The Phantom: Mini Series (2010)

Country: United States
Director: Paolo Barzman
Starring: Ryan Carnes, Sandrine Holt, Cameron Goodman, Jean Marchand, Isabella Rossellini, Cas Anvar, Ron Lea, Victor Andres Turgeon-Trelles
Writers: Charles H. Knauf, Daniel Knauf
Music: Michel Corriveau

There’s an old jungle saying, ‘never throw the baby out with the bath water’. And unfortunately that is just what this series does. There is some argument that The Phantom, as a character has become dated, and as such needs to be modernised to make him relevant for the audiences of today. And I can accept that, but this mini-series doesn’t update The Phantom. It creates a new character and gives him The Phantom’s name. I cannot see the point of acquiring the rights to The Phantom character and then altering him so much that he no longer resembles the original character at all. If the producers wanted to make a modern, hi-tech adventure story, that’s all well and good, and on that level this series may have worked, but as a Phantom piece, it is an abject failure – in fact, I’ll go further than that – it’s a bloody disgrace.

The trailer:

Uploaded to Youtube by: ngvietbo

The series starts nineteen years previously, in New York, with a grating car chase. It’s not grating because the cars grind together, but due to the way it was filmed. A woman, named Diana Walker, with her son named Kit in the back of her vehicle, are being chased by another vehicle with two black clad gunmen. Gunfire is being exchanged. The editing is so abrasive and jarring it is almost impossible to work out what is actually happening. The strobing neon colour scheme doesn’t help either.

On her finger she has an elaborate signet ring, and Kit has a medallion around his neck with a skull on it. Running out of road, she drives the car into a river, and the car goes down. The goons who were chasing her get out of their vehicle and scan the water for survivors. They see no one. However, the young boy Kit has managed to hide himself, unobserved, in a tyre hanging at the waters edge.

When we next meet Kit, he has grown up – and is a Columbia law student and is calling himself Christopher Moore (Ryan Carnes). Chris, it seems is a mad free-running fool – or into parkour, for those of you who speak French. With a buddy, Jordy (Victor Andres Turgeon-Trelles), filming him, Chris has accepted a challenge to cross a portion of New York in twelve minutes. Free running action happens to loud rock soundtrack as credits roll. Man, I wish I had chosen to watch District 13 rather than this. But I digress. The credits hadn’t even finished and I wanted to turn it off and play in the cutlery drawer.

So the free running continues, and Chris does some death-defying leaps, and of course, Jordy falls and injures himself. An Ambulance arrives with a paramedic named Renny (Cameron Goodman), who just so happens to be a foxy lookin’ gal – and, who will become important later in the story. Also the police arrive, and Chris is arrested and taken away.

However, Renny’s father happens to be a cop (Ron Lea) and she convinces her father to have Chris released. But things aren’t so rosy on the homefront for Chris. His parents aren’t happy about their law student son being arrested.

Meanwhile in Connecticut, a van is parked outside the home of on homemaker, Bethany Anne Gardner. She is under surveillance by a group called Tivkom. Through her digital set-top box, Tivkom, under the leadership of Dr. Bella Lithia (Isabella Rossellini), send a special encoded message to her, which she sees on her TV screen while she is preparing a chocolate cake. For fans of the television series Chuck, think of a poor man’s Intercept – except with her knowledge she doesn’t do good. Instead, she adds a deadly amount of ant-killer to the cake she is making. Later, her new found cookery skills claim nine lives at a PTA meeting.

In Switzerland the Singh Brotherhood, under the command of Raatib Singh (Cas Anvar) are concerned that a new leader, Ben David, will bridge a gap between the Palestinians and the Israelis and create peace in the middle east – they are also briefed on the Dr. Lithia’s new project. Yes, she’s a baddie. In reality though, I don’t know what Isabella is doing in this crap.

Anyway Chris and Renny become like an item, but one night after walking her home, some goons manhandle Chris into a black van; place a black bag on his head and take him to the river side – where the car went over the edge all those years ago. There, a man in a black hat and coat, Abel Vandermaark (Jean Marchand ) explains that Chris was adopted after being found scavenging for food in Chinatown. How did they track him down after all these years? After being arrested after his parkour stunt, a routine DNA test had him flagged on the computer.

