In the early 90’s Fox had cornered the market on after school cartoons, and the most popular was easily Batman: The Animated Series. Taking artistic cues from Tim Burton’s two Batman movies this show was a juggernaut and introduced many kids to Batman. In 1993 riding the wave of popularity of the show Warner Bros. brought Batman back to the big screen but not in the live action form.
No, in 1993 they brought us the closest thing we ever got to a Batman: The Animated Series origin story with Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. The movie introduces us to a new foe for the caped crusader, The Phantasm. The Phantasm shows up in Gotham City and starts knocking off mob bosses and Batman is being accused of these killings by city councilman Arthur Reeves.
In spite of the Phantasm making Batman’s life easier, good old Bats still has his no killing policy and doesn’t take to kindly to the new (and creepier) vigilante on his turf. So it’s up to Batman to put an end to these killings and to clear his name.
Outside of Arthur Reeves, we’re introduced to Andrea Beaumont (Bruce’s fiance before he was Batman), her farther Carl who gets mixed up with the mob causing him to flee Gotham and taking his daughter with him causing her to break her engagement with Bruce.
We are treated to this mystery of who is the Phantasm and why is he trying to kill all of these mob bosses. The story is told brilliantly with the use of flashbacks.
There are several aspects about this film that makes it the definitive Batman movie. First and foremost I think this handles Batman’s origin better than most films and television have. For one, we’re not subjected to watching a young Bruce watch his parent’s get gunned down. We’ve seen that enough and thankfully this Batman movie made for kids doesn’t subject us to it again, but it does use a couple of shots of Bruce and Batman at the Waynes’ grave to get that point across. Also this movie in flashbacks gives us a couple of glimpses of Bruce fighting crime before he was The Batman.
Another thing this movie does better than other Batman movies is the use of Batman’s detective skills. Some have alluded to them but don’t really show them as well as this movie does. Not to mention this movie has the great version of the Joker that’s ever been on film. Heath Ledger was great in The Dark Knight but nothing compares to Mark Hamill as Mr. J and Kevin Conroy is just awesome as Batman.
I honestly can’t tell you the last time I watched this movie but I can easily say it has probably been more than a decade or so since I had last seen and I can honestly this movie still holds up. My only complaint would the animation quality. This movie is of course done in the style of the Animated Series but given that this is a feature film that played in cinemas it still looks like it was done on the same budget as the series. You would think given that this is a movie the quality would be a bit better.
That is easily my only complaint about this movie. It has a lean run time of 76 minutes and not a minute is wasted and the movie never drags. Maybe because it’s an animated movie it is never given the credit of being one of the best comic book films but honestly this movie nails the Batman mythos better than anything we’ve seen on film and yes that includes the Nolan films. Which is why I can easily give this my review of RELIVE THE HELL OUT THIS!