The Associated Press reports that The Phantom is getting a remake, of sorts.  I’ll give you a minute to digest that news.  No, really, take your time.

Ready to continue?  Okay.  Apparently an Australian production company “has secured the rights to The Phantom Legacy.”  As if they had a real fight on their hands with other companies after the same purple prize.  Screenwriter Tim Boyle and producer Bruce Sherlock both spoke with the AP, and they provided plenty of specific plot and production details.  For instance, the film is budgeted at $87 million.  (Not $80 million, not $90 million…)  That’s almost twice the budget of The Phantom‘s 1996 big screen adventure which starred Billy Zane, Kristy Swanson, and Treat Williams.  This new adventure won’t be a sequel to that endearing bomb, but will instead be a “a fresh look at the origins of the Phantom set in the present.”

For those of you not on the cutting edge of pop culture, “The Phantom” first appeared as a comic strip in the thirties and followed the adventures of it’s titular hero, aka Kit Walker.  Walker was the last in a long line of men who fight crime and injustice, and who pass on their hobby (not to mention their sweaty purple tights) to their sons.  Whereas his predecessors fought Nazis, megalomaniacs, and gypsies, Kit Walker’s greatest challenge was coming to terms with his genetic homosexuality.  His forefathers concealed their predilections behind bravado, masks, and tremendous equestrian skills, but Kit questioned it all, thus threatening the bloodline.  It’s quite a progressive and provocative theme for a comic strip in the thirties and forties.

One of the things that I always questioned about the Phantom is why the Phantom legacy keeps passing down from generation to generation,” Boyle said.  “To me, what would be interesting is seeing the son that didn’t want to be the Phantom.  That to me is a far more interesting story.  So that’s kind of where I focused the plot around with the father and son sort of thing — where the father is the Phantom, but the son doesn’t want to be the Phantom, and the question is … will he step up and be the man he’s destined to be? Or will he go down a different path?”

Sherlock says The Phantom Legacy will be an improvement over the 1996 film, which he also produced.  “It has the makings of a blockbuster,” he says. “There’s some surprises that will thrill the Phantom fans worldwide.”  He also claims the film will be shot entirely in Australia and should start production within six to nine months.  Oh, and they’re in talks with several top actors for the lead role, but that’s where the specifics stopped.

Honestly, it sounds like someone’s trying to drum up some financing here.  $87 million for a second attempt at a big screen adventure is a lofty goal, and I just don’t see it happening in the near future.  If by some miracle they do manage to acquire that kind of scratch, may I suggest Billy Zane for the lead role… again…  The poor guy hasn’t been in theaters since Zoolander in 2001 (although he has been busy… twenty or more movies in the past seven years!)  With any luck, 2010 can be the year we witness the resurrection of Billy Zane.

Are you excited about a return of The Phantom?  Do you realize that I made up half of that comic strip synopsis?

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