Keeping up with the current theme as well as fulfilling a previous obligation, it is only fitting to include, what I think to be, the best Batman film ever made. And would you believe it, it's animated. In 1992 my life was changed when I saw my favourite comic book hero come to life on my TV. Well not to life, but you get what I'm saying. Needless to say, I rushed home from school everyday to catch the next episode of the greatest screen incarnation of the caped crusader and his foes. Tim Burton had already created two fantastic live action movies, but it was about time that all the fans of the animated series get theirs. We got it in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, one of the most emotional and dark crimes to ever be solved by the Dark Knight.
Review by Tristan
Added: January 13, 2008
The story of this movie is broken up into two parts: with the main one being the present day, and the other being flashbacks to Bruce Wayne's (Kevin Conroy) past. In the present day a mysterious figure known as the Phantasm has emerged in Gotham. Sporting a get-up similar to Batman's, save the huge blade on one hand, this "Angel of Death" is hunting down Gotham's mob bosses, and dealing out a little vigilante justice. This is all well and good until Batman is mistaken as the murderer and becomes the victim of a city wide manhunt. In the midst of all this ruckus, Andrea Beaumont (Dana Delany) - Bruce's former lover - returns to Gotham after breaking up their engagement and leaving the country years earlier. This gets Bruce to start remembering his past, and throughout a series of flashbacks we learn of his romance with Andrea, his early crime fighting days, and where he got the idea for his cape and cowl.
So you're framed for murder, hunted by the police, and now you're long-lost-love has just wandered back into your life. What else could possibly go wrong? Well for starters, the last remaining mob boss can put a hit out on you, and hire the Joker (Mark Hamill) to carry out his dirty work. And as we all know, the Clown Prince of Crime will spare no expense on getting the job done, no matter who gets caught in the crossfire. Batman soon realizes that there is more of a connection between Andrea returning to town and the recent string of murders, as her father was in cahoots with several of the mobsters being taken out, one of which bears a strong resemblance to our friend, the Joker.
This is one hell of a movie. It's got everything in it a Batman fan could want, and more. It is much darker and far more violent than the television series ever was, which is an immediate bonus in my books. Even in the live action movies, I certainly don't remember the Joker losing any teeth, besides his fake ones. Speaking of which, he might not have the right look, but Mark Hamill has, without a doubt, the best voice of the Joker I've ever heard. His Joker is the perfect balance between a zany circus clown and a psychopathic murderer, both traits ever apparent in this movie.
One of the things that makes this movie work so well, as well as the animated series, is the tone and look of the film. It is the first animation to be created on a black background, a complete contrast of the conventional black-on-white technique. The other thing that works well is the fantastic job done by the voice-over actors. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill are best known from the series, and newcomer Dana Delany does a fantastic job as the sympathetic yet brutal Andrea Beaumont.
I may be crucified for saying this, but in my opinion, this is the best Batman movie to make it on the big screen. The series was always true to the comics, while taking their own approach with characters and story lines, and this was no exception. It was dark, violent, funny, and oddly enough, pretty sad. Not something you'd expect from Batman cartoon, but they pulled it off nicely. Fans of the comic will enjoy this one, as well as fans of the series and previous films. When all is said and done this is one of the most complex and interesting characters ever created at his very best.