|Batman: Mask of the Phantasm|
Theatrical release poster
|Story by||Alan Burnett|
|Based on||Batman by Bill Finger and Bob Kane|
Batman: The Animated Series created Eric Radomski and Bruce Timm
|Music by||Shirley Walker|
|Edited by||Al Breitenbach|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$5.8 million|
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is a 1993 American animated superhero film featuring the DC Comics character Batman. Directed by Eric Radomski and Bruce Timm, it is a cinematic stand-alone continuation of Batman: The Animated Series and the first original theatrical film produced by Warner Bros. Animation.
The film was written by Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Martin Pasko, and Michael Reaves. Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Bob Hastings and Robert Costanzo reprise their roles from The Animated Series, joined by Dana Delany, Hart Bochner, Stacy Keach, Jr., Abe Vigoda, Dick Miller and John P. Ryan. Its story follows Batman as he reconciles with a former lover, Andrea Beaumont, and faces a mysterious vigilante who is murdering Gotham City's crime bosses, who all indirectly linked to Batman's beginning of his crimefighting crusade. The plot was inspired by Mike W. Barr's Batman: Year Two comic book story arc, but features an original antagonist, the Phantasm, in place of the Reaper, it also borrowed elements from Batman: Year One comic book.
Originally planned for a direct-to-video release, Warner Bros. gave Mask of the Phantasm a theatrical release, condensing its production into a strenuous eight-month schedule. The film was released through the studio's Family Entertainment division on December 25, 1993, to positive reviews from critics, who praised the stylized animation, voice performances, story, and music.
Due to the decision to release it in theaters on short notice, Mask of the Phantasm failed at the box office. After its release on home video, it became financially successful. Its success led to two direct-to-video standalone sequels, Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero in 1998 and Mystery of the Batwoman in 2003. Until the limited release of Batman: The Killing Joke in 2016, Mask of the Phantasm was the only animated Batman film to be given a theatrical release.
Plot[edit | edit source]
A young Bruce Wayne meets Andrea Beaumont while visiting his parents' grave, and they form a deep mutual attraction. That night, in one of his first crime-fighting attempts, Bruce foils an armored car robbery, but is discouraged because the criminals did not fear him. Bruce proposes marriage to Andrea, who accepts. However, Andrea mysteriously leaves Gotham with her father, businessman Carl Beaumont, ending her engagement in a Dear John letter. Heartbroken, Bruce becomes Batman over the course of ten years.
Batman confronts a group of Gotham City crime bosses led by Chuckie Sol, who are intending to launder millions of counterfeit dollars in a casino. As Sol escapes to his car, a cloaked figure attacks him; Sol is killed when the figure causes him to drive out the side of a parking garage and crash into a neighboring building. Batman is seen immediately afterwards, and is blamed for killing Sol. Councilman Arthur Reeves, who is corrupt and on Sol's cabal's payroll, publicly antagonizes Batman, vowing to have him arrested, despite oppositions from Commissioner James Gordon and some of the city's citizens.
The cloaked figure murders another gangster, Buzz Bronski, in the same cemetery Bruce met Andrea. Buzz's bodyguards see the same mysterious figure flee the scene and presume it is Batman. Batman investigates Bronski's death and wanders to his parents' tombstone, encountering Andrea. She is startled by Batman's appearance and realizes who he is. Batman finds evidence linking Carl Beaumont with Sol, Bronski and a third gangster: Salvatore Valestra. He breaks into Valestra's home and finds a picture of Bronski, Valestra, Sol and Beaumont seated at a table. When he visits Andrea to get more answers she rebuffs him. Meanwhile, Valestra, believing Batman killed the others and will come for him, turns to Reeves, who rebuffs him, figuring he is a now an aged, powerless gangster. Valestra then contacts his former assassin, the Joker for help.
The figure arrives at Valestra's house but finds the gangster dead by Joker's hands, and through a camera strapped to Valestra's corpse, Joker sees the murderer is not Batman. The figure escapes as the house explodes. Batman pursues and fights the killer, but is interrupted by the police and rescued from arrest by Andrea. Andrea later explains she and her father had been hiding in Europe from Valestra's mob, from whom he had embezzled money; her father repaid everything, but they put out a hit for his death anyway. Bruce now believes that her father is the killer. Bruce ponders resuming his relationship with Andrea and giving up Batman. Looking at the photo of Bronski, Valestra, Sol and Beaumont, he sees Valestra's chauffeur in the background; Bruce realizes to his horror the chauffeur is actually the man who would become the Joker. Joker visits Reeves to press him for information about the killer; Reeves insists the killer is Batman, but Joker, believing Reeves is the killer, states Reeves needs to protect his reputation and poisons him. Reeves is taken to the hospital where Batman later breaks in and interrogates him. Reeves confesses he helped the Beaumonts escape, but later betrayed their location to Valestra's mob after Carl declined to help fund his first election campaign. At this point, both Batman and the Joker have now deduced the cloaked killer is Andrea.
