Director: Eric Radomski and Bruce Timm
Cast: Mark Hamill, Kevin Conroy,
Review Author: Shaun
For months now I’ve been chasing down our good friend Shaun to write articles and reviews for the site. Over the years Shaun has been one of my favourite people to discuss movies as he has always had strong opinions whether they match mine or not. Well I finally wore him down and I’m delighted to present his first review for the site which thankfully will be followed by plenty more.
While watching the latest entry to the DC animated universe, the very disappointing Killing Joke, I began to recall the first entry of the DC animated films Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. At its basics, it’s a full length feature from the batman animated series. It sees a mysterious dark figure terrorising the streets of Gotham killing off selected mob bosses with the police putting the blame on the Bat. It’s up to Batman to discover this new threat and confront ghosts from the past. The movie brings Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamail back to reprise their roles from the TV show and this is where the film shines! The chemistry between these two is outstanding and lays the fountain of their future relationship which the Arkham games would pull from.
The movie itself was not a big hit during its initial release back in 1993 due to the fact it was scheduled for a direct-to-video release before the heads of WB changed it because of the quality of the finished product exceeded expectations.
The film greatest strengths come from the way it presents much higher stakes with characters dying and giving Batman a deeply personal matter with which to contend. To do so, the film delves into Bruce’s back story and displays a romance he had that left him conflicted about whether or not to continue in his crime fighting as his love has given him happiness. However, this relationship causes Bruce’s emotional struggle as the first source of happiness that Bruce ever had following the death of his parents has become part of what he had sworn to end. It truly presents beautiful inner conflict in both the backstory portions while also foreshadowing events to come with the Phantasm.
Though it’s not just inner conflict that’s at play in this film. It gives the audience a good foil to Bruce and Batman. The two characters aren’t so different, which is something that not only The Phantasm believes, but that Alfred does as well. At least to a point, considering that both characters are looking for the same vengeance. But that’s where the similarities end as Batman has his rule of no killing and The Phantasm has no qualms about doing so. Alfred masterfully points out the differences between the characters when he notes to Bruce that the soul is blackened by vengeance and that he has always feared Bruce as Batman would become the monsters he fights.
The feature also has some very well-done symbolism revolving around the amusement park regarding Bruce’s back story which was never explored in the TV Show. It’s this imagery that ties his greatest rival into the film. The state of the amusement park acts as great metaphor for the future of Bruce and Gotham city. When he and his love are visiting in the past, it’s up and running, presenting a bright, hopeful, and idealistic vision of the future, coinciding nicely with Bruce’s path before the Bat. However, in the present day, the park is very run down. It’s decayed, dark, and quite cynical. It shows how Bruce and Gotham have fallen, with the latter now having a thriving criminal underworld and the former having no hope or happiness for anything.
The film acts as an origin story for the animated series and takes elements from Batman year one while putting their own non-linear twist on it. Even today, over 20 years later the story and animation still holds up as one of WB’s best animated films and personally I would hold this up as one of the best Batman films put to screen. The film shows the true power of animated storytelling which WB would not press on till 14 years later with Superman Doomsday, this is a must see for any Batman fan, I would highly recommend any superhero fan to seek out a copy of this movie.
Do you agree? Have you seen the film? Let me know what you think down below and we can get a little discussion going, I have been Shaun and thank you for reading!