Film Review: Batman Mask of the Phantasm
Release: December 25th 1993
Genre: Action, adventure, drama
Directed by: Eric Radomski, Bruce Timm
Cast: Kevin Conray, Mark Hamill, Dana Delany
It was the height of the Batman Animated Series, one of the most pivotal adventures for the Dark Knight. The series truly embraced all things Batman and now it was getting its on theatrically released feature films. There were two grand opus epics that were released in cinemas: Mask of the Phantasm and Subzero. The former focusing on Bruce Wayne battling his personal life and the latter focusing on Mr Freeze having to save his wife. I have watched both of these features and I can say they are truly some of the greatest tales of the Batman mythology.
To kick off Batweek I wanted to do something niche and this is the very perfect thing to be doing. I think that there’s certain homages to the art deco style of all of these features, and the animated series, within Arkham Asylum. This heavy notion of connection is perhaps strengthened with the involvement of Paul Dini, one of the writers of this film and the writer of Arkham Asylum. Arkham Asylum embodies everything about the Batman character and I can definitely see the guys at Rocksteady sitting down at a table to watch this. You can feel the drip drop of the art deco inspiration throughout the game.
Mask of the Phantasm tells the tale of Bruce Wayne coming to terms to choosing never to lead a normal life. There’s not much I can give away without totally spoiling; but it eventually leads into a Joker origin story and a dark mysterious figure. The figure is of course the titular Phantasm, a masked murderer who seeks to destroy the Gotham criminal empire. Eventually, the film delves into the psyches and histories of all of its characters; perhaps standing testament as a reflection upon both Bruce Wayne and Batman intertwined forever.
The film is heartbreaking, enthralling; it feels like a high production film. It goes beyond the Schumacher films and goes into territory that perhaps the great Burton himself dare not venture. There are set pieces aplenty, dark twists and turns through the narrative and the voice cast is just impeccable. Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy voice Joker and the Batman respectively in Arkham Asylum, and I can’t think of a better duo to do the characters. The action is always high octane, there are pivotal moments in the mythology of Batman. One of those moments is in a graveyard, but I won’t spoil more than that.
I can’t honestly think about a bad part of this cinematic masterpiece. The animation is fluid and always fitting to the art deco environment. It borders mature while still managing to keep a ‘kid-friendly’ epic. I will say that the Joker origin story they outline is not the one I personally believe, but they outline it so that it’s believable. I think what makes the Joker such a captivating character is he doesn’t have a defined history. The Nolan films swear off any explanation, the Burton venture treats him as a central character and there are many more in the comic book lore.
Nath’s final say: See this, seriously. It can be picked up quick cheaply for digital download, and the DVD is very inexpensive. This is a must for any Batman fan, diehard or not. It’s enthralling, entertaining and leaves you hanging on the edge. It’s one of the greatest capers the Batman has ever been involved in.