Take a Drink: each time batman knocks out a bad guy
Take a Drink: for trademark Batman “brooding about his dead parents”
Do a Shot: for clandestine Warner Brothers references
Do a Shot: for each Crazy-assed Joker laugh
By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Two Beers) –
A mysterious, ghostly figure is killing the mob bosses of Gotham City, and some are blaming Batman. As Batman investigates the killings, he finds himself once again chased by police. Meanwhile at Wayne Manor, Batman’s alter ego Bruce Wayne finds himself re-kindling an old romance with Andrea Beaumont, whom he almost married years ago. Batman soon connects the mob killings to his old nemesis: the Joker, not as the perpetrator of the killings, but as the next likely victim!
Originally intended as a direct-to-video spin off of Batman: the Animated Series, Warner Brothers decided to give this story a shot at the big screen. While the box-office returns weren’t great, Mask of the Phantasm has often been favorably compared against even the strongest of its big-budgeted cousins, and is aptly labeled as a comic book movie cult-classic.
The film tells a straight-forward Batman mystery, with a genuinely interesting romantic subplot which exists not only to further Bruce Wayne as a character, but to bring the plot full-circle. Every single live-action Batman film has struggled dramatically, either having too little story to develop, or far too much. Clocking in at just under 80 minutes, Mask of the Phantasm feels none of the bloat one has come to expect from superhero films released in our modern, franchise-obsessed culture. Every second counts in telling the film’s story, which is truly admirable.
Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher’s Batman films attempted a sort of hyper-cartoonish stylization in live action. This style was certainly unique for live action, but compared with the stark, simple Art-Deco approach presented here, those films feel needlessly busy. The film opens with a sequence blending hand-drawn and computer-generated imagery flying over Gotham city, and immediately the audience is immersed into the otherworldly landscape of comicbook-noir.
Complementing the visuals is a stellar voice cast, including Kevin Conroy (Batman/Bruce Wayne), Mark Hamill (The Joker), Hart Bochner (Councilman Reeves), and Dana Delany (Andrea Beaumont). Too often in modern animated films, the voice cast is chosen more for marquee value than ability to work within the medium. Voice director Andrea Romano was the voice talent wrangler on this project and she continues her long-running tradition of being one of the great unsung names in show-business.
The film’s few genuine flaws amount to mere cosmetics. There are a few lines of secondary character dialogue which don’t quite ring true with the film’s dark, methodical atmosphere. Also, a handful of animated sequences contain some choices which likely should have been ironed out. They probably would have too, were it not for the film’s strict 8-month production schedule and relatively small $6 million dollar budget. In a sense, it is a miracle then that the film looks as gorgeous as it does. Give it up once again to Andrea Romano and her team of professional voice actors, who are used to hitting their marks right away when under the gun.
While certainly not as polished as some of the bigger-budget Live Action Batman films; the story, the voice performances, and the art design are simply excellent, and arguably truer to the comics than any other adaptation.