Andrea tracks Joker to his hideout in order to kill her last target. Joker fights her, but before he can kill Andrea, Batman arrives and begs Andrea to give up her quest. She refuses and disappears. After Batman and the Joker battle to a stalemate, with the amusement park about to be blown up, Andrea returns and seizes Joker, bidding Batman goodbye before vanishing with the maniacally laughing clown, and Batman barely escapes the explosions. Alfred later consoles Bruce, telling him no one could have helped Andrea. Bruce finds her locket, containing a picture of himself and Andrea, in the Batcave. Meanwhile, Andrea departs from Gotham on an ocean liner, feeling completely lost. Heartbroken again, Batman resumes his crimefighting duties after the accusations against him is cleared.
Voice cast[edit | edit source]
- Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne / Batman:
A billionaire industrialist whose parents were killed by a mugger when he was eight years old. After traveling the world for several years to seek the means to fight injustice, he returns to Gotham. At night, Wayne becomes Batman, Gotham City's secret vigilante protector.
- Mark Hamill as The Joker:
Once an assassin for Valestra (and directly responsible for the murder of Carl Beaumont) who later hideously transformed into his more recognizable appearance and becomes Batman's nemesis. Valestra hires him to kill Batman, and is later killed by him. Hamill claims he took the opportunity of reprising his role from The Animated Series by way of creating new "laughing vocabularies".
- Dana Delany as Andrea Beaumont / The Phantasm:
A woman Bruce meets in the early years of his return to Gotham after traveling the world. The decision to propose to her in marriage leads to him abandoning his plans for becoming a vigilante. However, after she unexpectedly and mysteriously leaves, Bruce's heartbreak and anger leads to his becoming Batman. Delany's voice performance in the film impressed the filmmakers, leading to her casting as Lois Lane in Superman: The Animated Series. Stacy Keach (who also voices Carl Beaumont) provided the voice for The Phantasm while masked.
- Hart Bochner as Arthur Reeves:
A corrupt city official who was once an intern for Carl Beaumont (before "selling his name to the mob"). He later becomes involved with Valestra's gang (even put it to good or at least not-so-good use), and is poisoned by The Joker, but the toxin is incomplete and not fatal due to Joker being interrupted. His last appearance is at the Gotham City Mental Hospital, recovering from the effect of exposure to the Joker's poisonous chemicals.
- Stacy Keach as Carl Beaumont:
Andrea's father and a wealthy businessman who made deals with the Valestra gang. He goes in debt to Valestra and flees to Europe with Andrea in order to escape the latter's wrath, but is later murdered by Valestra's assassin. Keach also provided the voice for the Phantasm.
- Abe Vigoda as Salvatore "The Wheezer" Valestra:
A powerful crime boss who practically forces Carl Beaumont to leave. Once Andrea returns, he's nearly dying with the effects of respiratory difficulties and uses an oxygen tank to stabilize his health. Fearing his death due to the murders of other crime bosses, he hires The Joker to kill Batman. In the end, he himself is killed by The Joker. He dies without learning the full story; that Batman was not responsible for the earlier deaths, which Joker deduces afterwards.
- Dick Miller as Charles "Chuckie" Sol:
A crime boss who falls as the first victim to The Phantasm. Originally a lieutenant to Valestra, he later started his own gang and owned a casino as a front.
- John P. Ryan as Buzz Bronski:
A crime boss who seemed to have had a brief partnership with Chuckie Sol whom Buzz always considered a loser. He is later killed by The Phantasm at the graveyard while visiting Sol's grave.
- Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Alfred Pennyworth:
Once the trusted butler to Bruce Wayne's parents, he continues his loyal service to their son after their deaths. He is Bruce Wayne's closest confidant.
- Bob Hastings as Commissioner James Gordon:
The police commissioner of Gotham City who refuses to go after Batman, believing Batman wasn't responsible for any of the killings done by The Phantasm.
- Robert Costanzo as Detective Harvey Bullock:
A police detective of the Gotham City Police Department who is highly cautious and questions Batman's vigilantism.
- Jeff Bennett Additional voices as first and second Burglar, Biker, Cop in helicopter, Cop on radio, SWAT team member, and Man on ship.
