19 November 2009

Evolution of the Batman (and Robin) - Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was originally planned as a direct to video movie based on the Animated Series, but was ultimately released theatrically on Christmas 1993. It mustered up a modest $5.6 million, but that's not to say this movie was no good. In fact, until Batman Begins came out, Phantasm was frequently considered the best Batman film.

Even the esteemed Siskel and Ebert realized they were part of the huge audience that overlooked this gem.

So, what makes it so good? It is true to the spirit of Batman. Now that Batman Begins has spoiled us, it may be difficult to appreciate just what an accomplishment it was to nail the characters of Batman and Bruce Wayne. Kevin Conroy is Batman. His voice is intimidating and commanding without sounding exaggerated. He conveys Bruce's struggle to please his fallen parents, and to and happiness of his own.

The film presents Bruce accepting his tragic fate of becoming the Batman. Also, there is mystery, who is the Phantasm? and what is his game plan?

And there is the Joker who seems to be in all of the best Batman movies. Luke Skywalker delivers a maniacally brilliant performance as Mr. J.

One of my favorite scenes is a flashback sequence showing Bruce wearing black, and a knit ski mask (I wonder were they got that idea from in Begins?). He takes on a group of thugs, and ends up on the hood of a speeding semi, where he pulls out a ball-peen hammer from his belt with which he takes out the big rig. Nice!

Up Next: Batman Forever

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