Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

by Alan Rapp on July 17, 2008

in DVD Reviews , Theme Week

  • Title: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
  • IMDB: link

“I need it to be different now.  I know I made a promise, but I didn’t see this coming.  I didn’t count on being happy.”

The return of Bruce Wayne’s (Kevin Conroy) lost love (Dana Delany) to Gotham and the arrival of a new mysterious villain are the ingredients to what is, at least so far, the best Batman film ever made.

Taking pieces from both Frank Miller’s Barman: Year One and Mike Barr’s Batman: Year Two this animated flick gives us a new villain for Batman to fight and ghosts from the past which must be confronted.  The best scenes of the film involve the flashbacks of Bruce Wayne weighing his new feelings for Andrea (Delany) versus the vow he made to his parents.  Of all the Batman movies made Mask of the Phantasm does the best job of capturing the continually tortured soul of Bruce Wayne on screen.

Also included are flashbacks scenes of Bruce Wayne’s first night out as a vigilante, with missed success (something missing from Batman Begins) and a look back at the first moment Bruce Wayne donned his famous costume in one of the best Batman scenes ever.  Neither Tim Burton nor Christopher Nolan have given us anything as perfect in this simple shadow non-reveal reveal of Batman’s first appearance.

As Bruce Wayne deals with the return of the woman who broke his heart and allowed Batman to be born, Batman tracks down this new killer who seems to be targeting the former criminal business associates of Andrea’s missing father (Stacy Keach).  The two stories collide with the arrival of the Joker (Mark Hamill) for a furious and explosive finish.

The look and style of the film, borrowed from the television series, the art deco shadowy streets and rooftops, is terrific.  And many of the characters, though animated, come off more real than in many live-action comic book movies.

Of all the Bat-films made this is the only one to get the character completely right.  We get all aspects of Batman – his tortured past, his criminal and detective skills, the gadgets, his fighting abilties, his athleticism, even the occasional joke, all wrapped up in a non-rubberized-armored costume (yes!).  Because it borrows so much from the comics, including story, it turns out to be one of the best written comic book films, though it gets into a little trouble when it makes a few changes to the formula.  My only complaint with the film is the final act has a bit too much Joker, but considering all it gets right, and how much fun the Joker is to watch, that’s a small quibble indeed.

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