Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
"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."— Commissioner Gordon
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is a 1993 American animated superhero film featuring the DC Comics character Batman. Directed by Eric Radomski and Bruce Timm, it is a cinematic continuation of BTSW.
The film was written by Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Martin Pasko and Michael Reaves and stars the vocal talents of Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill and Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (all reprising their roles from The Animated Series), in addition to Dana Delany, Hart Bochner, Stacy Keach, and Abe Vigoda.
The story follows Batman as he deals with his reconciliation with a former lover, Andrea Beaumont, and pits him against a mysterious vigilante who is murdering Gotham City's crime bosses.
A young Bruce Wayne meets Andrea Beaumont while visiting his parents' grave, and the pair form a deep mutual attraction. That night, in one of his first crime-fighting attempts, Bruce foils an armored car robbery. Although he succeeds, he is discouraged because the criminals did not fear him. Eventually, Bruce decides to abandon his plans to become a vigilante and proposes marriage to Andrea. However, Andrea mysteriously leaves Gotham with her father, businessman Carl Beaumont, ending her engagement in a "Dear John" letter. Believing he has lost his last chance of having a normal life, Bruce becomes Batman.
Ten years later, Batman confronts a group of Gotham City crime bosses led by Chuckie Sol, who are intending to launder millions of counterfeit dollars in a casino. As Sol escapes to his car, a cloaked figure attacks him; Sol is killed when the figure causes him to drive out the side of a parking garage and crash into a neighboring building. Batman arrives soon after, and bystanders blame him for Sol's death. Councilman Arthur Reeves tells the media that Batman is a menace (despite Commissioner Gordon's protests). Attending a party at Wayne Manor, Reeves teases Bruce for allowing Andrea to leave him.
The cloaked figure murders another gangster, Buzz Bronski, in the same cemetery Bruce met Andrea. Batman investigates Bronski's death and wanders to his parents' tombstone. He overhears Andrea talking at her mother's grave, just as she had been when he first met her. She is startled by Batman's appearance and he flees. Batman finds evidence linking Carl Beaumont with Sol, Bronski and a third gangster: Salvatore Valestra. He breaks into Valestra's home and discovers a photograph of Bronski, Valestra, Sol and Beaumont seated at a table. When he visits Andrea to try to get more answers she rebuffs him, intimating that she knows his identity. Meanwhile, Valestra believes Batman killed the others and will come for him, so he turns to the Joker for help.
The figure arrives at Valestra's house but finds the gangster dead by Joker's hands. Joker has strapped a camera to Valestra's corpse and sees the murderer is not Batman. The figure escapes as the house explodes. Batman pursues and fights the killer, but is interrupted by the police and rescued from arrest by Andrea. Andrea later explains she and her father had been hiding in Europe from Valestra's mob, from whom he had embezzled money; her father repaid everything, but they put out a hit on him anyway. Bruce now believes her father is the killer. Bruce ponders resuming his relationship with Andrea and giving up Batman. He notices a familiar-looking man in the background of the photo of Bronski, Valestra, Sol and Beaumont: the man who would become the Joker. Joker visits Reeves to press him for information; Reeves insists that the cloaked killer is Batman, but Joker, believing Reeves is the killer, states Reeves needs to protect his own reputation and poisons him. Reeves is taken to the hospital where Batman later breaks in and interrogates him. Reeves confesses he helped the Beaumonts escape and later told Valestra's mob their location.
The cloaked figure tracks Joker to his hideout and reveals itself as Andrea, intent on avenging her father's death by killing every last surviving member of Valestra's mob. With the others dead, Joker is the last one alive, and is the one who carried out the hit on her father. Having already deduced her identity, Joker fights her. Just before he can kill Andrea, Batman arrives and begs Andrea to give up her quest. She refuses and disappears. Batman and the Joker battle to a stalemate. Moments later, Andrea returns and seizes Joker, bidding Batman goodbye before vanishing with the maniacally laughing clown. The amusement park erupts in a series of explosions and Batman barely escapes. Alfred later consoles Bruce, telling him that no one could have helped Andrea. Bruce finds her locket, containing a picture of himself and Andrea, in the Batcave. Meanwhile, Andrea departs from Gotham alone on an ocean liner, feeling completely lost. Batman stands on top of a Gotham building when the Bat-Signal appears in the sky, and swings off into the night to continue his war on crime.
Why it Rocks
- The film brought back the main cast (Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill) and the original cast/crew from The Animated Series, which is a nice touch.
- The film's stylish new animation. The animation has smoother, more fluid animation and brighter, vibrant colors than the original series.
- Phantasm is a unique and threatening villain, actually killing people (the film was still rated PG!), framing the Caped Crusader for his actions, and with one of the most spine-chilling voices for an animated villain. But it did executed very well of being as similar to Batman's with different motives.
- The film has one of the best cinematic interpretations of The Joker.
- The film has a really entertaining four-way battle between Batman, The Joker, The Phantasm and the Gotham City police.
- The film features another fantastic cinematic interpretations of Bruce Wayne/Batman. The film goes in-depth of how Bruce Wayne's psyche before-and-after he becomes Batman and his constant emotional conflicts.
- The film's not afraid of being a comic-book movie, having dark, violent imagery and some gruesome scenes for a animated Batman film.
- The film has a legitimately good detective story. With clues, twists, turns and a clever curve-ball during the credits of the film. (Go on!)
- The film has a few suspenseful scene. Batman's unmasked escape from the SWAT team and his fight with the Joker and his drones are just a few examples.
- The film's soundtrack, conducted by the late Shirley Walker is great to listen too.
- Like Cats Don't Dance, the film was another financial failure for Warner Bros. due to the rash decision to release it in theaters ahead of the original release date with very little marketing. This led WB Animation to not make any more theatrical movies about DC superhero franchises until July 2018, when Teen Titans Go! To the Movies was released, making it the second animated theatrical release based on a DC animated show from WB Animation.
- The film does not explain a few things, like how the Phantasm disappears in a puff of smoke almost instantly and how Joker perfectly times each and every one of his death traps.
- Despite his main role in the show, Commissioner Gordon doesn't appear for too long in the film and exits the movie after refusing to aid Arthur Reeves on his manhunt for Batman.
- Plot hole: Just like with Batman Returns, Batman never clears his name at least onscreen by the end of the film, but he is still contacted through the Bat-signal. According to the novelization, the man who meets Andrea at the cruise was involved in clearing Batman's name by taking a photograph of the Phantasm, but his subplot was cut from the finished movie.
- This movie was originally intended to premiere on video as a direct-to-video feature, but was given a theatrical release at the last minute.