Batman: Mask of the Phantasm – A Review

By far one of the most iconic of the animated Batman films and amazing from the get go. The Warner Bros logo flashing at me and giving me a heartwarming wave of nostalgia before ten seconds have even went by.

Also it’s comforting that Bugs Bunny exists in the same universe as the Dark Knight. Although that’s also the same universe as Michael Jordan. Maybe they should get together and play a game of basketball….wrong movie? oops!

Immediately I was taken back by the art style so crisp and well defined. That’s one thing the live action movies got wrong you either go with Gotham (TV series) and the Nolan Franchise which paint Gotham as a gritty and shitty New York (which I suppose it is) or Tim Burton and his overblown monstrosity full of statues and spires which while aesthetically pleasing is more cartoonish than this film manages to be. But yeah this animation style is recognisable and impressive and was a mainstay of early DC animations. We the audience are taken on a sweeping Journey through Gotham much like Batman himself and we’re propelled forward by a powerful and epic score which prepares you for the action ahead.

One thing I liked about this which other animated movies couldn’t quite get right was fighting, sure they knew how to make a fight scene impressive (and if anyone is interested my favourite animated batman fight scene is the finale battle between an aged batman and a powerful mutant leader in Batman: the Dark Knight Returns) but this movie did something different. When Batman hits someone it feels real…or more real I suppose. Even better he manages to kick ass and still seem human and fallible something which future batman movies ignore because…sigh…He’s Batman!

I’ll keep going back to the animating style it’s just so good especially when you consider how old the movie is. It captures perfectly the early noir origins of the Batman comics and illustrates the most iconic time in his illustrious history.

Another thing it’s nice to see batman with a sense of humour. Not a great one but still. I mean yeah his parents are dead and he’s traumatised by that but bigger and ‘better’ Batmen than him couldn’t crack a smile this one manages to laugh while still showing the strain of his legacy to his parents it’s more believable and more human. And more importantly they don’t go overboard the other way and load up on camp and cheer like a certain Adam West Batman we all know.

Oh and romance as well and not just to be killed off or replaced like in the live action movies. This felt real and it made the iron willed Batman doubt his purpose. She was a chink in the Dark Knight’s armour, she was as much his Kryptonite as his parents were a trigger for his anger. It’s just real this movie she offers his love and happiness and he’s tempted to give up his crusade. He just wouldn’t see as real without those thoughts.

Oh something else I found impressive is that it doesn’t rely too heavily upon his rogues gallery. Sure enough the Joker is in it but no one doubts even at the end that he’s just playing second Fiddle to Batman own doubts and the titular Phantasm. It’s just good to see we don’t need A Riddler for Batman to ask the hard questions.

I mentioned briefly above that it’s good to see him seem fallible and I believe to an extent that it’s good to seem him struggle and even fail. We have other characters if you want someone who can accomplish any feat but what we want is someone who is just as weak as the rest of us but still goes toe to toe with Gods and Kryptonians.

It occurred to me midway through that the lightness of this film, especially when you compare it with the recently released Killing Joke which alluded to rape that this to an extent…and this is not a criticism was more of a violent Scooby Doo. And it wouldn’t be the first time Batman and the Scooby Gang paired up. What I’m really getting at is that a Batman movies doesn’t even need to be Gritty to be good, something that somebody needs to tell Christopher Nolan. Also Batman should work with a dog. Where Ace when you need him?

The shot of the Bat silhouette against the Wayne family grave is a money shot if ever I saw one.

Also I had major Spiderman flashback during the scene where Bruce sketches out batsuit ideas. I like that a lot better than what Arrow and the rest if the CW family do which is either ignore it or just produce a suit from thin air. At least in the Nolan universe he was embezzling military equipment and bulk ordering plastic bat ears to disguise the purchase (although why that didn’t ring any alarm bells is beyond me)

Also hands down Sassy Alfred is the best even if he’s is a grade A cockblocker.

Despite my appreciation for this era and style of Batman I never quite took to this version of the Joker. To some the most iconic and certainly the Joker they picture if they aren’t picturing Heath Ledgers portrayal. But despite the recognition and the edge of the character I could never take a villain too seriously if I could beat them in a fist fight.

Batman has faced off against many opponents and has been literally burned his fair share of times but nothing compares to the burn he receive from Andrea which is as follows: “The way I see it, the only one in this room controlled by his parents is you” a burn so bad he should apply Bat-Ointment three times a day.

While I did mention above that I’m not the biggest fan of this Joker, I do think Mark Hamilton has the Joker laugh down and he did so without harassing people of the street like Jared Leto. Although I did disagree with the decision to make him so pointed nose mob member rather than some random person who just had a really bad day.

Also I like that someone finally kicked the joker in the the giggle berries. Considering the track record for anyone he comes into contact with Andrea has some real…balls to do that as well. 

There were overtones of this movie in the new movie killing Joke as both involved The Joker and  someone important to Batman and a finale in an abandoned amusement park.

The fight amongst the model City to me was symbolic because we have these two larger than life characters fighting it out for the fate of Gotham.

Purple suit and acid dripping boutonniere aside the joker does have style after all not many villains make their escape by Jet pack these days.

The climactic scene with the explosions felt real and tense. Like there was something actually on the line. Epic music rising as the joker cackles and he and Andrea disappear.  And of course Batman escapes the danger like he always does but at the cost of the woman he loves, he has lost her to her need for vengeance. A truly emotional moment.

Finally I loved the finishing touch of having the Batcape obscure the screen in a sheet of black to cut to the credit roll. Overall this film is great and I’m going to give it a rating of 8/10.

 

First Published on: https://offtherecordblog.org

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