of rhinos. And as for Sandrine Holt as Guran? I don't even get what purpose she truly fulfills in this reimagined mythos since she really doesn't seem to contribute anything meaningful to his development or the story.

Cover of "The Phantom"Cover of The PhantomThe plot about the evil brainwashing cable boxes did feel like it was the only thing that came from the 1930's (or Batman Forever's Riddler plot). And that's really the biggest failing of the movie - as much as this is meant as a modern update to the story, you can't just disregard the feel of the character like that. This did not really come across as a movie about the Phantom - it felt more like a cheap superhero movie about a special suit and an arrogant "kid". There's just something wrong about the Phantom needing a super-powered suit when in the past it was all about his skills and martial arts training and nothing else. Sure, Defenders of the Earth gave him weird magical animal powers like BraveStarr, but we can forgive that since it was a Saturday morning cartoon after all. This was supposed to be a serious movie and instead it became a joke.

I know this was meant as a backdoor pilot in case we all bite and clamour for this to become a regular show. Please don't. SyFy, listen to reason. You have a better shot at reviving a dead show like Dollhouse instead of pursuing this horrible piece of drivel. If you do pursue it, just don't call it The Phantom, since this isn't at all about him. The Billy Zane movie in 1996 actually seems like an awesome movie compared to this miniseries.

The Phantom is a classic example of an ill-timed revival concept that forgets to truly pay homage to its source material. It gets 1 blatant use of parkour as a plot device out of a possible 5.
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