Production[edit | edit source]
Impressed by the success of the first season of Batman: The Animated Series on Fox, Warner Bros. assigned Alan Burnett to write a story for a full-length animated film. The original idea for the film was to have Batman being captured by his enemies at Arkham Asylum and be put on a trial by them, as they wanted to show that he was guilty of making them what they had become. The idea's concept, however, was considered "too brainy", as it required Batman to be immobile for a long time, so the idea was later used in the series' episode "Trial", which was aired after the movie's release. 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." In reality, the creative team had said that they originally didn't want to use the Joker in the film. Conversely, Paul Dini stated that the Joker was always part of the film from the beginning of its production. The writers were highly cautious of placing the Joker in the film as they did not want any connection to Tim Burton's 1989 film Batman, 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." In order to keep the Joker as a solo threat, Bruce Timm and Burnett convinced frequent Animated Series writer Paul Dini to not use Harley Quinn in the film for that reason. The same technique was previously used in the episodes "Joker's Wild" and "The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne".
Aiding Burnett in writing the script were Martin Pasko, who handled most of the flashback segments; Reaves, who wrote the climax; and Dini, who claims he "filled in holes here and there". The film's plot was heavily influenced by the 1987 miniseries Batman: Year Two, written by Mike W. Barr and illustrated by Alan Davis, Paul Neary, Alfredo Alcala, Mark Farmer and Todd McFarlane. Orson Welles' 1941 classic Citizen Kane served as an influence for the flashbacks, a story about loss and the passage of time. The character of Hazel, the cook robot of the World of the Future Fair, was named by Burnett after Hazel the Maid (portrayed by actress Shirley Booth), The Saturday Evening Post protagonist of cartoonist Ted Key's TV show Hazel. On the other hand, the design of the Phantasm went into 20 different versions until one was found which convinced the film's crew. According to Burnett, the Phantasm was like the Grim Reaper with a cape, although the idea was to make him resemble the Ghost of Christmas Future of Charles Dickens' novel A Christmas Carol, something that even the Joker mentions in the finished version of the film.
—Eric Radomski on Warner Bros.' decision to release the film theatrically
Early in production, Warner Bros. decided to release Phantasm theatrically, 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 in order to accommodate the widescreen theatrical aspect ratio. The studio cooperated well, granting the filmmakers a large amount of creative control.
Warner Bros. also 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 an homage to a mainstay of Batman comic books of the Dick Sprang era, often featuring the hero fighting against a backdrop of gigantic props (they would later do another homage to Sprang's works in The New Batman Adventures episode "Legends of the Dark Knight"). From start to finish, the film was completed within eight months.
Themes[edit | edit source]
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, 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 murdered. 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 Reaves, this scene was to be a pivotal moment in Bruce's tragic life, as he denies himself 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."
Music[edit | edit source]
|Batman: Mask of the Phantasm – The Animated Movie|
|Film score by|
The soundtrack was composed by Shirley Walker, the main composer for The Animated Series. Walker cited the score as a favorite among her own compositions. In an interview with Cinemusic.com, Walker explained that the "latin" lyrics used in the Main Title were actually names of key Warner Bros. staff read backwards. The song "I Never Even Told You" was written by Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard. It was performed by Tia Carrere. Hans Zimmer, who would later compose the score for The Dark Knight Trilogy, played the synthesizer on the score.
The score was originally released on December 14, 1993, by Reprise Records.
On March 24, 2009, La-La Land Records released a limited expanded edition. The release includes all tracks found on the original release with some tracks expanded. It also features almost 30 minutes of previously unreleased material.
Original release[edit | edit source]
All music composed by Walker except where otherwise noted.
|3.||"Ski Mask Vigilante"||3:06|
|4.||"Phantasm's Graveyard Murder"||3:43|
|6.||"The Big Chase"||5:32|
|7.||"A Plea for Help"||1:55|
|8.||"The Birth of Batman"||4:17|
|9.||"Phantasm and Joker Fight"||4:05|
|11.||"I Never Even Told You"||4:20|
Expanded edition release[edit | edit source]
Previously unreleased tracks are in bold.
