|Batman: Mask of the Phantasm|
|Directed By|| Bruce Timm|
|Produced By|| Benjamin Melniker|
|Written By|| Alan Burnett|
|Starring|| Kevin Conroy|
Efrem Zimbalist Jr.
John P. Ryan
|Music By|| Shirley Walker|
Danny Elfman (Theme)
|Editing By||Al Breitenbach|
Warner Bros. Animation
Warner Bros. Family Entertainment
Dong Yang Animation Co., LTD.
Spectrum Animation Studio
|Distributed By||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Running Time||76 minutes|
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is a 1993 American animated superhero film based on the DC Comics character Batman, more specifically the 1990s television show Batman: The Animated Series. The film's storyline introduces Andrea Beaumont, an old love interest of Bruce Wayne's, who returns to Gotham City, restarting their romance. At the same time, a new mysterious vigilante begins systematically eliminating Gotham's crime bosses, and due to the person's dark appearance, he is mistaken for Batman. Now on the run from the police, the Dark Knight must apprehend the killer, clear his name, and deal with the romance between him and Andrea.
The film was distributed by Warner Bros., directed by Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski (the creators of The Animated Series) and written by Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Michael Reaves and Martin Pasko. The original idea was to release the film as direct-to-video, but the studio decided for a theatrical release, giving the filmmakers a strenuous eight-month schedule. Mask of the Phantasm received widespread acclaim from critics, who praised the film for its animation style, dialogue and acting, but it was a box office bomb due to the decision to release the film in theaters on such short notice. The film has since found cult success through its various VHS and DVD releases.
During a conference of crime bosses held in a Gotham City skyscraper, gangster Chuckie Sol is killed by a mysterious cloaked figure shortly after Batman bursts in on the meeting. Batman is blamed for Sol's death. Councilman Arthur Reeves tells the media that Batman is a public menace, then attends a party at the mansion of billionaire Bruce Wayne, Batman's alter ego. Reeves teases Bruce for his bad luck with women and for having allowed an old girlfriend, Andrea Beaumont, to get away.
In a flashback to ten years ago, during Bruce's college days, Bruce meets Andrea in a cemetery while visiting his parents' grave. That night, in one of his first crime-fighting attempts, Bruce foils an armored car robbery while disguised in a black ski-mask and leather jacket. Though he succeeds, he is discouraged that the criminals did not fear his appearance. Around the same time, he begins a romance with Andrea. Eventually, Bruce decides to abandon his plan on becoming a crime-fighting vigilante and proposes marriage to Andrea (though while doing so, they stumble upon a bat-infested underground cave near Bruce's home). However, Andrea mysteriously leaves Gotham soon after with her father, Carl Beaumont, ending her engagement to Bruce in a Dear John letter. Believing that he has lost his only chance of having a normal life, Bruce finally dons the mask of Batman.
In the present, the Phantasm vigilante finds and kills another gangster, Buzz Bronski. Around the same time, Batman discovers that Andrea has returned to Gotham. Batman soon discovers evidence linking Andrea's father with a number of mobsters. The Phantasm later targets Salvatore Valestra, the mob boss for whom both Sol and Bronski once worked as enforcers. Desperate, Valestra turns to The Joker for help. The Phantasm tries to eliminate Valestra, but finds the gangster dead, his face disfigured with Joker venom; the house then explodes, with the Phantasm barely escaping. Batman pursues the Phantasm, but is interrupted by the police, who believe that Batman is responsible for the murders. Andrea rescues Batman in her car, and they spend the night together at Wayne Manor. Andrea explains to Bruce that she and her father had been hiding in Europe from the Valestra mob, to whom he owed a lot of money. Carl Beaumont eventually repaid them, but they wanted "interest compounded in blood." Batman believes that Andrea's father may be the Phantasm, but soon gets Reeves (who now knows Batman is innocent but who has been poisoned by the Joker with Joker venom) to confess that he told the mob where Beaumont was hiding in return for campaign contributions, and that the mob ordered Beaumont's death.
The Phantasm tracks the Joker to his hideout; a miniaturized replica of Gotham City in an abandoned amusement park and removes the ominous costume: The Phantasm is Andrea, intent on avenging her father's death. The Joker is also revealed to be the last surviving member of the Valestra mob; before his fateful first encounter with Batman, he was an unnamed hitman who personally murdered Carl Beaumont on Valestra's orders. Batman arrives and saves Andrea from the Joker, and begs Andrea to give up her quest for revenge. She refuses, stating that the mob ruined any chance she had at happiness; she then tells Batman that he himself is driven by revenge. Andrea vanishes and Batman battles with the Joker, a struggle that ends in stalemate. Moments later, Andrea reappears and seizes the Joker, bidding Batman goodbye before vanishing with the supervillain in a cloud of smoke. The model city (and the entire amusement park) then erupts in a series of rigged explosions, which Batman barely escapes by falling into a waterway and being swept away to safety by the current.
Back in the Batcave, a heartbroken Bruce receives consolation from Alfred, who tells him that no one could have helped Andrea. Bruce finds a locket containing a picture of himself and Andrea in the cave. Meanwhile, Andrea is shown standing alone on the deck of a departing ocean liner. In the final scene, Batman stands alone on the top of a Gotham building, saddened by his recent experience; when the Batsignal appears in the sky, he swings off into the night to continue his war on crime.
