Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm 1993

This is one of the very few superhero movies left that I had not yet seen before that I really felt like I was missing out on an important and/or great movie. There’s still plenty out there for me to watch, but most of the rest of them are more obscure and/or pretty bad. When I ask the question “What’s your favorite superhero movie?” this movie has come up on more than one occasion so it’s got to be a pretty good movie, and it’s more or less a spin-off of the amazing 90’s Batman: The Animated Series which I watched and loved back when it was coming out with new episodes, and I’ve also seen and enjoyed every one of DC Animation’s home video Batman movies so I was looking forward to finally watching this one and I’m pleased to say that for the most part it didn’t disappoint. My only qualms come from the fact that I did watch this one out of chronological order and so many story elements that were used in this movie were done as well if not better in later movies that I was already familiar with. But aside from that, it was great to finally see this movie and the nostalgia from the animation and music style from the animated series.

Batman Mask of the Phantasm

One of the things that I noticed quite a bit about this movie is how several other movies and comic book arcs borrow from parts of the storyline. The main aspect of the plot revolves around a new vigilante known as the Phantasm who comes into Gotham delivering vigilante justice, but instead of incapacitating them and leaving them for the authorities like Batman does, he goes one step further and flat out kills them, something that seems to have popped up a few other times in the Batman mythology, most notably with the Red Hood. There’s also a part of the story which revolves around a woman in Bruce Wayne’s life that actually made him happy enough to consider giving up his role as Batman, though most of the relationship is told through flashbacks back when he was first translating his sense of justice into becoming the Batman. This popped up in my experience again with Kevin Smith’s Cacophony and the Widening Gyre. And yet another story element where Batman is being targeted as a criminal by the Gotham PD happens in The Dark Knight Returns. And of course, it wouldn’t be a Batman story without having the Joker involved in some way, shape, or form.

The voice acting is the usually high standard coming off of the animated series with Kevin Conroy as the voice of Batman and Mark Hamill playing the Joker, and no other real names in the cast list outside of the voice acting community. The animation is also something that I quite enjoyed seeing the style from the classic series while still having moments of higher production values that come with a feature length movie. The Joker was given a bit of a new origin story even though it was mostly just hinted at through flashback in this story. This movie also takes a brief look at Batman’s own origin story as well as he remembers his time with Andrea Beaumont with flashbacks of him taking on criminals for the first time as well as his inspiration for the Batman costume and persona.

There’s also a bit of a twist in the plot concerning who the Phantasm actually is, though it’s not too hard to guess in my opinion. But it doesn’t really detract from the overall story. It still sets up a compelling mystery surrounding Andrea’s return to Gotham, her father and his dealings with the criminal underground, and the District Attorney who is vying for a more prominent position while still having ties to the same criminal underground as he used to work for Andrea’s father. And of course it all comes around to a big showdown with the Joker in an old, abandoned theme park of “the future” which is definitely one of the highlights of the movie especially when it comes to hearing Mark Hamill’s Joker. It ties all these elements together to create a well crafted story that’s on par, if not better, than any of the stories from the animated series and it holds up just as well to many of the DC Animation movies that have come out in recent years with darker storylines and similar budgets. I think it suffers a bit for me just because I have seen many of these story elements used in other Batman stories, but they still work together very well here. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.

About Bubbawheat

I'm a comic book movie enthusiast who has watched and reviewed over 500 superhero and comic book movies in the past seven years, my goal is to continue to find and watch and review every superhero movie ever made.

Posted on July 21, 2014, in 90's movies and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Glad you finally saw this and enjoyed it. It is an essential part of the canon. You have similar issues to what I have with the animated version of Batman: Year One. So many of the things about the comic that were groundbreaking come off as dated on the screen because so many of them have been used repeatedly in the years since the print version came out. Good review.

    • Yeah, it seems like every few years Batman comes across another vigilante that goes too far, or gets a girlfriend that could be his one true love but gets killed or becomes a villain. There’s still some good stories behind those plot hooks, they’re just not as original as they once were.

  2. Glad you finally saw this. Of the “animated series spin-off” movies, I would say this is the best overall (though SubZero is also pretty good.) It’s also important, I think, as being the first animated movie based on a character from one of the “Big Two” to receive a theatrical release. (And until Big Hero 6 later this year, the only one.)

    I agree that the secret of the Phantasm’s identity is about as surprising as socks on Christmas, but it’s still a pretty entertaining story despite that. I can definitely see how some of the story elements would seem overly familiar though.

    • Often it feels like even though Batman is still quite popular and current, there are really only about a dozen or so different types of stories to tell with him that get repeated in slight variations across comics, TV, and movies.

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