Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993) – Review

3 Stars

Before the resurgence and eventual domination of the box-office by superheroes, this 1993 animated theatrical release was considered one of the greatest superhero films of all time, regardless of the fact it ran concurrently with the television show. Among fans of the Caped Crusader there was a debate that raged from 1993 to 2005. Is Batman: Mask of the Phantasm better than the live-action films of the Burton/Schumacher era?

Beautifully rendered and written with an adult audience in mind, Batman:MOTP is a shinning example of a correct interruption of Bob Kane’s idealized version of the Dark Knight. Batman is more Sherlock Holmes in this tale, which is a bit heavy on flashback sequences that hurts the over-all flow of the narrative. Bruce’s love life as a young man is given attention, and the themes explored here would later be fleshed out by Nolan’s more cerebral take on the material.

The time period resembles the 1940s but the technology is modern as Gotham city faces a new threat nicknamed ‘The Phantasm’. Batman (Kevin Conroy) must stop a mysterious figure who is rubbing out Gotham City’s most dangerous criminals, and who the police/media believe is the caped crusader himself. Meanwhile, Batman’s public persona, playboy millionaire Bruce Wayne, is reunited with his former lover Andrea Beaumont (Dana Delany). Are Batman’s crime-fighting days over?

Batman:MOTP was considered a disappointment at the domestic box-office, particularly in the company of Nightmare Before Christmas and The Lion King. To be fair this was intended as a straight-to-video release which was deemed fit for nationwide theatrical distribution. The irony is that while the look of the cartoon is high quality, the story is nothing that the animated series hadn’t done better five days a week.

Director: Eric Radomski, Bruce Timm
Stars: Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Dana Delany

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