Tomorrow night, I will be seeing Batman: The Killing Joke on the big screen through Fathom Events. So I figured I’d check out the first and only animated Batman film to get a wide theatrical release.
Released in 1993, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was basically just made to cash in on the fame and success of the Batman animated series that was airing at the time as the film is set in the same universe as the series as well as features a lot of the same voice cast like Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as the Joker.
I should’ve watched this movie a long time ago and I think it’s a shame that this apparently didn’t do so well at the box office because this movie is pretty dang good. Ive only seen a few episodes of Batman: The Animated Series but this definitely feels like the show but with a cinematic budget. That’s of course the first positive. The animation is fantastic. While this is a good film for kids, it definitely has some grit to it. Some of the action gets surprisingly brutal and bloody for a PG movie. Though to be fair, this did come out at a time when PG actually meant something where as now, it might as well stand for Practically G.
The voice acting is spectacular, especially from Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill. These two are the definitive voices for Batman and the Joker. It’s amazing that they’re still voicing these characters after more than 20 years and it’s great to know that they’ll continue to with The Killing Joke and the upcoming series Justice League Action. Dana Delany was also great as Bruce’s love interest, Andrea. She and Conroy have really good chemistry and her story is genuinely heartbreaking.
I of course have to talk about the story. For a movie that’s only and hour and 16 minutes long, there is a lot going on in this movie. You’ve got the story around Bruce Wayne’s conflicted feelings when he has suddenly started to find happiness, Batman being on the run from the police as he’s been framed for a series of murders (yeah, people die in this movie.), the Joker getting involved and a surprising twist involving his past, etc. And yet nothing feels underutilized.
However, that does lead into one of my negatives, even if it is a small one. By the end of the film, there’s no real resolution for Batman being framed for the murders. We never see the police find out that it wasn’t Batman. Another small problem was that at a point or 2, it was a little hard to tell when the flashbacks stopped or started. But those are basically nit picks.
This deserves more attention than it gets. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm gets 4 out of 5 Batarangs. The funny thing is, this movie came out just before Batman Forever and it’s amazing how much more adult this movie is than that one. And yet, for some reason that film got a Blu-Ray release and not this film. What the Hack?!