Movie Review: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

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About: Despite being an avid fan of the Batman: The Animated Series, I was unaware until recently that there was a theatrical release of a movie based in the same universe with the same creative team. That is, until Nostalgia Critic recently did a review on the film, claiming that it might just be the best Batman movie of all time. Well, is it true? I would almost say so. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is the title of this movie and it was released in 1993. It features the voice talents of Kevin Conroy (Batman) and Mark Hamill (The Joker) and was directed by Eric Radomski and Bruce Timm. Though it received praise from critics, it failed in the box office due to it’s sudden release, having been originally planned as a Direct-To-Video movie.

Plot: When a murder is committed by the elusive Phantasm during a conference between Crime Bosses in Gotham, Batman is mistaken as the killer by the Gotham PD (excluding Commissioner Gordon). They begin a massive hunt for the Bat, which he is careful to avoid. While tracking down clues to the murder, Bruce Wayne reminisces to ten years prior, before he became Batman during a party at his mansion, after Councilman Arthur Reeves reminds him that he’s always had bad luck with women. It turns out that he had a serious relationship with a woman named Andrea Beaumont. Between flashbacks to their relationship ten years prior and tracking down clues to the crimes, it’s revealed that Bruce almost allowed himself to become happy and to move on past the murders of his parents, even proposing to Andrea. The Phantasm seems to be targeting Crime Bosses with connections to Andrea’s father as well, connecting the past to the future. Will Batman be able to connect the dots and stop the Phantasm’s string of murders or will the police arrest him for the crimes he didn’t commit?

Warning! Spoilers lie ahead!

Characters: My favorite part about this movie was how much it delves into the psyche of Bruce Wayne/Batman, while still allowing itself moments of humor and some lighthearted scenes. Not only does the movie show Batman at his finest, connecting the dots to a crime and solving a mystery as only a true phenomenal Detective like the Bat can do, it also takes time to explore the internal struggle that Bruce went through. Ten years ago, he allowed himself to become happy with Andrea. Only Bruce never foresaw himself having the ability to become happy, as it was outside of the plan of training and fighting for Justice after his parents’ deaths. He is in a tug-of-war over whether or not he should allow himself to be happy or do what is right. He even gets into a scuffle in front of Andrea and is knocked to the ground with a bat because he allows her to distract him. His internal torture is very humanizing as well as something everyone can identify with.

Alfred is in this movie for the briefest of sections, but despite his brief appearances, it’s very clear how much he supports Bruce but he also throws wit and scolds Bruce humorously whenever he deserves it. It’s also clear that Alfred wants Bruce to be happy and he offers his advice as much as is needed, without browbeating him. The two are sometimes at odds during the movie, but it’s clear that their relationship is very strong.

Andrea was also a character I did not see myself liking at first. However, her personality is very interesting. She’s a more complex personality than I originally gave her credit for and the more she’s involved, the more you realize she has layers to her character and she has some strong character development over ten years that is heavily influenced by what happened to her. Without going into too many spoilers for the movie, I will say that she makes you question what you would do in her shoes, more often than not. Besides all that, she’s a firecracker and has a lot of sharp wit that I appreciated and you can see that her and Bruce have some very strong chemistry that is undeniable and very believable.

Of course, the supporting cast is brilliant. We have the Joker played by Mark Hamill, which is brilliant in and of itself. Every time that he plays the part, you can tell his whole heart and soul is in it and you can feel the madness of the Joker, including his maniacal laughter and clever and insane antics. Commission Gordon is also a huge Batman supporter, and never doubts him for a second despite everyone around him wanting to toss the Bat in jail. The crime bosses are varied as well.

Animation: If you’ve seen some of the brilliant animation that came out of Batman: The Animated Series and liked it, then this animation will further blow your mind. Scenes are more developed than they were in the series, as the production staff was given the funds and time to dedicate to it. CGI is used only in the briefest of instances: during the intro, and is well executed to give a dramatic, gothic and impressive opening. The shadows during the dark sections are pushed and lighting plays a huge role in the mood each scene creates but the animation also knows how to be light and comforting when needed as well, to show the happy moments of Bruce’s life. Character designs are straight from Batman: The Animated Series and have that comic book feel. Fight scenes are amazingly fast paced and smooth, including an impressive fight scene between Batman and the Joker and Batman being hunted by the Police. It’s also not afraid to show Batman bleed or disturbing deaths.

Soundtrack: The soundtrack is often just as dramatic and gothic as the animation, tying beautifully together. The intro is very similar to the Batman: The Animated Series opening, however, Shirley Walker (composer) was given a bigger budget to create the music. The OST for the entire movie is impressive and serves to create tension, dramatic pause and build up that serves a very important part of the entire film.

Overall: If you are a Batman fan, or even a lover of Superhero films, this movie is definitely for you. This film deserves praise and recognition for how stunningly beautiful it is. Classic Batman at it’s finest, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm has pretty much everything and anything you would expect from a Batman film and executes it all brilliantly. You will get the origin story, some romance, crime fighting and mystery all wrapped up into one perfect bundle. I have absolutely nothing negative to say about this piece of art.

For more, check out Nostalgia Critic’s Review:

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