actors, most notably Morgan
Freeman. Though the story is
about Moll, it is Freeman who
ithout knowing anything draws our interest. Like his char-
more than what I had acter, Freeman's presence is
seen in the trailers, I ful- steady and assured and lends a
ly expected Moll Flanders sense of dignity and composure
to be another one of those bloat- to those around him. His acting
ed epics documenting "the in- is so natural and effortless, we
domitable human spirit" against must be careful not to take him
the backdrop of some historical for granted. Stockard Channing
event or romantic locale. It turns has the small but pivotal role of
out, that while the trailers
a cutthroat social climber
create an accurate first
constantly trying to ex-
impression, the film can-
ploit Moll. As the title
not be simply dismissed as
character, Wright takes
mere dramatic bluster.
few chances but effectively con-
Starring Robin Wright (Jenny veys her character's spirit in a
Gump) and Mor-
chronicles the sto-
ry of a woman in
England who has
suffered an im-
possibly tragic life
and manages to
better awaits her.
In the course of
the film, through
see Moll forced
robbed of her
child. Any one of
would have dev-
Lynch plays a struggling artist who falls in love with
astated a lesser John
Moll Flanders (Robin Wright).
person, but Moll
one-dimensional sort of way.
how has the fortitude to press on
Because Moll Flanders is an
undaunted. Although Moll's for- epic kind of film, it seems longer
tunes are constantly rising and than it actually is. When the film
falling, Freeman's character, a ends, with a rather uplifting
benevolent henchman of sorts, is twist, you can sit back and savor
the one source of consistency in Freeman's performance. He
her life. It is through Freeman makes the experience feel like
that her story is recapitulated.
watching your favorite athlete
The many tragedies that Moll lead his team to victory — albeit
endures play out like a season's in overtime.
worth of "Melrose Place" in one
sitting, but the movie is able to
rise above melodrama through its
See Movie Listings
on page 88.
The Phantom (Billy Zane) rescues Diana Palmer (Kristy Swanson).
The Phantom is actually an
old concept: he's been around in
Lee Falk's comic strip since 1936.
uperheroes are a dime a Legend has it that 400 years ago
dozen these days, or so it a small boy witnessed his fa-
seems. Each summer is sure ther's murder by pirates of the
to lift another spandex-wear- evil Sengh Brotherhood and,
ing, power-wielding good guy off vowing to forever fight piracy,
the comic book trash heap and cruelty, and injustice in all
onto the silver screen. And now forms, became the Phantom.
that the big names (like Super- Generations of descendants have
man and Batman) have long carried that role into the 20th
been exhausted, the pickings are century, where new trouble is
getting pretty slim and obscure. brewing.
The hero-movie The Phantom,
Nefarious and heartless Xan-
directed by Simon Wincer (Free der Drax (Treat Williams), a
Willy) and written by Jeffrey New York City capitalist/mega-
Boam, is an example of this lomaniac, wants to take over the
world, and he has just
Decked out in purple
the plan to do it. Three
spandex and of muscular
skulls — one gold, one
build, the Phantom (Billy
silver, one jade — from
Zane) gives a promising first im- the jungle island of Bengalla,
pression. But as we soon learn, when united, give their owner
this hero isn't blessed with - the unlimited power, and Drax is on
cool stuff with which many of his a ruthless quest to obtain all
peers dazzle us. Instead of a three.
kicking Batmobile, he rides a
The Phantom, resident and
boring white stallion named protector of Bengalla, has a thing
Hero. Devoid of super-human or two to say about that. Aided
strength, he simply carries a by the brave and lovely Diana
gun. And you can forget about X- Palmer (Kristy Swanson), he's
ray vision or the ability to fly; out to stop Drax and his hench-
he's just not that talented. Heck, people, Quill (James Remar) and
the Phantom's not even immor- Sala (Catherine Zeta Jones), be-
fore the skulls are found and
However, he does have a skull things get out of hand. His mis-
cave; an alter-ego, Kit Walker; sion of justice takes him from
and a pet wolf, Devil, which, I Bengalla to New York and back
guess, is interesting, and kids to Bengalla once again until the
generally aren't too picky. So as big showdown occurs in a cave
a summer kiddy-flick, The Phan- deep under the ocean.
tom might just suffice.
The Phantom has no real sur-
prises, but plays it right by the
superhero-film book (if there
were such a thing). Like most
hero-portrayers, Zane lends his
character a benevolent, soft-spo-
ken manner with a hint of sar-
casm. He's hardly as imposing
as a Batman or Superman,
though. As Diana Palmer, Swan-
son hopelessly overacts, which,
when combined with the less-
than-spectacular special effects,
gives the film a comic-book feel.
And similar to the Joker or Lex
Luther, Williams, as Drax, is so
evil that he can wreak havoc
with a sense of humor.
In summary, The Phantom
might be just super enough to fill
the summer hero-craving of
young kids. But everyone else
will recognize him for what he
is: a guy in purple tights.
— Dan Zimmerman