Originally planned to be a pilot to the 1990s TV series, Batman the Mask of the Phantasm follows a story which takes place early on in Batman’s fabled career. Here, a mysterious masked bringer of vengeance has recently been killing various thugs, and mob bosses, leading Batman to be blamed by Gotham councilman Arthur Reeves. He is also reunited with a former love of his, Andrea Beaumont, and eventually this all leads to a tale of suspense, tragedy, and mystery, that defines everything Batman is supposed to be.
The series clearly takes place in the Batman: the Animated Series universe, but there are no continuity nods to series events, so a casual viewer will know what’s going on without having seen even a single episode of the series. The plot is written in a rather interesting way, continuingly switching between Batman’s current adventures, and his investigation on the mysterious Phantasm, and flashbacks to when Bruce is in his mid-20s, and falling in love with Andrea Beaumont. Occasionally, the switch in focus in the plotline can be confusing, and sometimes you’ll have to be paying attention to the movie the entire time in order to know what’s going on. Ultimately, this choice of plot line definitely fits the dark, mysterious tone of the movie, and also helps explain the character, and origins of different characters in the movie. The story itself will keep first time viewers on their seats the entire time, and the reveal of another Batman villain near the film’s climax makes for a riveting climatic showdown. However, the storyline definitely isn’t perfect. Some of the story is rather exaggerated, like Councilman Reeves is successfully able to rally several police precincts after Batman, something only a police commissioner or mayor of the city would be able to do. But despite some rather over dramatized situations, and a few convenient plot contrivances, Batman the Mask of the Phantasm tells a compelling story in the Batman mythos, only rivaled by Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins.
The animation in the movie is of a slightly higher quality then the aforementioned TV series. While certainly not a bad thing, for Batman the Animated series had a very high budget, and was produced with high quality animation, the movie feels like it could use an extra boost to take it above the series. Background characters don’t often move, and occasionally some characters’ lose lip synching with the voice actors, but in contrast, the shading techniques, and movement of central characters is done excellently, and the dark, shady atmosphere of Gotham City is capture perfectly.
The music score is captivating, and an opening rendition of the Batman theme definitely steals the show. The solemn musical scores played during particularity tragic scenes will definitely cause some viewers to shed tears. The voice actors do a great job voicing their characters, new comer Dana Delany making a surprising name for herself with her performance. Kevin Conroy as Batman, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Alfred, and Mark Hamill as Joker all make stunning performances, with Mark Hamill ultimately making the best performance of the three. As a whole the voice performances are consistently good, and will even keep skeptics watching the movie.
Overall, Batman Mask of the Phantasm is a compelling, excellently done movie while having some low production values with some inconsistencies in the animation, and some convenient plot contrivances, the stellar voice performances, riveting music score, and interesting story makes this movie find its place as the best of Batman’s film adaptions
Score: 4 out of 5