Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm Reviews
Good movie. It was entertaining and fun. Loved it!
Batman, the costumed crime-fighter who prowls the night skies in Gotham City, soon finds there's another vigilante in town knocking off prominent mob figures. Despite the scythe-like blade for a hand, a mechanical voice and the cloud of smoke that follows the figure wherever it goes, the police and outraged officials mistake the homicidal crusader for Batman himself and demand that the city's longtime hero be brought to justice. Meanwhile, Andrea Beaumont returns to town. She is the lost love of Bruce Wayne, the billionaire playboy who is Batman's alter ego, and was an integral part of Wayne's decision ten years earlier to don the cape and cowl. Now, she is back in his life and is no less a disruption than the return of his old archenemy, The Joker, who has a stake in seeing the annihilation of this new vigilante, whoever it proves to be.
Phantasm works so well because it pairs the usual themes of the show with an extremely bittersweet love story and tons of the detective elements that are always present in Batman's best tales. Equal time is spent with the present day mystery of the Phantasm, and Bruce's early experiments with vigilante justice.
It's great to see Bruce Wayne get equal focus in the story, and in many ways the scenes with him out of costume are the most interesting and pivotal to the story. The Joker plays a crucial part in the plot, and a woman is introduced who had a powerful influence on Bruce's decision to become Batman. What more could the true Batman fan ask for? Mask of the Phantasm is worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as The Dark Knight and Batman Returns. There's a classic story within its animated trappings.
Mask Of The Phantasm is not just a film continuation of the brilliant animated series but it also serves as the origin story for the Batman of this franchise. Batman Begins is the only other film to go into great detail about Bruce Wayne before becoming Batman but this film does something a little different. It introduces the idea of someone making Bruce think twice about his crusade on crime. By giving Bruce Wayne a love interest, this adds a new angle to the Batman mythology. Bruce's line "I didn't count on being happy" is a powerful one and shows the level of dedication he has to this woman if he's thinking of giving up on crimefighting all together.
One of the other different approaches the film takes is using regular gangsters as the villians with the exception of the Joker and new character, the titular Phantasm. This is a great move as the events unfolding in current day Gotham tie into the past events before the rise of Batman and serve to explain the Phantasm's reason for being in Gotham.
Speaking of the Clown Prince Of Crime, we have another case of two actors having to share a title, in this case, Heath Ledger and Mark Hamill for greatest Joker. Mark always sounds like he has a lot of fun when doing this role and it's no different here. What I've always loved about Mark's Joker is that he can swap between charming and psychotic faster than it takes to blink an eye. My absolute favorite line in this is his line "DON'T TOUCH ME OLD MAN, I don't know where you've been!" changing between rage and humor so fast.
A grand effort, with a truly moving song playing over the end credits. I love the show, I love this movie and I love the DCAU. Kevin and Mark may have to share their respective titles, but in the end, everybody wins. They get acclaim for memorable roles and we get excellent performances. If you could only watch one animated Batman movie, or even one animated comic book movie, make it this one (and if you get to see a second, stay within the DCAU and get Return Of The Joker.)
Before 'Begins' this really was the best Batman movie.
As with the animated series, the story here is very good at creating an engaging mystery with characters that aren't just cartoons. It also uses a good amount of influence from the comics, even while introducing an intriguing new villain, the Phantasm.
Police Commissioner James Gordon: He didn't do it! It's garbage, Councilman! The Batman does not kill. You want him, you get him! I'll have no part in it.
This time around, Batman is investigating a new character in town, who is taking out a series of people. During this time some familiar faces appear including an old flame of Bruce Wayne's and the Joker. Things become complicated when Batman becomes wanted for the murders that this new Phantasm character is committing.
The story also flashes back to a younger Bruce Wayne, during his early years of becoming a vigilante, showing his strive between wanting justice vs. the possibility of a normal life.
While of course being a story meant to be entertaining and appropriate for all ages, the movie is still focused on characters and story as much as it is showing off cool Bat-action. It also helps that Alfred is always available to provide some good banter and the Joker, voice by Mark Hamil, is such an enjoyable villain.
Joker: You're crazy! I'm your only chance to get out of here! Let me go or we'll both die!
Batman: Whatever it takes!
As with the series, the production value of this movie is great. Switching to widescreen to expand the scope of this film as well, this is a great looking movie. The animated series has always used a unique approach by having all the drawings on black opposed to white paper, leading to a dark atmosphere that is perfect for the world of Gotham that Batman fights in.
The music is also very good, pulling in some orchestrated pieces due to the expanded scope.
Very well made as well. Everything works. A vision of Batman that holds truer than most of the films, is entertaining, and cool.
Arthur Reeves: [on TV, refering to Batman] What kind of city are we running when we depend on the support of a potential madman!
Alfred: What rot, sir! Why you're the very model of sanity. Oh by the way, I pressed your tights and put away your exploding gas balls.
Bruce Wayne: Thank you, Alfred.
As a theatrically-released movie with a 76 minute running time, Mask of the Phantasm had license to do things the Saturday afternoon cartoon show could not do. It's a darker, more mature look at Batman than the series could be, receiving a PG rating. It's no Sin City or Heavy Metal, but is more intense than usual, showing murder, blood, and allusions to sex that could never be shown on the show. Which is not to say that it's an adult film, because it's not. It's still an animated movie about a super-hero, and is still primarily for kids (albeit, older kids and adults). It just means that Mask of the Phantasm is closer to the comic book than the series is allowed to be.
In terms of story, Mask of the Phantasm is a mystery movie, as a new vigilante, who bears similarities to Batman, comes to Gotham and begins executing mob bosses. Batman must figure out who this new vigilante is to end the Phantasm's rampage, while Batman himself is being accused of the crimes. Meanwhile, a former love is back in Gotham (voiced by Dana Delany), drudging up painful memories for Bruce Wayne of the one who got away. While dealing with the Phantasm, his long-lost love, and Gotham Police, Batman also has to deal with The Joker, who is somehow involved in everything.
The movie is an excellent combination of action and suspense. Strangely, since it is a cartoon, this film has the most convincing and realistic love story in Batman movie history (although, to be fair, there's no real competition in that area, as all the other love stories in Batman movies have been rushed and unconvincing). Comic book fans will geek out over the Year One like flashbacks featuring a non-costumed young Bruce Wayne attempting to fight crime, and the appearance of the Phantasm, who, with a cape, spectre-like mask, and scythe, bears a strong resemblance to Year Two's murderous vigilante The Reaper.
Personally, I absolutely loved this movie. However, it's not a movie for everyone. If you're not already a fan of Batman or Batman: The Animated Series, then I don't think this movie would have much of interest for you. But if you are a fan of the series or the character, then I highly recommend you check this film out.