Yes, comic-strip superheroes look a mite silly on the big screen. Billy Zane may escape that embarrassing knickers-over-tights look, but, unlike Keaton 'n' Kilmer in the Batman movies, he's lumbered with a costume faithful to the comic-strip original - a purple leotard which gives him the heroic presence of Mr Motivator.
It's a central failing in a film that fails on so many levels. With its hopelessly old-fashioned plot, which appears to be a rejected submission for an Indiana Jones novelization (alarmingly, Boam was once down to write Indy 4), it's a ho-hum experience stuffed to the gills with half-baked and over-familiar stunts, perfunctory effects, lame characters and a droopingly anticlimactic climactic revelation.
Zane makes what must be the most unspectacular entrance in film history (daringly spurring his horse over a log), then spends the rest of the movie taking self-effacement to levels Hugh Grant has only dreamed of. Williams as chief bad man Dax is hampered by lines like, "I nearly always get my way" ("Nearly"? What kind of a villain says "nearly"?), and then the love interest suddenly abandons her (admittedly irritating) feminist ways and agrees to be a baby-producing machine. At least Catherine Zeta Jones camps it up nicely as an entertainingly Bond-style henchwoman.
It makes a change to have a superhero flick that's not deep in shadows cast by gothic arches, but, then again, some X-Files lighting would have spared us that costume in its full gory... sorry, glory. The Phantom is a film so devoid of passion, the crew clearly agreed to get the job done then bugger off home. While it's never downright bad, you'd be hard-pressed to find anything likeable in it.End result? 20 minutes in and you're wondering whether to have a burger or a pizza on your way home.