BATMAN: THE MASK OF THE PHANTASM
MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5)
Kevin Conroy as BATMAN/BRUCE WAYNE
Dana Delaney as ANDREA BEAUMONT
Loren Lester as ROBIN/DICK GRAYSON
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as ALFRED PENNYWORTH
Studio: Warner Bros.
BY KEVIN CARR
Long before the days of Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan, the “Batman” franchise suffered some pretty dark days. It was started in the hands of Tim Burton, and while I dearly love him as a director, the Joker’s dance numbers, mucking with the mythology and bringing Vickie Vale into the Bat Cave was just unforgivable.
But just as Warner Bros. was ready to hand the franchise over to Joel Schumacher, who killed it for almost ten years, they greenlit a feature film based on the popular television series “Batman: The Animated Series.”
This animated series was the first one I remember that made a huge impact with comic book enthusiasts. Gone were the days of cheaply animated Hannah Barbera “SuperFriends.” The cartoons had grown up, and the Batman animated series was quite impressive – and easily truer to the original source material than the movies ever have been.
1993’s “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm” was given a theatrical release, which unfortunately wasn’t well received. I suppose the American public was ready for nipples on the Bat Suit, but they couldn’t handle a non-live-action movie.
Still, “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm” managed to soar above the theatrical Batman adaptation, and would remain the best Bat Movie to hit the big screens until “Batman Begins” shook things up in 2005.
The film is partly an origin story for Batman, but told from a very different angle. Like last year’s “Casino Royale,” this story showed how Bruce Wayne hardened his heart in the past. The film takes place at a critical point in his career, when he’s making the decision to live a regular life or lose some of his humanity to become the Dark Knight.
This decision is personified in the character of Andrea Beaumont, whom Bruce has fallen in love with. However, when she unexpectedly flees his life, the path is set for Bruce to become Batman full time. However, now Andrea has come back in his life, and he must resolve some of his many emotional issues.
In my opinion, the entire animated history of Batman on television (at least since the animated series debuted in 1992) is far richer than the films ever have been. Even now with the latest animated incarnation “The Batman,” the mythology is as rich on the television as it is in the comics.
“Batman: The Mask of the Phantasm” is available as a double feature on a double-sided DVD, along with “SubZero: Batman & Mr. Freeze.” The Phantasm side of the disc comes with just the theatrical trailer, but that shouldn’t deter you from checking out these recently re-released films.