Impressed by the success of the first season of Batman: The Animated Series on the Fox Network, Warner Bros. assigned Alan Burnett to write a story for a full-length animated film. Although The Joker does play a pivotal role in the film, it was Burnett's intention to tell a story far removed from the television show's regular rogues gallery. Burnett also cited he "wanted to do a love story with Bruce because no one had really done it on the TV show. I wanted a story that got into his head." The writers were highly cautious of placing the Joker in the film as they did not want any connection to Tim Burton's Batman (1989), but writer Michael Reaves said, "We then realized that we could make his appearance serve the story in a way that we never could in live-action." Aiding Burnett in writing the script were: Martin Pasko, who handled most of the flashback segments; Michael Reaves, who wrote the climax; and Paul Dini, who claims he "filled in holes here and there." Citizen Kane (1941) served as an influence for the flashbacks, a story about loss and the passage of time.
Early in production, Warner Brothers decided to release Phantasm with a theatrical release, rather than straight to video. That left less than a year for production time (most animated features take well over two years from finished story to final release). Due to this decision, the animators went over the scenes once more in order to accommodate widescreen theatrical aspect ratio.
In addition to the creative control, the studio increased the production budget to $6 million, which gave the filmmakers opportunities for more elaborate set pieces. The opening title sequence featured a flight through an entirely computer-generated Gotham City. As a visual joke, sequence director Kevin Altieri set the climax of the film inside a miniature automated model of Gotham City, where Batman and The Joker were giants. This was a homage to a mainstay of Batman comic books of the Dick Sprang era, often featuring the hero fighting against a backdrop of gigantic props. From start to finish, the film was completed within eight months. Composer Shirley Walker cited the score of Phantasm as a favorite among her own compositions.
Paul Dini intended each of the flashbacks into Batman's love life to "have a tendency to get worse, when you hope things will get better." Bruce's relationship with Andrea Beaumont, which at first shows promise, eventually turns into turmoil. At first, Bruce and Andrea are set for marriage, but then Bruce is given a farewell note from Andrea cutting off their relationship. This eventually leads into Bruce's decision to become Batman. Richard Corliss of Time felt this scene paralleled Andrea's decision to avenge her own parents and reject love, when she finds her own father Carl dead by the hands of an assassin. Both events transform the two people (Bruce becomes Batman, Andrea becomes the Phantasm).
One scene depicts Bruce Wayne at his parents' tombstone saying "I didn't count on being happy." According to writer Michael Reaves, this scene was to be a pivotal moment in Bruce's tragic life, as he is denied the opportunity to live a normal life. Reaves also stated: "When Bruce puts on the mask for the first time, [after Andrea breaks their engagement], and Alfred says 'My God!' he's reacting in horror, because he's watching this man he's helped raise from childhood, this man who has let the desire for vengeance and retribution consume his life, at last embrace the unspeakable."
- Pat Musick as The Announcer
Based on 23 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm received an average 88% overall approval rating with the consensus stating, "Stylish and admirably respectful of the source material, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm succeeds where many of the live-action Batman adaptations have failed."
Empire cited it as the best animated film of 1993, and felt it contained better storylines than Tim Burton's Batman and Batman Returns. TV Guide was impressed with the art deco noir design that was presented. In addition the film's climax and Batman's close call with the Gotham City Police Department were considered to be elaborate action sequences. Richard Harrington of The Washington Post agreed with overall aspects that included the animation, design, dialogue. and storyline, as well as Shirley Walker's film score. Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert regretted not having viewed the film in its theatrical release. They did give a positive reaction, with Siskel feeling that Phantasm was better than Batman Returns and Batman Forever, and only slightly below Batman.
Stephen Holden of The New York Times thought the voice performances were "flat and one-dimensional". Chris Hicks of the Deseret News felt "the picture didn't come alive until the third act" feeling that the animators sacrificed the visuals for the storyline. In addition, he felt Mark Hamill "stole the show." Leonard Klady of Variety had mixed reactions towards the film, but was overly negative. He felt the overall themes and morals were clichéd and cited the animation to be to the "point of self-parody".
IGN ranked Mask of the Phantasm as the 25th best animated film of all time in a list published in 2010.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm opened on Christmas Day 1993 in the United States in 1,506 theaters, accumulating $1,189,975 over its opening weekend. The film went on to gross $5,617,391 in the domestic total box office intake. The filmmakers blamed Warner Bros. for the unsuccessful marketing campaign. Mask of the Phantasm did eventually pass its $6 million budget with its various home video releases.
Alongside The Lion King and The Nightmare Before Christmas, Mask of the Phantasm was nominated for an Annie Award in the category of Best Animated Feature, but lost out to The Lion King.
In December 1993, two novelizations were released. One was written by Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, and Andrew Helfer with the other authored by Geary Gravel. DC Comics released a comic book adaption written by Kelley Puckett and drawings by Mike Parobeck.
The film was released on VHS in May 1994 and again in April 2003, though this time, part of a three tape pack with Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero and Batman Beyond: The Movie. Mask of the Phantasm was first released on DVD in December 1999 as a snap case and in October 2005 as a keep case with the insert. The film was released in April 2004 as a three disc DVD box set that included SubZero and Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, but it is currently out of stock. Warner Home Video released the film once more in February 2008, but as a double feature DVD with SubZero. Warner Archive Collection made a blu-ray available on July 25, 2017, with the original theatrical aspect ratio, still with no additional features.