A young Bruce Wayne is in his third year of trying to establish himself as Batman, protector of Gotham City. Living in Gotham, a metropolis where shadows run long and deep, beneath elevated... See full summary »
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. Written by
like a brilliant four-part episode from the series; lots of personal wounds revealed, and the Joker to boot!
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm stands on its own feet extremely well, when at least compared to some of the lessor Batman animated movies (Batman vs Dracula anyone?), and packs a good punch for fans so many years later. The original series was in its own other region- taking what more stories from the comics (if not overall style and atmosphere like Burton or Nolan)- and was able to cover some fine ground with our troubled hero the Dark Knight. This story tells of a character, not ever quite named but called here as 'Phantasm', who is killing off some of the high-rolling gangsters in town. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne meets an old love of his, Andrea, and old wounds are opened over a brief and untimely ended engagement. And then there's also Andrea's father, who... OK, not much to try and spoil here, lets just say at some point the Joker gets involved, and everything jets into a 'laughing matter'.
Even as it was meant originally for TV, the directors Radomski and Timm, through their writer collaborators, have applied a drawing style that is distinctive amongst other cartoons of its ilk from the period: very direct lines and sharp, jagged edges, lots of smoke at (specific) times, the right blend of noir when it comes to revealing the caped crusader when he enters a room in the dead of night. In a sense they're stylists as are the (good) directors of the franchise live-action films. Only here there's a catch: the running time is short (originally the filmmakers thought it would be meant for TV before WB changed their minds), so there's only so much time to dig into the dilemma Wayne is caught in in the movie, where his identity is being cross-checked all over as the killer of the gangsters, and then the personal connection with Andrea and her father. Its some fairly significant probing into the character, if not the deepest there's ever been.
But also, aside from the slightly darker impulses, Mask of the Phantasm is a lot of fun, even up to a point if you didn't watch the series much. Just seeing Hammil ham it up as the Joker is a blast, even though he doesn't appear (almost, one might think, as a lark) until halfway through the movie! But he (via the filmmakers trying their best to give fans the best of the animated basics) supplies a hugely entertaining climax, one which involves a big fight among an immense diorama of Gotham City, rigged with explosives!
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