Vandermaark explains that he is a member of a International Covert Intelligence and Law Enforcement agency called Bpaa Thap, which was established by one of Chris (now to be known as Kit)’s ancestors. He also explains that the men that killed Kit’s mother are still alive – and here’s the clincher, ‘the world needs him to assume the mantle of his forefathers.’

Kit, naturally enough is confused, and refuses Vandermaarks offer to join in the fight against evil. However when he returns home, he find that evil has begun to fight him. His adopted parents have been killed by members of the Singh Brotherhood who are also now on to him.

The two assassins, who killed his parents, are also waiting for Kit and attempt to kill him too. But he alludes them and makes his way to Vandermaark’s hotel. Vandermaark once again asks Kit to join Bpaa Thap and fight evil. This time, he reluctantly agrees. His reluctance stems from the fact that he must step away from his old life – and never contact anyone he knew again.

A jet whisks him to the island of Bengalla – and we finally get a hint of jungle. And the show finally starts acknowledging the Phantom’s roots. Kit’s lineage is explained to him, and the iconic Phantom suit is revealed. However, in the US, as a favour to Renny, her father starts looking into the disappearance of the Moore family. And this brings him to the attention of the Singh brotherhood, who instigate a plan to silence him. Also the Singh Brotherhood, with the aid of Dr. Lithia’s Tivkom ‘flicker’ technology step up their plan to assassinate Ben David, the diplomat who may stop the conflict in the Middle East.

After some Phantom training, where the journals of his ancestors are presented to him, along with the crappest Phantom suit ever, Kit sneaks back to the US to warn Renny’s father. In the process, he stumbles onto a Singh Brotherhood attempt to kill the detective. The attempt fails, but alerts Kit to some kind of ‘mind control’ device being utilised by his enemies.

The actors in this series aren’t too bad. Ryan Carnes and Cameron Goodman are pretty charismatic, almost managing to sell this mash up of the old and the new. But that is a big ask, particularly for Ryan Carnes who, as The Phantom, is lumbered with a suit that hides his eyes. It’s had to be emotive when all the audience can see is your mouth. Isabella Rossellini comes off the worst in the acting stakes. Her role is that of the misunderstood scientist working for the twisted megalomaniac. And we all know what happens to the scientist in shows like this. She’s not a vamp, or a femme fatale, but a simple misguided boffin.

The direction in the action scenes is stale, creating little visual excitement, and the stylised flashbacks are dreadful. The fight choreography is adequate, but once again that bloody suit doesn’t make for free flowing movement. It’s more like watching Robocop crashing through walls, than the Phantom moving lithely and freely through the jungle. Thankfully the famed ‘skull ring’ is shoe horned into the story, and I was pleased to see that they retained the mark it left on the faces of the men who The Phantom punches.

If this series wasn’t The Phantom I may not have been so harsh on it. If it had been called The Young Avenger, or some such, I may have let it slide over me. I will have still griped about the suit, as it is an actors (and a super heroes) worst nightmare for conveying movement and emotion; but I wouldn’t have the inbuilt affection for the character’s appearance. I guess one of the biggest hurdles when updating a series featuring a costumed superhero, is how to present the costume. And it’s in this department that this version of The Phantom really fails (have I stressed this enough?). I understand the necessity to update, but what is presented does not even project a semblance of The Phantom. People laughed many years ago, when George Clooney, as Batman, had a costume with ‘Bat nipples’. However, the character was still recognisable as Batman – the biggest failing of the movie, was that it ‘sucked’. But Batman was still Batman. But this is not The Phantom – he’s like a purple Robocop. As The Phantom, the show’s makers have crossed over the line and in the end sabotaged the very thing they set out to make. It’s a shame really, because I believe The Phantom has a place in the 21st Century.

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3 Comments Posted in Television
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3 Comments

  1. I had trouble getting into this series as well. Although I’m a huge fan of character development over endless action, it seemed to take this show forever to move forward. And the suit… Costumes usually bring in the cheese factor. Perhaps if they had chosen to be less high-tech, simpler, and lit to support the illusion. Batman is always Batman, and his suit design integrates with the pallet and texture of the visual world they create in the film. Hopefully there will be a cool Phantom movie in the future where the whole concept and design are more cohesive (and appealing to those who love the look of The Phantom).

  2. Thanks Jace.

    I think it was just the headpiece with the visor that irked me. And the bulky neck piece that went with it. I realise there is a cringe factor with placing the old suit in a modern context – but surely someone on the set could have seen what they come up with, just wasn’t working!

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