The Phantom 2009
This is one of the very few superhero miniseries that I know of, it aired on the Sci-Fi channel back in 2009 in two parts. While it was initially conceived of as a backdoor pilot it never actually materialized into a series. There are extremely loose ties to the 90’s Billy Zane Phantom movie, but for the most part this updated the Phantom into the 21st century as a teen aged, parkour loving douchebag with an updated costume that gives him a few extra super powers. But as a miniseries, it takes way too much time trying to set up all the relationships and the new Phantom as a character, but that ultimately makes most of this miniseries uninteresting. There are only a few action set pieces, the villains are uninspired, and there’s a plot twist that I saw coming the moment the character stepped on screen. It’s not awful by any means, but it’s just incredibly mediocre.
The Phantom is kind of a weird, alternate version of Batman. He doesn’t really have any super powers, he’s just a vigilante with plenty of resources and passes the title and resources down from generation to generation to give the illusion of immortality. This generation of the Phantom is even a bit more like Batman as he is an orphan. Twice over even as his mom died in a car accident when he was a child, and his adoptive parents are murdered during the course of this origin story. Also different from some versions of the Phantom is that he has an organization of followers that are a kind of secret police in their ongoing struggles against the villain organization, each with their own names that are very foreign sounding and not very memorable.
One of the biggest flaws of this miniseries is that it is quite obviously setting itself up to become a regular TV series that never happened. We have the teenaged hero, full of angst, a hot EMT girlfriend, and parkour skills. He also has a team that works with him in his secret lair in the middle of Indonesia complete with techy scientists and a hot field agent that sadly never really gets to do much in this story aside from give him encouragement and support. It also seemed odd that these connections felt more akin to another superhero that originated in the same era as Batman and the Phantom: The Shadow. There’s also the bald, mentor character that is set up to be suspicious from the very start and unsurprisingly turns out to be working with the villains the whole time. Not only that, but he survives a grenade blast and becomes the head of the villain organization at the end, complete with facial scars to make him look extra super-villain-y.
As far as the character of the Phantom himself, he starts out as a cocky parkour kid who basically gets everything handed to him on a silver platter with the only downside being the death of his adoptive parents. A severe downside to be sure, but in return he gets superhero training and a lair that’s basically Wayne manor hidden inside a cliff that looks like a skull. He also gets an updated suit that makes him bulletproof and super strong, and yet when he fights a regular goon in the second half, there’s practically no evidence that he’s any stronger than the guy he’s fighting. He’s also generically dedicated to doing the right thing despite advice to continue his training and avoid any field work.
The real kicker comes when we get to the final piece of the villain’s plan. They have been using mind control to create sleeper agents using modified cable boxes. Their end game within this miniseries is to assassinate this fictional humanitarian who apparently is the only person in the world who is able to broker peace in the Middle East which is such a generically bland and grandiose claim as to be completely laughable in this context. Might as well go one step further and claim that he’s the next Messiah or something along those lines. Of course, the Phantom is able to stop them and save his girlfriend who was being held captive by the mole in the Phantom’s organization.
Aside from all the convoluted plot points and cliched origin moments, it was a passable origin story. Although the first half was almost all set up and very little to no action unless you count the parkour moments. But even then, the parkour scene was redundant as he follows the exact same path twice, once making a video with his other parkour douche friend and once while being chased by two flunkies from the villain organization trying to kill him. While the intent may have been to show that he was taking a path that he was familiar with to try and trick his chasers, it was still quite redundant from the viewer’s perspective. Not only that, but during his initial training, they seem to make quite a point to show that the Phantom was training in fully non-lethal methods of combat, and yet around four of the five minions that he first comes across after finding out his heritage wind up dead through his actions. It’s possible that it could have become a decent show had it been given the chance, but as it stands, it was just a very mediocre origin story that took three hours to tell a story that could have been told in less than two. And a fairly standard story at that. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.