Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

Directed by Eric Radomski and Bruce W. Timm.
1993. Rated PG, 76 minutes.
Kevin Conroy
Dana Delaney
Mark Hamill
Efram Zimbalist Jr.
Abe Vigoda
Stacy Keach
Bob Hastings
Dick Miller
Hart Bochner
Robert Costanzo

By now, anyone at all familiar with Batman (Conroy) knows that Bruce Wayne is a troubled billionaire loner who’s parents were shot and killed right in front of him during a robbery attempt when he was very young boy. As the legend goes, he would eventually start dressing up like a bat and take to the streets at night, fighting crime throughout Gotham City. Mask of the Phantasm finds our hero reminiscing about those early days of vigilantism now that his old flame Andrea Beaumont (Delaney) is back in town. Of course, that’s not the only thing on the Caped Crusader’s plate. Another shadowy figure has been murdering Gotham’s mobsters and everyone except Commissioner Gordon (Hastings) and Bruce’s trusty butler Alfred (Zimbalist) seems to think the Dark Knight is responsible. Despite the commish’s objections, the police go on a manhunt for Batman. Not content to let the law handle things, the gangsters hire none other than the Joker to kill his arch nemesis.

As is often the case, Bruce’s love life is the topic of the day. This time around, he pines for the one that got away and what might’ve been. He and Andrea are kindred spirits, of sorts. They both spend an inordinate amount of time at the local cemetery. At least she’s cheery about it, carrying on gleeful conversations with her deceased mother. Bruce, of course, generally carries on as if suicide is his next move. Believe it, or not, of all of his whirlwind romances this might be the most fully realized entry into the canon, live-action movies included. Though it eventually follows a familiar path, it holds up pretty well.

Yes, there is plenty of crime fighting. Batman has a few near misses with Gotham’s mysterious new player and, as mentioned, he himself comes under suspicion. A number of Batfans consider this the finest movie in the franchise. After all, it does pack a lot into barely more than an hour. I won’t go that far, but I’ll certainly put it in the upper echelon.

MY SCORE: 8/10

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