Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, a 1993 animated film, was the first animated Batman movie. Based in the nineties Batman cartoon universe, the film boasts much of the same cast and crew as the series. This includes the director Bruce Timm, writer Paul Dini, and the voice talents of Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as the Joker.
The film follows the story of a new villain known as the Phantasm who is systematically taking out some of Gotham's gangsters. The media and police, sans Commissioner Gordon (Bob Hastings,) blame the murders on Batman. Meanwhile an old flame of Bruce Wayne's, Andrea Beaumont (Dana Delany,) comes back into town bringing up old wounds for him.
One strange thing about watching the film is the fact that it is set within the animated series universe. This means its geared towards a young audience. Batman these days is a little more jaded, violent, and dark. Where as the move presents a lighter tone to Batman. In the film Batman trusts a significant amount more than the modern interpretation. Taking this into consideration the modern Batman would have solved the mystery half way through the movie, so in the end it is a benefit that he isn't as paranoid in this film.
Its a quality film. The animation, a very nineties style still stands the test of time. The film could stand to get the digital enhancement treatment that so many animated films are receiving. The colours aren't as vibrant and the lines are a bit shaky; a little touch up would make it shine.
There are far better animated films than Mask of the Phantasm, even some other animated Batman films are slightly better than it. An argument can be made that it does, however, present a better Batman and story than most, if not all, of the live action films. Superheroes, and comics in general, are a medium that is hard to replicate in real life. There are so many fantastic ideas and elements that until recently couldn't properly be done. Animation is the perfect form for turning a comic into a movie, so much more can be done.
Batman has been in many movies, and many of those are animated. Mask of the Phantasm may not be the best of the bunch, but it is a classic. Its a nostalgia ride for a generation of nineties kids, as well as a family friendly romp through the Batman universe.
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