Project #188: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

Hi, this is Seras and welcome to Project Nitsuj. Welcome to another edition of Animation Bang. With the recent release of The Killing Joke hands down one of the best Batman comics one has to wonder will this new animated movie topple the reigning champion of Batman’s movies, Mask of the Phantasm. Based off the animated series. Mask of the Phantasm was released in 1993 making this the first animated Batman movie. While not getting a lot of attention at the box office mostly due to the fact that originally it was supposed to be a direct to home video until the last minute decision was made to show it in theatres, fans have picked it up since then and have come to call it the best Batman animated movie with some going as far as calling it the best Batman movie out there. What makes this movie so great? Well it takes a deep look into Batman’s past showing us how at one time he tried desperately to have a happy life only to have it fall apart in front of him and lead him down the path to becoming the Dark Knight. So, in honor of Batman’s anniversary and the Killing Joke’s release, we’re going to take a look at Mask of the Phantasm.

The movie starts with a chilling chorus singing Batman’s theme as the credits go by (scene here: // After that we go to a casino run by the mob who plan to use counterfeit money in their casino but Batman comes swinging in to bust up the operation (not on his watch). Their leader tries to escape in the garage but he gets stopped by a mysterious figure who we will come to know as the Phantasm (who looks like the Grim Reaper if he lost his hand and decided to go with claws instead of a scythe). The Phantasm forces the crime boss to drive off the side of the building and crash into another building (don’t think the insurance company will cover that) and he supposedly dies (never confirmed but it’s implied. Scene here: // The city thinks Batman did it and city councilman Arthur a corrupted politician slanders Batman’s name calling him just as crazy as the villains he chases (true, but he does it in a very badass way). He wants the police to take him down but Gordon says there’s no evidence that proves Batman killed the mobster. Later that day Bruce hosts a party at his mansion where a woman throws punch in his face (alright too many drinks for you lady. Also, who spited the punch?) because Bruce stood her up. She took their relationship seriously but Bruce never proposed to her (just like a man. They play with you all along and leave you when things get serious). This causes Bruce to remember his past where there was someone he had deep feelings for, a lady by the name of Andrea. The two met in a cemetery (pleasant) where they hit it off rather well and took an interest in each other. Of course this was around the time Bruce started vigilante work but before he dawns the mask of Batman. We get to see Bruce take his first shot as vigilante where he manages to stop a robbery while destroying property (scene here: // Not bad, I give it a C). The next day Bruce feels good about his accomplishment but at the same time he feels that nobody was afraid of him (no problem. How do you feel about vampires and the color red? Also, what’s your stance on using guns?). As he’s practicing his jiujutsu Andrea shows up where they have a sparring match ending with a kiss (oh-la-la) and decide to go dancing (scene here: //, I do love how Alfred just walks away at the end there. He gets a shocked look and just walks away without a word. Classic Alfred).

We return to the present where another crime boss named Bronzy goes to pay respects to Chuckie since the two were friends in the past (and I use the word friends loosely because apparently they hated each other’s guts). The Phantasm shows up to kill him and we get a chase scene throughout the cemetery where Bronzy falls down a hole and gets a statue of an angel dropped on him (well that was symbolic). Once again Batman gets blamed for the murder and Arthur wants the police to bring him in but Gordon says no (thanks Jim, you’re a true friend). Batman decides to go and investigate the cemetery where he goes to visit the grave of his parents (now is not the best time) and sees Andrea visiting the grave of her mother (well there’s something the two have in common. Dead parents). They spot each other and Batman runs away but Andrea saw him by the Wayne grave, puts two and two together and figures out that Bruce is Batman (behold, the smartest woman in the DC universe). Batman begins following (stalking) her where we see she’s having dinner with Arthur (you go from Bruce to this guy? Talk about a step down). We get another flashback sequence where we see Bruce and Andrea have officially become a couple and go on a date to Gotham’s world fair where they see the world of tomorrow (if it’s anything like Tomorrow Land we’re in trouble. But then again we are dealing with killer clowns so it can’t get much worse). After that Andrea takes Bruce to meet her father (careful, he’s got a shotgun) where we see a young Arthur who was his accountant (he still looks like an asshole). Their visit gets cut short with the arrival of Valestra a powerful crime boss at the time who was in business with Andrea’s dad. Once they leave they spot someone getting mugged and Bruce tries to help him only to get distracted by Andrea and allow the muggers to escape (scene here: //, oh come on Bruce you’re better than that).

This leads to one of the best scenes in the movie, Bruce asking his parents if he can be happy. Bruce knows he can’t have Andrea and be Batman at the same time and now he’s battling himself on what he wants to do. Will he choose his own happiness over the mission or give up his happiness and continue the mission? But the one line in this scene that strikes a chord with me is when as he begs his parents and says he didn’t expect to be happy (scene here: // With this scene Bruce finally works up the courage to propose to Andrea and she says yes but after his proposal a cave opens up beneath them and bats come flying out (you can’t escape your destiny Bruce). Bruce drives Andrea home to tell her father the good news but he’s busy with associates so they decide to save the news for another time. The next day after Bruce investigates the cave where all the bats came from he receives a letter from Andrea with the wedding ring and everything (she turned down Bruce Wayne? Brave woman). With this Bruce realizes that happiness is impossible for him and decides to dawn the cape and caw becoming Batman (and in all seriousness the first time he dawns the cape and caw is quite a sight. They don’t show it but Alfred’s reaction tells us it’s the greatest thing ever. Scene here: // After that we return to the present where Batman finally confronts Andrea at her apartment about the murders but she wants nothing to do with him and tells him to leave (fine bitch). The next day we see an old and decrepit Valestra go to talk about the current situation with Arthur (the situation being there’s a grim reaper out to kill you both) but Arthur says he wants nothing to do with him and leaves. Desperate for safety Valestra goes to the only person he believes can help him, The Joker (this is the opposite of safe. Scene here: // The Joker says he’ll help but instead injects him with Joker venom and kills him (see, I told you). The Phantasm goes to Valestra’s house only to find him already dead (scene here: // At least he died with a smile on his face. Not too many people can do that). After the Phantasm escapes the explosion he gets pursued by Batman where he escapes and Batman gets hunted down by the police. We get a pretty exciting and intense chase scene where the police almost catch Batman but he escapes thanks to Andrea (scene here: //, bipolar much Andrea?).

