Batman: Mask of The Phantasm

I'm probably going to get some flack for watching this - as it is an animated film aimed at kids - but it's Batman! For anyone who grew up in the '90's, Batman: The Animated Series was one of the best shows on television. Not only was the animation and style so cool and dark, but it was more adult than the live-action Batman films that were coming out (i.e. Batman & Robin). This isn't to say the film was REALLY dark, but it certainly drew kids into the character of Batman. Because of the huge success of the series, a theatrical film was eventually released, Batman: The Mask of The Phantasm. Blending together Batman's origin story with how it's connected to this current episode in Batman's crusade, the film proved to be more than just a longer episode of the show.

After Batman is seen at the murder scene of several mobsters, many in Gotham City believe that the Dark Knight has taken a step towards the sinister. What the citizens don't know, however, is that Batman only tried to prevent these murders, which were executed by a new mysterious phantom in the city. As if this new threat isn't enough for Batman/Bruce Wayne, he must also deal with the arrival of a former love interest and the resurgence of his old nemesis, the Joker.

Visually, this film is one of the few that's nailed the look of Batman. Gotham City's never looked better, sporting a great style with superb animation. From the dark rooftops of the city to abandoned amusement parks, the film's locales simply look great and the craftsmanship behind this piece helps to really set the mood for the piece. The character models also look fantastic, as each character has a very distinctive look that perfectly compliments the film's mood and backgrounds. Batman, for instance, really blends in with his environment thanks to this animation, with his cowl especially looking really good.

In terms of characterization, the film's pretty good. Batman, obviously, remains a strong and interesting character, and we're so swept into this torn man that we forget how ridiculous the idea of a man in a bat costume is. The rest of the cast is great too, especially Mark Hamill as The Joker. Think what you will of Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger, but Hamill brings a pleasant theatrical quality to the character and he's probably my vote for the best "Joker laugh". While the main cast - Batman, Joker, Phantom, Andrea, etc - are great, I thought that some of the minor characters left something to be desired. They weren't terrible actors, but the performances felt cheesy when compared to the major players.

Speaking of cheesiness, however, I found that element to be in large quantities in this film. It's not so bad in some scenes, but it can be downright awful in others. For example, before the Phantom kills anyone, he always - and I mean ALWAYS - states this cheesy 'catchphrase', if you will. The deep voice combined with those awful lines just made my palm meet my face in embarrassment.

Still, the pacing's pretty nice and can, in some cases, run very much like an animated noir of sorts. I found the relationship between Bruce Wayne and Andrea to be especially so, what with the tragic romance and the dialogue between the two. There's a sequence where Bruce Wayne, struggling whether to settle down or maintain the vow to his parents, that really came off as quite emotional, dark, and noir-like. I won't say much, but the line "I didn't count on being happy" felt like something out of Casablanca.

Though the film can be overly cheesy at times, the movie's still a lot of fun. It's got a great sense of style, the characters remain interesting, and the pacing's quite smooth. Mask of The Phantasm proves to be a great, perhaps even underrated, Batman movie.





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Casen J. said...
Aug. 11, 2010 at 8:09 am
love this movie and the cartoon well I like any batman cartoon thats on T.V.
 
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