Between Batman Returns and Batman Forever an animated movie, based upon the animated series, was released in 1993. It’s called the Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and I’ve now got some difficulty reviewing this movie after having seen the entire animated series. Part of what makes a movie good is originality and after watching it, it occurred to me that some elements might have looked rehashed from the series, but since this was released while the series was still running some episodes borrowed from this movie instead of the other way around. So the core of this movie was also used in the episode “The Judge” where a new vigilante pops up and kills the bad guys, something Batman never does. But of course people think that Batman is responsible and a councilman wants to bring batman to justice.
No such a storyline would easily fit into your average batman episode so there is another storyline about a young woman with whom Bruce wayne was romantically engaged with and who is in town again. This is the woman Bruce left to become Batman and through flashbacks we see Bruce’s first steps at being a vigilante.
The Phantasm in the title is the name of the vigilante doing the killing. A cool character who is surrounded by smoke, seems to float and can disappear into thin air. He seems to posses the same fighting skills as batman and is thus a worthy adversary. His identity and motive become the mystery the dark detective has to unravel and in the third act even The Joker pops up to give old Batsy an even more difficult time.
Running at a mere 76 minutes and having the exact animation style of the animated series this feels like an extended episode. The movie does center on Bruce Wayne a lot for a change, which is nice, but it does turn all the other characters like Gordon to glorified cameos. With a longer running time there is more room for development and most screen time other than Batman goes to Andrea Beaumont, the woman he gave up to become Batman and who’s father seems to be linked to the Phantasm.
Made before Hollywood went all crazy on casting famous actors for the voices this movie has the, of course, the voices from the cartoon and a few new ones for the new characters, but none of them is a big Hollywood star. This is a good thing as most of the time you keep on seeing the face of the actor behind a character. Batman does’t have that problem.
Batman: The Mask Of Phantasm is a movie that will appeal to fans of the TV-series and the Tim Burton movies. It’s not a great movie, but it it’s definitely better than the Joel Schumacher junk. Most of the problem lies with the fact that it really feels just like an episode, it misses that epic feel one would expect from a movie.