he Phantom is a 1996 American superhero film directed by Simon Wincer. Based on Lee Falk's comic strip The Phantom, the film stars Billy Zane as a seemingly immortal crimefighter and his battle against all forms of evil. The Phantom also stars Treat Williams, Kristy Swanson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, James Remar and Patrick McGoohan. The film's plot is loosely inspired by three of The Phantom stories, "The Singh Brotherhood", "The Sky Band" and "The Belt"; but adds supernatural elements and several new characters.
Principal photography began in October 1995 and concluded on February 13, 1996. The film was shot in California, Thailand and Australia.
The Phantom was released on June 7, 1996, and received mixed reviews from film critics. Despite financial disappointment in its theatrical release, the film has since enjoyed success on VHS and DVD.
In the early 16th century, a young boy helplessly witnesses his father's death at the hands of Kabai Sengh, the ruthless leader of the Sengh brotherhood who attacked their ship. The boy jumps overboard and is washed ashore on an island called Bengalla where he is found by tribesmen who take him to their village. There he is given the Skull Ring and swears to devote his life to the destruction of piracy, greed, cruelty and injustice. In adulthood, he adopts the identity of "The Phantom", a masked avenger. The role of The Phantom is passed on from father to son through centuries, leading people to believe in a single, immortal figure and accordingly nickname him "The Ghost Who Walks" and "The Man Who Never Dies".
In 1938, Kit Walker, the 21st Phantom, finds a man named Quill leading a mercenary group in the jungle. The group is searching for one of the Skulls of Touganda, which grants its owner a tremendous destructive power. The Phantom saves the native boy they had kidnapped to be their guide and captures Quill's men, leaving them to be picked up by the jungle patrol while their leader escapes. Quill — revealed as a member of the Sengh Brotherhood, and the man who killed Kit's father — flees with the Skull and returns to the United States.
In New York City, Kit's ex-girlfriend from college, Diana Palmer, is a frequent traveler whose uncle, Dave Palmer, is the famous owner of the "World Tribune" newspaper. The paper has been investigating power-hungry business man Xander Drax, a shady character with a reputation for having dealings with criminals. Mr. Palmer has managed to uncover that Drax is connected to a mysterious spider web symbol, which he traces back to the Bengalla Jungle. He sends Diana to investigate, and en route, her airplane is hijacked by female air pirates employed by Drax and led by the femme fatale Sala. Diana is abducted and taken to their base on the waterfront in Bengalla. Having been informed of Diana's abduction by the Jungle Patrol's captain Phillip Horton, the Phantom rescues Diana and escapes from Quill and his men to his headquarters, the Skull Cave (with the help of his white horse Hero, his pet wolf Devil, and his jungle friends the Rope People). There, Diana meets with Horton, where she is informed by the Phantom and Horton that she is involved with the Sengh Brotherhood. The Phantom tells Horton to use the Jungle Patrol to take care of Diana and return her to New York while he goes after the Brotherhood.
Back in New York, Kit, now dressed as his civilian self, meets with Mr. Palmer at the Tribune building and once again meets with Diana, who has mixed feelings about him since his sudden disappearance several years before. Diana's would-be suitor Jimmy Wells mentions he had seen one of the skulls in the Museum of Natural History. Kit and Diana hurry there and are captured by Drax and his men, who steal the second Skull from Kit and unite it with the first, revealing the location of the third Skull on an uncharted island known as the Devil's Vortex on the Yellow Sea. Kit sees his father's old skull belt buckled around Quill's waist and realizes that he is his father's killer. He manages to escape from him and his henchmen and, as the Phantom, evades the police outside the museum (Drax is allied with New York's corrupt police commissioner, who Mr. Palmer had informed of Diana’s trip). Meanwhile, Sala flies Drax, Quill and Diana (Drax's "Phantom insurance" after Sala reveals that Diane is his girlfriend) to the Devil's Vortex, not knowing that the Phantom has managed to hitch a ride on one of the plane's landing pontoons.
On the island, Drax meets with the pirate Kabai Sengh, a descendant of the Brotherhood's original leader, who possesses the third Skull. Sengh warns Drax of the existence of a "Fourth Skull", which controls the power of the other three. The Phantom appears and battles both men, with Kabai Sengh killed by his own pool of sharks, as Diana and Sala cooperate to defeat the other villains. Drax unites the three Skulls and turns them against the Phantom, inadvertently killing Quill in the process. The Phantom uses the Fourth Skull — his own ring — to overcome the others and destroy both them and Drax in a powerful explosion. As the island is destroyed, the Phantom narrowly escapes with Diana and Sala.
In Bengalla once again, Diana reveals to the Phantom she has figured out his secret and his double-identity. Kit removes his mask, telling her that he is only allowed to reveal all of his secrets to one person, the woman he intends to marry, but she leaves again for New York. Kit's father laments his son's failure to pursue Diana, but states that she will return to the Phantom's jungle, and to Kit, one day.
- Billy Zane as The Phantom / Kit Walker
- Treat Williams as Xander Drax
- Kristy Swanson as Diana Palmer
- Catherine Zeta-Jones as Sala
- James Remar as Quill
- Patrick McGoohan as The Phantom's Father (The 20th Phantom)
- Radmar Agana Jao as Guran
- Robert Coleby as Captain Philip Horton
- Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as The Great Kabai Sengh
- Bill Smitrovich as Dave Palmer
- Casey Siemaszko as Morgan
- David Proval as Charlie Zephro
- Joseph Ragno as Ray Zephro
- Al Ruscio as Police Commissioner Farley
- Samantha Eggar as Lily Palmer
- Jon Tenney as Jimmy Wells
- John Capodice as Al the Cabby