Updated: Nov 12, 2019
The Ghost Who Walks goes after the sinister villain who's threatening to bring the three skulls together and claim an evil power.
Director: Simon Wincer
Writers: Lee Falk (characters), Jeffrey Boam
Stars: Billy Zane, Kristy Swanson, Treat Williams
One of those really under-rated opening scenes comes from The Phantom
(1996), starring Billy Zane in Simon Wincer’s action- packed narrative featuring
one of the most loved comic heroes of all time. If you want to see mixed audience
reviews, this is one movie that had the few who loved it and many that wrote it off
as cheesy, predictable and stale.
Scoring only 4.9 on IMDB, it’s one of those movies that quietly fell off the cliff…and
no one seems to even notice. Yet for all the criticism heaped on it, the movie can
claim to be enjoyable, at the very least, to fans willing to indulge the script in the
spirit of retaining the flavour of the comics. Billy Zane may not have had the build to
fill the shoes of the giant that Phantom is supposed to be, but he did an outstanding
job balancing the unselfconscious nature of the character with humour and
seriousness when needed. The movie wastes no time in build up; from its first
dramatic scene to the final showdown on a desolate island, it never drops its pace,
and develops a linear but tight plot; giving audiences a wholesome family
The opening scene gives us all the sights sounds and cues one would expect in a
Phantom comic. The bad guys are digging for treasure; not just any treasure, but
specifically for the mystical skulls which are said to give unlimited power to the one
who know show to harness them. The jungle has eyes, and news reaches the
Phantom as he sits on his throne in the skull-cave. A little boy is taken hostage by
the gang and is used to drive the loaded truck across an old and crumbling rope
bridge hundreds of feet above the rocky ground and shallow water below. Naïve as it
may seem, this kind of storytelling stays faithful to the comics…Phantom is well
loved and served by his native friends, he has his faithful horse Hero and wolf Devil
to help him, and no one gets away with trespassing on his protected jungle territory.
The jungle has eyes, and news reaches the Phantom as he sits on his throne in the skull-cave.
The action scene that follows on Phantom’s dramatic arrival manages to be both
light-hearted and tense at the same time. Phantom takes on the bad guys as they
make their getaway in the truck. There is a reference from one of them that he had
certainly killed the Phantom earlier (again, a typical reference we invariably find in
the comics). The scene climaxes with a cliff-hanger moment as Phantom dives into
the truck to save the little boy; as the old bridge gives way and the truck falls into the
jaws of the massive canyon, Phantom shoots the rope, gets the boy on his back and
swings to the safety of the rock face. In the midst of the chase, the fight in which he
is stabbed by the leader of the gang, and even the near death experiencing rescuing
the boy, Phantom displays the calm and charm only he can have in the face of crisis.
If we are to go by the expectations of sophisticated audiences, perhaps this scene,
like the rest of the movie can undermined for being just too picture perfect and naïve.
But then again, the comics are, if anything, naïve and loveable all the same. In
keeping to the spirit of the comics and bringing to life the iconic character and action
sequences, the opening scene like the rest of the movie, is just as good as any, and
surely one of the most entertaining and under-rated in Hollywood.