Friday, January 11, 2013

Purple reign

I've recently become addicted to Netflix. So many shows and movies, so little time. One little gem I had missed when it was originally run on SY-FY channel, was a Phantom mini-series designed as a pilot for a regular series for a new Phantom.

The modern updating worked very nicely I thought, and the actors were pretty good, the love interest was a cutie, and the show had one or two good performances, some fun villains, and a tough mentor, but the new female version of Guran, the Phantom's right hand, was hauntingly sad, and conflicted. A surprising and interesting portrayal. I thought I saw a great deal of depth to mine later in a series. They set up a series very nicely. A fun interpretation of The  Phantom, with only a few glaring flaws and some of those things might have been fixed over time or with a bigger budget if it got the go ahead for more episodes. Compared to some of the crap SYFY actually runs with anyway, anyone remember the two seasons of SYFY's Flash Gordon remake were the Hawkmen, didn't so much have wings, as they were more an interpretive dance troupe?

The lead actor was maybe too small. In both stature and presence. And some of the special effects. The exterior skull cave set looked like a bad episode of Monster House, working with a tiny yard on a semi-detached town-home, leaving several scenes looking like a high-shool play. Scenes that needed gravitas, came across small and claustrophobic. The cave interior was fine. Maybe if they hadn't tried to build it all into one set.  Maybe a nice matte painting for the skull cave? and actual location shots for the tribal scenes may have worked better.

And the Phantom costume itself was to bulky, especially the helmet, it looked very odd on screen. Even with a taller actor it would have looked odd. Trim down the head-piece a bit, maybe even trade a domino mask for the Centauran sized helmet and they would have been okay with the actor.

But even with the few embarrassing special effects flaws it's worth seeing, if you're a fan of the genre, The Phantom, superheroes or even just old comics.

Though there are better cinematic Phantoms to be found.

I would recommend the 1990 theatrical film starring, Billy Zane, Kristy Swanson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, James Remar, Treat Williams and Patrick McGoohan. It's rare to see such an accurate adaptation of a comic strip character made with such great care. Both the portrayal of the characters and the storyline follow closely to the old newspaper strips. Yes it's simple, and two-dimmesional, full of gross caricatures, but it's fun, cartooney adventure that takes place in that over-simplified world many films attempt to emulate, but few films succeed at. Films like The Rocketeer or Alec Baldwin's The Shadow.

And if you are a true Phantom fan, you'll need to check out Phantom 2040. It's an animated series that was a half hour Saturday morning cartoon. It extrapolates the "Ghost who walks" into a future generation. Directed by Peter Chung, it has that same eerie style as Aeon Flux, and a really cool theme. Like the SYFY channel's version the lead character is unaware of his legacy and much of the story is his spent playing personal history detective. But unlike the SYFY Channel film, Phantom 2040 has richly designed visuals, with a fully developed future architecture, well developed and designed characters, creepy villains, and a cool new updated Phantom with a rich history and infrastructure, all living in bizarrely unique settings, but all in a strange and quirky dystopian future.

Netflix only has the multi-episode pilot movie at this time, but keep your eyes open for the rest of the show. It ran for two-seasons in syndication.

And please join the discussion at the League discussion boards...

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