It’s January, so a bunch of movies just became 20 years old. Out of Sight. The Thin Red Line. Happiness. Run Lola Run. Saving Private Ryan. Shakespeare in Love. The Truman Show. The Big Lebowski. Great movies. Classics.
Here’s another movie celebrating a just-shy-of-legal-drinking-age birthday: Phantoms.
In that 20 years, Phantoms has been reduced to a one-liner joke in a Kevin Smith movie ("Yo, you were the bomb in Phantoms!"). I was very curious to know if the movie was worth more consideration. I admit I had seen it when it came out, or rather I was waiting for another movie to start so I walked into the theater showing Phantoms and watched the first 15 minutes. I was not convinced to stay.
Phantoms came out in January, a traditional dumping ground for bad movies, except for this: Good Will Hunting was still in theaters. The Weinsteins used their own prestigious feel-good hit movie, soon to be Oscar-nominated, to try to sell tickets to a dumb genre flick that happened to feature one of Hunting's stars. That kind of thing has definitely fallen away in the last two decades. There's no low-budget Body Snatchers rip off starring Lady Gaga to scam on Star is Born fans for a quick buck.
The Miramax/Dimension machine was truly a marvel of deception, for both audiences and talent. Just look at the VHS cover photo for Phantoms. In the late 90s, all the movie theaters and video stores were clogged with Dimension marketing like that: four sexy stars styled/wardrobed for a photo shoot rather than like their characters in the film, surrounded by vague lighting. (Affleck is sporting a black leather blazer his Phantoms Colorado sheriff character would have no time for.) I don't know how many rentals Phantoms got off Rose McGowan or Liev Schrieber. I imagine it was about the same for fans of Sisqo and Get Over It.
On the actor side, it seems pretty clear in retrospect that Miramax would be all, "we love you, we have so many great scripts we want to make. While we get those ready, want to be the third lead in an ironic monster movie?" And they weren't all as lucky as Ben Affleck.
But I'm supposed to be talking about Phantoms. I watched the full thing this time, and there really isn't anything to say. Schrieber is great though, as a creepy sheriff's deputy who becomes an alien host. Peter O'Toole does solid paycheck work as a disgraced paranormal investigator. There are two brunettes and they are unfortunately interchangeable, in most respects, character-wise. But, most importantly:
Trust me when I tell you Affleck is most definitely not the bomb in Phantoms.