“Mask of the Phantasm” is Still the Best Batman Movie Ever Made

We can get argue about Batman in the movies all day long but when it comes down to it the best Batman movie I’ve ever seen is “Mask of the Phantasm.” It’s shocking that the movie initially didn’t do well at the box office since Batman was still a hot property in the 1990’s. Back in 1989 when “Batman” was unleashed, wearing his symbol on a button or t shirt or hat was like a fashion statement, while in 1992 Michelle Pfeiffer just made wave portraying Catwoman in “Batman Returns.”

So naturally “Mask of the Phantasm” should have been met with big box office dough. I’ll never understand what about the movie failed to translate to a big audience in 1993, but today it’s still my favorite Batman.

With the sad passing of Kevin Conroy, and now Richard Moll, it’s become ever more apparent that even amounting to what Bruce Timm contributed to the Batman legacy will never really be toppled. Bruce Timm and Eric Randomski’s “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm” dares to do something wholly different than what we were seeing in the live action features. While Tim Burton opted more for Gothic camp, the animated interpretations just took Batman so much more seriously. “Batman: The Animated Series” didn’t play the audience for fools, depicting him as a morally just, complex, and dark hero living in a world filled with corrupt monsters.

“Mask of the Phantasm” is a mature and conceptually beautiful film that not only delves in to the massive past of Bruce Wayne, but how his and the Joker’s pasts ultimately parallel one another’s. Returning for this big screen outing are Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, both of whom were just amazing working side by side as their respective nemeses. Although the premise of a darker more violent vigilante had been explored in the series before with “Lock-Up” and “On Leather Wings,” The Phantasm is an anti-hero that we’d never seen before.

Almost a darker more horrifying manifestation of the corners of Bruce’s mind that he never discusses. Dana Delaney (who’d later go on to play Lois Lane Bruce Timm’s interpretation of “Superman”) plays Bruce’s first love Andrea Beaumont, whose own path of revenge collides in to Bruce’s. “Mask of the Phantasm” explores what led Andrea down this ultimately violent path and it eventually explodes in to a fury of violence perpetrated by the Joker. “Mask of the Phantasm” wasn’t just a turning point for the Batman Universe, and the DC Animated Universe, but it set the template for future series’ and spin offs including “Batman Beyond.”

It’s set a bar that has yet to truly be reached as Bruce Timm injected so much of the indefinable flair and complexity that not many of the live action Batman outings have been able to rival.