This is a special look at my favorite Batman movie, and arguably the best among the animated and live action films. If you are reading, ENJOY!!
Twenty-five years ago, this piece of cinematic excellence hit the theaters. Mask Of The Phantasm didn’t get a lot of love at the box office, BUT I WAS THERE!!!!! Thank you Mom! We watched this together in an empty theater in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and it was great! I was already hooked on Batman from the Animated Series. Rushing home after school to watch Batman and Power Rangers are sweet memories. So seeing a Batman cartoon in the movie theater was a no brainer. Since that day, I’ve watched this movie several times, on VHS and then DVD. The VHS had the comic book packaged inside the sleeve. I still have that comic somewhere. I love this movie. From beginning to end. The depth of story, the simple yet stylish noir animation, the flawless voice casting, and a perfect score playing throughout…..WOW!!!! You don’t have to agree with my opinion here, but no live action Batman movie is superior to this one. Speaking of, there is another animated feature that soars miles above the live action movies, in my opinion. If you haven’t done so, please see Batman: Under The Red Hood. It’s an amazing Batman feature, with a lot of grit and depth.
On November 12th, Fathom Events hosted the 25th Anniversary of Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm, so of course I was at my local Regal for that. Oh man what a time! I wore a Batman shirt and Batman pajamas pants. I was giddy! Had been for weeks. The nostalgia was overwhelming, and I got to share the experience with a lovely lady (hey boo). Now there were only a few other folks in attendance, but I was glad to see a guy in there watching with some kids who weren’t old enough to be around when this first came out. Teaching them right!! The direction from Eric Radomski and Bruce Timm (personal favorite) is pretty much flawless. Shirley Walker’s music is perfection. The story by Alan Burnett and Martin Pasko (and others) gets the highest amount of praise from me. The way they wrote the present to transition with the flashbacks, and how the flashbacks presented a back story into Batman’s past that you didn’t have to second guess….ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. You get to see a young Bruce almost not become Batman, and the situation that pushed him to become the Dark Knight. You get introduced to Andrea Beaumont, a character who creates an interesting love story that connects Bruce with his most famous nemesis, the Joker, and a new rogue, the Phantasm. You even get to see Alfred without grey hair! An interesting aspect of this movie was that it showed blood and death. The first episode of Batman: The Animated Series had some blood, but then it wasn’t shown after that, if I remember correctly. You didn’t see death in the Animated Series however. Interesting for a PG cartoon, but the presentation of it fit the tone. I liked how you didn’t have to see the bodies of Chuckie Sol and Buzz Bronski to know they were finished. The steady beep of the horn when Sol’s car flew out the building and crashed, and Bronski’s goon saying “OHH MAN” at the grave site told you everything. The scenes where the Phantasm stalks Sol and Bronski are chilling. They didn’t waste any time getting right into that. “YOUR ANGEL OF DEATH AWAITS”. What a cold line!! Stacy Keach Jr as the voice of the Phantasm (and Carl Beaumont) was perfect, and pretty scary. Do I even have to mention how iconic the other voices are? Okay I will! Conroy (Batman), Hamill (Joker), Delany (Andrea Beaumont), Zimbalist (Alfred…RIP), and Hastings (Commissioner Gordon…RIP) are all great in their respective roles. This cast, minus Dana Delany, were the voices for the same characters in the animated series. Delany, however, played the voice of Lois Lane in the Superman: The Animated Series. Special shout out to my man, Hart Bochner, who is the voice of Councilman Arthur Reeves. I think he channeled his inner Ellis (from Die Hard) doing the voice for Reeves, because both characters are sleazy. Here’s a fun tidbit for you. I watched Die Hard in the same Regal for its 30th Anniversary, hosted by Fathom Events, the day before I watched this. I have to give a huge shout out to Andrea Romano! She has been the voice director for DC animated features and series for quite some time. I love her expertise. She knows how to pick them.
So what are some of my favorite scenes and moments? Well I’m glad you asked!! I absolutely love the opening. That glide across the 3D Gotham skyline with the score playing is beautiful. It hooks you right away. I’m actually watching it on YouTube right now. During the car garage scene, you see how fast the Phantasm can move, and I really love the scene where she (yes we know) is running from the Batwing across the rooftops. All the scenes that trigger the flashbacks are emotionally gripping. One of the best parts of the flashbacks was seeing Bruce as the vigilante in the ski mask. He was “Mr. Kung Fu” (haha) to one of the goons he confronts during a robbery. Thank you to Batman Begins for showing the ski masked vigilante in live action. The scene where Andrea’s decision changed Bruce’s life is iconic. Seeing Alfred’s face as Bruce became Batman hits you right in the chest. Finding out that Councilman Reeves and the Joker are connected to Bruce’s and Andrea’s past was an excellent piece of writing. Even though Bob Hastings didn’t have a lot of lines as the Commish, he delivered one of the best and most important ones, due to Batman being framed for the mob murders. “THE BATMAN DOES NOT KILL…..PERIOD!!” Well animated Batman doesn’t kill. Mark Hamill is Oscar worthy in this. Goodness he is great as the voice of the Joker. Those quips are top notch. Calling Batman Guano-Man….CMON!!! That’s hilarious. I didn’t even know what that meant until Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls came along. The after effects of him poisoning the Councilman was nefariously funny. I really, really love the scene where Joker calls Andrea’s place to let her know that he figured out she was the Phantasm, but Batman picks up instead. That was the part that let Batman know it was her, and not her dad as he previously thought. GREATNESS!!!!! Then he told Andrea she was “harder to kill than a cockroach on steroids”. Too funny! The final showdown between Batman and Joker was the stuff that makes arch-enemies. Seeing them fight as giants among a miniature build of the city is dope! Batman kicking Joker’s tooth clean out his mouth was whoa! Joker calling Batman “crazy” as Batman relentlessly chased him down is ironically amusing. Another great performance that I love is the late Efrem Zimbalist Jr, as Alfred. When Batman says “You think you know everything about me, don’t you?” to Alfred, and he responds “I diapered your bottom, I bloody well ought to….SIRRRRR”…I crack up! EVERYTIME!! You have to love that touching talk he gave to Bruce during the climax of the film. It really highlighted how Batman and the Phantasm were both born from tragedy, but Bruce used the darkness while Andrea let the darkness overtake her. That scene is super deep. There are some more scenes I could go into, but I’ll end it with the final scene in the movie. The shot leading up to the rooftop where Batman is standing there solemnly is so good. That music and his cape blowing in the wind! How he takes a few moments to bust out of the cape after the Bat signal comes on. YES and YES!!!! The song during the closing credits captures the sadness of Bruce’s and Andrea’s relationship, sung by the lovely Tia Carrere. I love those lyrics, and I can listen to that song all day. Thank you to Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard for writing that!
To all the Batman fans reading this…..I hope you enjoyed this piece as much as I enjoyed writing it. One of my favorite films deserved some special attention from me, especially after having a wonderful experience seeing it again in the theater! Maybe one day there will be a live action version, but if not it’s okay. I’ll mark out for this Batman feature until I can’t anymore!