Twitter Plot Summary: Batman is wrongly accused of killing mob bosses when a new vigilante appears in Gotham.
Five Point Summary:
1. Literally Batman begins.
2. Bad move, Bruce – never hang out at the memorial in “the gear.”
3. Hello, Mark Hamill.
4. And they almost got him…
5. What a twist! Although it should really have been obvious.
Mask of the Phantasm marked the first in what has since become a long line of animated adventures set in the DC Universe. Suffice to say, Batman is always a popular choice and Warner Bros Animated division’s movies are invariably of a high quality. Phantasm fits into the animated continuity established by Batman The Animated Series, taking place somewhere within the run of the original animated series. Continuity-wise, you could probably place it wherever you like, but in many ways it works best as an exploration into Bruce Wayne’s decision to become Batman.
Mask of the Phantasm introduces a new vigilante to Gotham – the Phantasm of the title (although not specifically named as such within the film itself). He’s going round bumping off mob bosses and unfortunately for Batman he ends up implicated in their deaths and he has to both clear his name and discover who this Phantasm really is. All in a day’s work for the Dark Knight though. His detective skills get time to breathe, which is a nice change from the two Tim Burton films that movie goers had previously been treated to. It’s always a risk with Batman that his crime solving capability will be lost amongst the many incidents of smacking people upside the head, but that’s not so much the case here.
There are nice but not graphic amounts of violence, a bit more than you can get away with in a TV animated series but still clean enough so that kids can still watch it. There’s also a surprising amount of emotional depth to it, sufficient to entertain the youth market it’s primarily aimed at, yet remains perfectly entertaining for adults as well because of the themes explored. The art deco style of The Animated Series carries over, and looks as impressive as ever, separating animated Batman from all the other pretenders to the animated crown.
The story is intercut with flashbacks to Bruce’s past, seeing his early days as Batman and his budding relationship and later split from Andrea Beaumont, a girl who is perhaps a perfect match for Bruce, to the extent that both of them visit the graveyard to talk to their dead parents – bit creepy, I know. Expanding on areas that would have been difficult to cover in a 22 minute format, the feature length run time allows the story to run at its own pace, splitting evenly between the Phantasm storyline and Bruce’s flashbacks – all of which tie in together in ways that will soon become apparent.
It wouldn’t be Batman without some sort of influence from The Joker, so Mark Hamill steps up to the plate and reprises his role as the Clown King of Crime who is deeply involved in the matter and adds his own particular level of insanity to it. When taking a step back from the story it may seem obvious who the Phantasm is, but then that’s not really the point. More pertinent is the reasons behind Bruce putting on the mask, and the losses that led him in that direction. Powerful stuff ordinarily, but the fact it’s also coming from an animated movie makes it more so.