Movies: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

May 2, 2005 at 4:40 PM (General)

I watched Batman: Mask of the Phantasm last night.  This is an animated film (from the makers of the Batman animated series), released to theatres in 1993.  Owing to the fact that it didn’t get the desired response, there weren’t more animated Batman films released in theatres, though there were a number of them that went direct to video.

That’s a pity, since Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is a very good film.  For starters, it’s very stylised — the setting looks like something from an old gangster film, yet with a modern touch.  The character design of the Batman (same as in the animated series) is probably one of the best ever put on screen, with an impressive and dark black-and-grey costume (reminds me of the way Frank Miller drew the character in his The Dark Knight Returns series).  The animated series stood out because it was designed not just for children — they were well written and had good characters and action sequences to be appreciated by older viewers as well (if not for the fact that most of Cartoon Network’s programmes are dubbed in Hindi here, I might still be watching the series.  The dubbing sort of takes away the impact of the series).

In the present movie, a mysterious figure starts picking off some of Gotham City’s crime bosses one by one.  Among the first to go are Charles "Chucky" Sol and "Buzz" Bronsky.  Due to the fact that the mysterious figure is dressed in a cape, and because it is only glimpsed by the goons of the fallen gangsters, Batman gets implicated.  The public fear that Batman might have finally snapped, and taken the law into his own hands.  Batman/Bruce Wayne, meanwhile, is just as concerned about these crimes, and he is trying to find out who the mysterious killer is.  Meanwhile, Andrea Beaumont shows up in Bruce Wayne’s life again.  Through flashbacks, we are shown that Andrea was the love of Bruce Wayne’s life, and had she not left him mysteriously, he might have never taken the life of Batman, and might have settled down with her.  The Joker also figures in the plot.

The movie kept me involved throughout, thanks to its interesting story and characters.  The screenplay explored Bruce Wayne’s early days as Batman (I haven’t read Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One series, but I think the movie would have drawn inspiration from there), and also developed the characters well.  It also featured a number of exciting action sequences.  The Joker here was certainly a scary villain, and the sequence in the Gotham Fair reminded me of similar scenes in the book Batman: The Killing Joke.

The movie’s screenplay is credited to Alan Burnett (who wrote the story also), Paul Dini, Martin Pasko and Michael Reaves.  It is directed by Eric Radomski and Bruce Timm.  It also features a moody music score by Shirley Walker (same as in the animated series), and the voice acting (Kevin Conroy as Batman, Dana Delany as Andrea, Mark Hamill as the Joker, among others) is excellent.  The bottom line is that it is really a very good movie, and very much worth watching.

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