When people think of the best Batman movie ever, they usually think about BATMAN (1989) or THE DARK KNIGHT. What people may overlook is the animated BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM. This movie can provide a more accurate version of the dark knight than any other movie. Now that the movie is coming to HD and Blu-Ray, hopefully, more people will give this movie a look.

BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM was an animated feature based off BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, even developed by the same team. This movie gave viewers an original, structurally complex, and emotionally depth Batman story. It made many bold choices that exceeded expectations.

Batman…

BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM introduced an original villain named The Phantasm. The Phantasm has been killing old mobsters across Gotham City. Both the police and the public both believe that Batman is responsible. Batman must solve this complicated mystery before he is taken out by either the Police, The Phantasm, or the Joker.

Phantasm

This movie explores Batman as a character, rather than just an idea or a symbol. It delves into the psychology of Bruce Wayne in a way no other movie has done. In the movie, we see an old flame of Bruce’s return to Gotham City. This old flame is Andrea Beaumont, the first girl Bruce dated after the death of his parents. Before BATMAN BEGINS, this movie showed Bruce’s transition into Batman. In flashbacks, audiences see Bruce’s first-night crime fighting, but he hasn’t become Batman yet.

…and The Phantasm

Through the flashbacks, viewers also see how happy Bruce was with Andrea and how tormented he is because of it. There is even a scene where Bruce is kneeling on his parent’s grave begging for their forgiveness as if being happy is a crime. Bruce proposes to Andrea, and it seems that Bruce will get a chance at being happy. Andrea suddenly leaves the country with her father and tells Bruce to forget about him. After she leaves, Bruce finally becomes Batman.

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In the present day, one mobster who believes he will be next contacts the Joker to help take out whoever is killing the mobsters. The audience learns that the Joker had a connection to these mobsters. In a flashback, it is revealed that the Joker was a low-level gangster before he became the Joker.

Batman, The Phantasm, and the Joker end up at the Gotham World’s Fair. The Phantasm is revealed to be none other than Andrea Beaumont herself.  In the end, the World Fair blows up, the three characters all escape, but both Batman and Andrea don’t get a happy ending.

What Makes This Movie Different From The Others?

While there have been many different portrayals of Batman, none of the movies take as many risks as this movie. Batman is known to be the World’s Greatest Detective, yet in most live action films, there is no mystery to solve for Batman or the audience.

In this film, there is a legitimate mystery to solve that the audience will not get immediately. By creating an original villain, there is no way of telling who the villain is. There are no comic book references, but there are clues within the film. Even the voice for The Phantasm is a hint at the real identity of the character.

The choice of villain for this movie is a great choice for the movie. Batman and Andrea are connected on a deeper level when it is revealed that she is The Phantasm. Not only was she a great love interest, but she is also a twisted mirror image of Batman herself. She was motivated by the death of her father, but instead of a desire for justice, she desired vengeance.

Most villains in Batman comics are an extreme of one part of Batman’s character. Two-Face represents the duality Batman faces as Bruce Wayne and Batman. The Penguin represents greed Bruce Wayne could face. Mr. Freeze represents Batman being emotionless. Scarecrow represents the fear that Batman puts into criminals. All these villains are interesting, but none of them represent all of Batman. The Phantasm could be seen as a version of Batman if he focused on vengeance more than justice.Batman Villains

Symbolism

Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy focused on Batman as a symbol or an idea rather than a person. This movie focuses more on the character of Batman and uses symbolism in other places. The Gotham World’s Fair, for example, is a symbol of the relationship between Bruce and Andrea. When Bruce and Andrea first visited, the fair was a symbol of hope and optimism for the future.

Similar to how Bruce and Andrea’s relationship brought hope and optimism into Bruce’s life. In the present, the fair is decayed and in ruins. Similar to how Bruce and Andrea’s relationship is strained and dying. When the fair finally blows up, it symbolizes that Bruce And Andrea’s future no longer exists.

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Another scene shows Bruce and Andrea embracing after he proposes to her. While they are kissing, bats fly out from a nearby cave. They fly in a pattern into the sky. This is a foreshadowing into the transformation from Bruce Wayne to Batman. Even though Bruce may think that everything will work out, his future will take a turn, similar to the bats in the sky. Then he will be lead to complete his mission.

Understanding Batman

This movie seems to understand Batman in ways no other movie can. It shows the mystery that Batman has to solve. The villain is dangerous and fascinating. Batman’s psychology is well explored. While Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan did a great job with their versions of Batman, it did not encompass everything that made Batman an interesting character. There were times when the villains in Burton and Nolan’s Batman movies were more interesting than Batman himself.

BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM is a must see for any Batman fan. It balances out the silliness of costume heroics with adult thinking and complex storytelling. The movie is only 76 minutes long while BATMAN (1989) is 126 minutes and THE DARK KNIGHT is 152 minutes long. This movie takes half the time to tell a deep, complex, yet fun narrative that represents all of Batman.

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