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Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

The acclaimed 1993 animated film that was a tie-in to "Batman: The Animated Series".

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"Vengeance Blackens the Soul..."

  • Jul 27, 2012
Rating:
+5
In 1992, Batman The Animated Series came around and changed just about everything we knew about animated television shows.  Especially those based off comic books.  The show itself has left a much bigger legacy than anyone could remember, including being commonly referred to as the greatest animated television series ever made.  It's a shame then that the movie it spawned never achieved that same amount of attention or acclaim.  Batman Mask of the Phantasm came out into theaters in 1993 and was a colossal bomb at the box office.  So much so that any other animated movie of Batman has gone straight to DVD or VHS.  It's also a shame because Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is a criminally underwatched film and may, in fact, be the best Batman movie out there.  It's short, but covers a ton of bases in its 76 minutes, but tells a mature story in the process.  It's light enough on the dark tone for children, but serious enough for adults.  Batman Mask of the Phantasm does just about everything right. 

The movie begins with a few mobsters cutting a deal that Batman quickly breaks up.  While trying to escape from Batman, a new masked vigilante appears.  Unlike Batman, however, the Phantasm is out to take the lives of these mobsters.  A select few of them.  But thanks to the garb he wears and the mysterious nature of his ways, the cops and the press have constantly mistaken him to be Batman.  Only Commissioner Gordon is convinced that it isn't.  As he is quick to remind us, "Batman doesn't kill.  It's somebody else."  Batman needs to figure out who the Phantasm is.  But just the same, an old flame of his has come into town.  Her name is Andrea, and this is a woman who more or less meant the world to Bruce.  The film jumps between past and present as we learn how Bruce and Andrea became a fitting romance and how the mobsters are now trying to protect themselves--ultimately going to The Joker for help.  The two stories weave themselves together extremely well to form the perfect murder mystery, origin for Batman (because Bruce and Andrea's romance just happens to take place before Wayne became Batman) and how Bruce really does cope with living a double life.

At 76 minutes, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm isn't very long but it hits the ground running and never lets up.  It does a good job weaving what is actually a pretty interesting story that, overall, leads us down the road of, "This is who Bruce Wayne could've become..." and it's a damn interesting story in nearly ever facet of the word.  The movie is also a pretty fast paced one, but mainly it's one that doesn't waste anything.  There are not that many downtrodden moments.  And while it's another moment of learning about how Bruce Wayne became Batman it's woven into the narrative in a good manner, mainly because a major theme of the film in and of itself is Vengeance.  It makes for a good movie.

The dark tone adds a bit to it, but it's mostly the art stylings that make it stand out more so than anything.  A movie you can look at and take seriously in spite of some of its lighter and more humorous moments.  And there are plenty to be sure. 

There isn't much that's really wrong with the movie.  Aside from the fact that it's short.  And by that I mean, I wish there was more of it to enjoy.  But what you get is pretty enjoyable.  The voice talents are very good and so is the overall story.  The soundtrack is also a standout, being among the best recorded for the series.  It's also a complex story, but surprisingly simple to follow while still being interesting.  You're not going to feel like a genius for figuring it all out, but you won't feel dumb if you don't.  And because of how long it is you might not mind watching it a second time just for the sake of enjoyment.  I loved this movie as a kid (one of the few who sat through it in the theater) and I still enjoy it now. 

It's a shame, then, that Batman: Mask of the Phantasm never went on to much success at the box office. It was a commercial flop despite a very low budget.  The movie failed to hook an audience in theaters.  And while it grew to cult success on VHS and DVD, it's very strange that the movie in and of itself still doesn't have much of an audience.  There's a very devoted cult following to the movie, but ask anyone about theatrical Batman movies and this is the one they always forget.  For those who have seen it, however, it is commonly referred to as the best of the Batman movies out there (although some now contest it with The Dark Knight) but that's a very small minority.  Despite the Cult Following the movie is still hard to come by and still particularly unseen by a great deal of people.  But if you were a fan of Batman: The Animated Series in the mid 90's (and a great deal of you were) then this is mandatory viewing. 

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August 17, 2012
For me this is the best Batman movie....and an awesome follow up to the animated series.
August 17, 2012
Excellent review for the Batman enthusiasts! Finally, I got onto the system after a month of frustrating Lunch.com maintenance.
 
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More Batman: Mask of the Phantasm reviews
Quick Tip by . February 06, 2013
posted in Movie Hype
Despite being less-known than the Batman movies directed by Tim Burton, Joel Shumacher, and Christopher Nolan, I think Batman:  Mask of the Phantasm beats all of them (especially the Schumacher movies, which are needless to say, blights to cinema).      Being made by the same geniuses that created Batman:  The Animated Series, all the strokes of genius in that show have carried over into this film.  Just about everything in this movie is perfect, whether it be …
Quick Tip by . August 13, 2011
Theatrical poster
This remains for me one of the best Batman films ever made. The film ties in with the first season of Batman: The Animated Series, but it also has some clever references and allusions to the first two Tim Burton films as well as some of the Batman comics (most notably Batman: Year One).   The tone is pretty dark and there's a bit more action and violence than one might expect to find in a PG film, but I think that for most fans, myself included, that this is part of what made the film …
Quick Tip by . September 24, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Bruce Timm did wonders for establishing the definitive animated Batman.
review by . May 12, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
I missed this movie when it first came out. Within the last few years, I've gotten back into watching my favorite cartoons from my childhood. Batman: TAS is one of them. I've seen all the other animated movies on Cartoon Network (Subzero, Mystery of the Batwoman, Gotham Knight, Return of the Joker). This is, by far, the best.     The story line is compelling & the animation is top notch. We get to see a young Bruce Wayne as he begins his career as Batman. Very interesting. …
review by . October 22, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
Batman - Mask of the Phantasm is one of the best productions to come from producers Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, following the first season of Batman - The Animated Series. The animation here is solid, the voice acting is some of the best around, and of course the story is enough to keep any fan of the series concentrated. This may be a cartoon, but in no ways is it a film generated specifically for the entertainment of children (mature themes are given, though not directly).    Batman …
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Sean A. Rhodes ()
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I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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About this movie

Wiki

When the city's most feared gangsters are systematically eliminated, the Caped Crusader is blamed.  But prowling the Gotham night is a shadowy new villain, the Phantasm, a sinister figure with some link to Batman's past.  Can the Dark Knight elude the police, capture the Phantasm and clear his name?

Unmasking the Phantasm is just one of the twists in this dazzling animated feature.  Discover all-new revelations about Batman's past, his archrival the Joker and Batman's most grueling battle ever - the choice between his love of a beautiful woman and his vow to be the defender of right.  Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is a "mystery that is genuinely absorbing, suspenseful and moving" (Cincinnati Enquirer).
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Details

Director: Eric Radomski
Genre: Action, Animation, Thriller
Release Date: December 25, 1993
MPAA Rating: PG
DVD Release Date: October 4, 2005
Runtime: 76 minutes
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
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