This’ll be the last Batman article for a while, I promise.
During a discussion my friends and I had about the new Batman movie, one of them brought up Mask of the Phantasm. I hadn’t seen it in ages, so I couldn’t really give my input on it. But it got me thinking: is that movie as good as we all remember it being? Is it the true best Batman movie?
So, I rewatched it. And I came to a conclusion. One that you guys might not be happy to read.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm isn’t really that good. Don’t get me wrong: it’s still an incredibly solid movie. The story is engaging and the visuals still hold up to this day. However, there were a few glaring issues that held it back from being the ‘best’ Batman movie for me.
Hoo boy, I’m gonna get hanged for this one.
A mysterious phantom has appeared in Gotham, murdering certain high-ranking members of crime syndicates. Everyone in the city believes this new killer to be none other than the Batman! Now, the Caped Crusader must find the true killer and clear his name. But the criminals of Gotham are getting desperate, and may turn to a familiar villain to abate their fears. Worse yet: a certain figure from Bruce Wayne’s past reappears and re-awakens doubts our hero has put aside for years.
Let’s start with the positives. This movie does something few other Batman movies do: it explores the mentality of Bruce Wayne. We see just how truly damaged this man is because of the guilt he feels over his parents’ death; the dude straight-up has a mental breakdown because he was happy! It’s a solid exploration of who he is beneath the mask, and it’s very well done.
The animation still holds up remarkably well. Granted, the CGI they used for the intro sequence has definitely shown its age. But the majority of the film is animated in 2D, and it still looks fantastic! The classic style of the original Animated Series will never not look good! And the music is just phenomenal!
Of course, the voice cast is incredible. It goes without saying that Kevin Conry and Mark Hamill are phenomenal as Batman and Joker respectively. That doesn’t mean the rest of the cast are lacking. Dana Delany is very charismatic as Andrea and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. is great as Alfred. It’s solid all around.
Alright. Now let’s get into my problems with the movie.
A lot of the plot of this movie feels kinda messy. Rather than focusing on one plotline and doing it well, it juggles three and doesn’t necessarily do them all well. The movie should have focused on the story of Bruce and Batman and the mysterious Phantasm enemy and the crime families. Instead, they shoe-horned the Joker into the movie to steal the finale and they rushed the ending; one of the biggest plots is all about Gotham turning against Batman, and that plot is never resolved!
The romance, as important as it is, feels remarkably rushed. Granted, it’s a Batman story; rushed romance is nothing new. Still, it makes the ending feel a bit… hollow.
Now, neither of these issues are so bad that they ruin the film. I’m more than willing to admit that they’re both entirely personal objections. Joker is enjoyable in this movie, even if I feel the movie would have been a bit more focused without him. This is not a bad film, despite its issues.
Is Batman: Mask of the Phantasm the best Batman movie? I wouldn’t say so. It’s a great movie, don’t get me wrong! But ‘best?’ I don’t think so.
I mean, come on! The 60s Batman movie exists! How can you top that?