- "Main Title: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" (Expanded) (5:01)
- "The Promise" (Expanded) (1:25)
- "Ski Mask Vigilante" (Expanded) (4:28)
- "Fancy Footwork" (0:40)
- "Phantasm's Graveyard Murder" (3:52)
- "Bad News/Set Trap/May They Rest in Peace" (1:51)
- "First Love" (1:59)
- "City Street Drive/Sal Velestra/Good Samaritan" (2:16)
- "Birth of Batman" (Expanded) (6:01)
- "The Joker's Big Entrance" (3:02)
- "The Big Chase" (5:40)
- "Nowhere to Run" (2:01)
- "A Plea for Help" (1:01)
- "A Tall Man/Arturo and his Pal/Makes You Want to Laugh/What's So Funny?" (4:04)
- "Andrea Remembers/True Identity" (3:18)
- "Phantasm and Joker Fight" (6:01)
- "Batman's Destiny" (1:46)
- "I Never Even Told You" (4:23)
- "Theme from Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" (2:06) (Bonus Track)
- "Welcome to the Future!" (1:01) (Bonus Track)
Comic books and merchandise[edit | edit source]
DC Comics released a comic book adaptation written by Kelley Puckett and drawn by Mike Parobeck. The comic book adaptation was later included with the VHS release. Kenner, who had already released toys for the cartoon series, produced several tie in figures for the film, including Joker and the Phantasm (packaged unmasked, spoiling a pivotal plot point in the film). Batman & Robin Adventures Annual #1: Shadow of the Phantasm is a comic book sequel to the film. It was written by Dini and released in 1996. In 2015, a DC Collectibles action figure 2-pack featuring Batman and Phantasm was released.
Home media[edit | edit source]
Mask of the Phantasm was released on LaserDisc in April 1994 and on VHS in May of the same year. The VHS was reissued in April 2003 as part of a three-tape pack with Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero and Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. 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 re-released in April 2004 as a three disc DVD box set that included SubZero and Return of the Joker. That version is currently out of print. Warner Home Video re-released the film again in February 2008 as a double feature DVD with SubZero.
The film was released as part of the Warner Archive Collection on Blu-ray on July 25, 2017, featuring new high definition transfers in 16:9 and open matte 4:3 presentations. The film was also included in the Blu-ray release of the Batman: The Complete Series box-set in late 2018.
Reception[edit | edit source]
Box office[edit | edit source]
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm opened on December 25, 1993 in the United States in 1,506 theaters, accumulating $1,189,975 over its first 2 days. The film went on to gross $5,795,524 in the domestic total box office intake. The filmmakers blamed Warner Bros. for the unsuccessful marketing campaign. Despite this, Mask of the Phantasm eventually turned a profit with its various home video releases.
Critical response[edit | edit source]
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm received generally positive reviews from critics. According to the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 85% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 33 reviews, with an average rating of 7.1/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "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 escape from 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 during its theatrical release and gave the film a positive review on their television show, At the Movies, when the film was released on home video, with Siskel feeling that Phantasm was better than Batman Returns and Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever, and only slightly below Batman.
However, 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 his review was negative overall. He felt the overall themes and morals were clichéd and cited the animation to be to the "point of self-parody".
Accolades[edit | edit source]
Legacy[edit | edit source]
Over time, the film has become a beloved cult film. In a 2010 list, IGN ranked Mask of the Phantasm as the 25th best animated film of all time. That same year IGN also stated it was "the Dark Knight's best big screen story" until Batman Begins. In 2011, Total Film also named Mask of the Phantasm as one of the greatest animated movies of all time, coming in at 47th out of 50. Time ranked Phantasm as one of the 10 best superhero films ever in 2011. Wired's Scott Thill called Kevin Conroy "the finest Batman on record" in 2009. To commemorate the film's 20th anniversary, a screening of the film was held in Santa Monica with cast members Kevin Conroy, Dana Delany and Mark Hamill in attendance. To commemorate the film's 25th anniversary, Fathom Events rereleased the film for one day on November 12, 2018.
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Further reading[edit | edit source]
- Bruce Timm; Erick Nolen-Weathington (June 2004). Modern Masters Volume 3: Bruce Timm (Paperback). A detailed analysis on the works of Bruce Timm, the director of this film. TwoMorrows Publishing. ISBN 978-1-893905-30-6.
- Andy Helfer (December 1, 1993). Batman: Mask of the Phantasm – The Animated Movie, A Novelization (Paperback). Novelization of the film. Skylark. ISBN 978-0-553-48174-7. https://archive.org/details/batmanmaskofphan00andr.
- Geary Gravel (December 1, 1993). Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (Mass Market Paperback). Novelization of the film. Bantam Books. ISBN 978-0-553-56581-2.
- Kelley Puckett (December 1993). Batman: Mask of the Phantasm; Comic book adaptation of the film (Paperback). Mike Parobeck (illustrator). DC Comics. ISBN 978-1-56389-122-9.
[edit | edit source]
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