Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, directed by the great and powerful Eric Radomski and Bruce Timm, is an iconic animated comic book film released in 1993. Kevin Conroy takes the helm of Batman, with support from Mark Hamill as the Joker and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. playing Bruce Wayne’s personal butler, Alfred. In this installment, Batman is squared up against a mysterious vigilante, with a connection to Bruce Wayne’s past. This other “caped crusader” has been killing off criminals in Gotham city, to which end Bruce Wayne’s alter ego must investigate.
This was undoubtedly a classic animated comic book movie; certainly one of the better ones that I have seen. What I liked most about this movie is that it provides strong context to its characters that keeps us viewers engaged. For instance, we get to learn about Bruce Wayne’s past love life, and his early days as Batman. Interestingly enough, we also get to learn about the Joker, and what business he was into before he went full blown insane. I was also impressed by how much context this movie was able to squeeze in into its 75 minute run-time; I cannot recall any other animated movie of this genre that does the same.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm also does the hero of Batman justice. We see his vulnerabilities and him doing actual detective work, something which other film adaptations of this hero were missing (eg: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Batman & Robin, Batman Returns, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight Rises etc.). As mentioned previously, we also learn a lot about Bruce Wayne’s relationship with his former lover, Andrea Beaumont. This is a critical ark in the movie, and it is well executed. I also liked how the movie was a continuation (an extended episode) of the Batman animated series.
If I were to critique this film, it would be on two grounds. But do keep in mind that these are minor criticisms and they do not significantly take away from the film’s awesomeness. Firstly, the animation. It was pretty average; particular with regards to the action sequences, and setting. They seemed a bit dated for 2020. Secondly, and lastly, the predictability of the plot. It was pretty clear who the mysterious vigilante was all along. Therefore his/her reveal near the end of the movie was kinda anti-climatic.
Overall, if you are a fan of DC comics, you have to watch this film. Although its animation is a bit outdated, its character development, suspense, soundtrack and narrative are outstanding. As viewers, we get a lot out from the film’s short 75 minute runtime.