The animated film that bombed at the box office and is yet to receive a blu-ray release is also a contender for the best Batman film of all time.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993) is a DC animated film based off the animated series that was briefly released in cinemas. It stars Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne/Batman, who must uncover a very personal mystery behind a new vigilante in Gotham known as the Phantasm.
Just like the animated series, this is basically Batman done to perfection. It’s so obvious how perfectly the creative minds behind this understand the conflicts, iconography and overall tone of the legendary character. The story is dark, grim, mysterious with plenty of twists, bringing to mind iconic Batman stories like The Long Halloween and Year One as well as clever inspirations from the ’89 Batman and even touches of 60s Batman (but obviously integrated into the gothic world of the animated series). There are scenes in here that are utter Batman-perfection. Every bat-fan needs to watch Bruce pleading at his parent’s grave in a thunderstorm to be released from his anguish. The story here is deeply personal and goes straight to the core of why Batman is Batman. And it is done beautifully.
As for the characters, Kevin Conroy once again proves he is the definitive Batman. He plays the character so well that to an entire generation, he is not simply the voice of Batman – he IS Batman. As for other characters, Dana Delany débuts as Andre Beaumont in a very interesting role that I’d rather not spoil, but she makes a significant impression also. Mark Hamill also appears as the Clown Prince of Crime and, like Conroy, does a perfect job bringing the character to life.
The only real gripe I have regarding this film is a late plot twist, that feels like an afterthought and a response to the ’89 Batman film rather than being the big reveal it should have been. But aside from that single problem, Mask of the Phantasm is an incredible Batman story, and it is an absolute must-see for any lovers of Batman. Or simply, lovers of good movies.
General Audiences: Must-see
Film Buffs: Must-see
True Believers (Batman): Must-see