Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Fenomenal Is Fundamental!!

Ah, the simple pleasures of the superhero genre. Good guys, bad guys, ass-whuppings, cool trinkets, incredible costumes, mysterious women. All these things make superheroes and their kin interesting.

Someone should tell Phenomenal about all of that stuff, and then he'd be cool, too.

I grew up with superheroes. Batman and Spiderman were always my favorites because they seemed more human. One well-placed bullet, and they would be dead. Yet they escaped death on a regular basis and proceeded to save the day. It was always black and white when I was a kid, and these costumed heroes always knew what side to be on.

In Europe, they had grown bored with standard tales of good versus evil. What if the heroes weren't so sure what was right? What if we stopped rooting for the heroes and started rooting for the villains? These were questions too complex for a kid who could barely figure out how his favorite horror magazines made it to his local drugstore so he could buy them every month. Tales of these movies crossed my path, but how could you make a movie about a bad guy and make him the hero, I wondered.

Well, if you happen upon Danger: Diabolik, you can see that rooting for the bad guy can be fun. Master criminal showing up the people who think they are so moral and upstanding. Pure entertainment. Excitement, action, cool costumes, groovy chase scenes and alluring women. Yup, all the things the superheroes promised with the added thrill of being naughty. The stuff teen-aged boys dream of.

I'm not here to do a breakdown of all of the European anti-heroes who donned capes or costumes. I'll leave that to the folks who want to read far more into their movies than I do. I will go on record as saying
Phenomenal and the Treasure of Tutankamen does to the European comic book anti-hero, or the fumetti genre, what Adam Sandler does to comedy. What would that be? you ask. Ruin it.

If you scan for other reviews of this film, you will find most of them like the first few minutes of the film. Phenomenal kicks the snot out of a boatload of guys while his turtleneck is pulled over his face. He laughs like a loony after every seaman falls. Hokey but fun. It turns out the boat was involved in a drug smuggling setup. Hooray, Phenomenal can kick ass AND he's a good guy.

Now you can forget about Phenomenal. You won't see him for at least 20 minutes or more, and then it is only for a second or two while he watches a bad guy steal something from a museum. But don't be alarmed. You'll be treated to inane dialogue that is poorly dubbed. You'll meet a bewildering array of characters. You'll watch as Paris grinds to a halt the second a bike-load of baguettes falls to the sidewalk, and a cop directing the insane traffic leaves his post to check on the condition of the bread. To hell with safety, there's baked goods on the ground! You'll watch crosses and double-crosses and triple-crosses until you don't give a flying fart because you just want to see Phenomenal kicking some more ass.

As Westley said in The Princess Bride, "Get used to disappointment." Oh, sure, the guy in the dopey all-black costume shows up, only to have people throw themselves at his fists until they get tired then they just fall down. And that cool, you hear it once, maybe twice. No cool trinkets. The women are okay. The whole thing is kind of like filming Superman with Woody Allen in the costume.

As for the secret identity of Phenomenal, forget it. If you can't pick out the guy who dons the black duds the second he hits the screen, you really should just stop the movie and go play with some Tinker Toys or something. Just don't get any splinters because you'll most likely let it abscess, and you'll die of blood poisoning.

I'll admit that I'm being a bit hard on this film. There is one delight within the whipped confection of pointlessness, and that is the music. Don't just trust me on this. Go to and hear for yourself. In fact, I'd recommend buying the soundtrack and bypass the movie completely. Unless you just really have to watch the hero get outted by customs at the end of the film, as if we didn't already know who he was.

It would seem that Video Asia's Grindhouse Experience really did scrape the bottom of that Dumpster behind your local choke-n-puke joint to find these films. Better luck next time, we hope.

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