They go back to Wayne manor where Andrea tells Bruce why she left him. Andrea’s dad owed Valestra money and lots of it but he didn’t have the money to pay him back. In order to protect himself and Andrea they escaped to Europe where they laid low until Andrea’s dad could pay them back. However, it wasn’t enough for Valestra as he wanted more (greedy bastard). After hearing this Bruce thinks the Phantasm is Andrea’s dad getting revenge and makes plans to stop him but not before sleepy with Andrea (hey somebody’s getting lucky tonight). After Andrea leaves Bruce looks at a photo of gang members the Phantasm is targeting and recognizes one of them as The Joker (so The Joker in this universe was a hitman for the mob? Just add that to the Joker theory file. Although to be fair in the animated series he did display characteristics of a mobster. He always had a gang follow him around, he wore a trench coat, very handy with guns, and in some episodes we saw him have an unsettling relationships with other mobsters in the city. So the idea of The Joker being a hitman for the mob not a bad theory). Speaking of The Joker he makes a visit to Arthur and injects him with Joker venom causing him to laugh nonstop (a fate worse than death. Scene here: // While laughing uncontrollably Batman visits him in the hospital for an interrogation where he confesses that he sold Andrea and her dad out to the mafia for money. This resulted in the death of Andrea’s dad and Andrea vowed revenge on them meaning she’s the Phantasm (scene here: //

We reach the climax of the movie where Andrea goes to face The Joker (scene here: // But before Joker can kill her Batman comes in to save her and begs her to leave and forget about revenge (yeah we’re way pass the point of forgetting). She refuses to give up revenge and tells Batman he’s just like her (maybe, but at least he’s not going around dressed like the Ghost of Christmas Future). Batman goes after The Joker dodging all his traps (scene here: // Their fight ends in a stalemate and Andrea returns, grabs The Joker, and disappears with him as the place explodes (scene here: // Batman returns to his cave heartbroken that he couldn’t save the love of his life but Alfred is there to cheer him up and end the movie on a bittersweet and sad note (scene here: //

Final Thoughts

Do I need to say how great this movie is? It’s great from beginning to end. Anyone who doesn’t like this movie is either an idiot or a troll who desperately needs help. This movie encompasses everything that is Batman. I do like how the movie has an air of mystery around it. When you first watch you really have no idea who the Phantasm is and the mystery around this character is done rather well. The focus on Bruce and his past into how he found and lost happiness after the death of his parents is a very sad story. The torture, doubt, and wrong he feels for himself in finding happiness for the first time in his life is very deep and psychological. We see Batman in a very vulnerable state as even he’s unsure of what to do with his life now that he’s found happiness. The focus on Batman throughout this entire movie is great and adds to his character showing us how he bears all his pain but continues on with the mission setting aside his personal feelings for the good of the city. Andrea was also a rather likable character. In the scenes we see how she doesn’t see Bruce as just some rich man, she sees him for who he really is a tortured soul like her trying to find happiness in the world. Their relationship is quite beautiful and tragic as you can tell she really did love Bruce and wanted to be with him but because of her dad those dreams were dashed and now years later when it seems like she has a second chance to rekindle her lost romance she chooses revenge over love and in the end is left alone, sad, and empty. The Joker is always a fun character and the way he’s presented here is even more dastardly than the show and gives us the best Joker laugh of all time as anarchy reigns all around him. His backstory as a possible hitman for the mob is interesting and does add a new layer to an already complex and insane character.

The animation is quite nice. Very similar to the show’s animation only with better quality. The characters look and sound more realistic and the backgrounds and objects are more detailed and pop out more. They also added blood and quite a few disturbing scenes that would normally scare children. Whenever you see an action scene you feel every hit and hear every shot as if it were a live action movie. Finally, the music. Again, the music from the show was already top notch done by a great composer but with the new budget for the movie they found a way to make it better by adding in a chorus. Everytime you hear the chorus throughout this movie you get a chill as it fits so perfectly within the movie and elevates the emotions of our characters throughout the movie.

Final Score

The final score for Mask of the Phantasm is an 8.5/10 with a must watch stamp of approval. The only things stopping it from being higher is I would have liked to have seen more interaction between Batman and the Phantasm. Such as a possible fight scene between the two or a conversation where the Phantasm justifies his actions. The mystery on the identity of the Phantasm could have been a little deeper in my opinion and what exactly did Andrea do with The Joker after she vanished? It’s obvious she didn’t kill him as we see him return in the show so what happened? Did she believe she killed him and left him for dead? I don’t know, but the one thing I do know for sure is that this movie is definitely the greatest Batman movie in my opinion. It encompasses everything you would want to see in a Batman movie. Action, drama, tragedy, mystery, and a deep and psychological focus on our main character, Batman. Thanks for reading and I’ll talk to you next time on Project Nitsuj.

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