|Batman: Mask of the Phantasm|
Warner Bros. Animation
Dong Yang Animation Co., LTD.
Spectrum Animation Studio
|Released||December 25, 1993|
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is a 1993 American animated thriller mystery film based on the DC Comics character Batman, more specifically the 1990s television show Batman: The Animated Series. The film's storyline introduces Andrea Beaumont, an old love interest of Bruce Wayne's, who returns to Gotham City, restarting their romance. At the same time, a new mysterious vigilante begins systematically eliminating Gotham's crime bosses, and due to the person's dark appearance, he is mistaken for Batman. Now on the run from the police, the Dark Knight must apprehend the killer, clear his name, and deal with the romance between him and Andrea.
The film was distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, directed by Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski (the creators of The Animated Series) and written by Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Michael Reaves and Martin Pasko. The original idea was to release the film as direct-to-video, but the studio decided for a theatrical release, giving the filmmakers a strenuous eight-month schedule. Mask of the Phantasm received widespread acclaim from critics, who praised the film for its animation style, dialogue and acting, but it was a box office bomb due to the decision to release the film in theaters on such short notice. The film has since found cult success through its various VHS and DVD releases.
Chuckie Sol and his thugs have gathered to exchange some money in the penthouse of a building when they are suddenly busted by Batman, who takes down most of the thugs except for Sol, who manages to get away and makes his way to the parking lot of the building. However, before he can make it to his car, he is confronted by a mysterious and menacing masked man, who wants to take Sol's life. Sol cowers in fear towards his vehicle and the hooded man attacks the gangster with a hooked blade he keeps in his hand. Using his vehicle, Sol attempts to run over the masked man, but the mysterious shadowy figure vanishes in a burst of smoke, causing Sol to drive his vehicle off the building and drop several stories below until he crashes against the nearby building, dying. Batman arrives in time to see the unfortunate outcome, but he is unable to catch the attacker and only gets a glimpse of the mysterious man leaving the scene while many witnesses notice Batman's presence at the crime scene.
Later, Bruce Wayne throws a party at Wayne Manor, but an incident with a lady prompts Gotham City councilman Arthur Reeves to remind Bruce of his past with a woman called Andrea. Bruce decides to take some time alone in his study, where he remembers his first encounter with Andrea Beaumont.
Many years ago, Bruce was visiting his parents' grave as usual when he heard the voice of a woman talking nearby. He approached the lady and asked if she needed anything, to which she replied negatively. Bruce started walking away when he noticed she has started to talk again and this time, she mentioned his name. Bruce returned and inquired who was she talking to and the lady replied that she was talking to her mother, who is buried nearby the Waynes. Bruce understood the situation and apologized for meddling. However, the lady was already leaving the cemetery and Bruce decided to walk along with her and get to know her a little more. She introduced herself as Andrea Beaumont and she admitted she was interested in Bruce, which is how their relationship started.
However, Bruce was already about to start his quest as crime-fighter and during one of those nights, he went out wearing only a black ski-mask, a black leather jacket and a utility belt to stop a robbery. Despite Bruce's menacing demeanor, the thugs fought back fiercely and Bruce struggled to capture them all. Eventually he stopped them, but he was badly injured. Bruce learned that while his fighting skills were appropriate for his quest, criminals were not afraid of him. Later as her was training in Wayne Manor, Andrea came to visit and the training was postponed in favor of sharing time with her.
Now, those days are long gone and Bruce Wayne returns to his usual activities as well as the investigation of the mystery behind Chuckie Sol's murder. Meanwhile, Buzz Bronski a former associate of Chuckie Sol goes to pay his respects to the deceased at the cemetery, where he is attacked by the same masked figure and murdered in a merciless manner in the graveyard. Bronski's henchmen arrive too late to save their boss, but they spot the masked figure leaving the scene and they come to the conclusion that it is Batman.
With Batman being framed as the responsible of two murders of criminals, Arthur Reeves starts campaigning against Batman, despite Commissioner Gordon's refusal to cooperate to bring the vigilante down. Reeves finds an ally in Harvey Bullock, but their attempts to lure Batman into a trap fail as the Dark Knight knows their intentions and instead, he goes back to the graveyard to investigate the crime scene. While he is there, Batman goes to visit the Waynes gravesite and once there, he notices that Andrea Beaumont is talking to her mother once again. Andrea notices Batman's presence, but the Dark Knight makes haste and leaves the place in his usual disappearing act. Nevertheless, Andrea notices how Batman was looking at her from the Waynes tombstone and she deduces that Batman is Bruce Wayne.
Batman is in shock after learning that Andrea is back in Gotham and he keeps a close eye on her as she goes on a date with Arthur Reeves. While looking at them from the outside on a rainy night, Batman recalls how his relationship with Andrea developed in the past.
Bruce and Andrea shared various normal activities for a young couple, but the most fond memory was the day when they visited the World of the Future Fair and Andrea asked Bruce to meet with her father. Bruce agreed, but after talking to Carl Beaumont, the couple were forced to leave the man to deal with some business. On their way out, Bruce and Andrea witnessed a robbery and Bruce tried to help, but he was outnumbered and the thieves got away.
This failure put Bruce's mission in perspective and that night, he went to the cemetery where he apologized to his parents' grave as he could no longer keep up his promise now that he has found happiness. The thought of dropping the promise was torturing him, but Andrea came to him during the rain and told him that maybe she was sent by his parents to show him that they forgive him and to help him overcome this moment. Bruce and Andrea embraced on a loving hug under the thunder, but the rain brings Batman back to the present, where he watches as Andrea has apparently started a serious relationship with Reeves.
The next day, Sal Valestra seeks help of Arthur Reeves to prevent "Batman" from killing him too, as he is the next member of the old gang, but Reeves refuses to give him any help.
Meanwhile, Batman decides to continue his investigation and after looking through the belongings of the criminals killed by the mysterious man, he finds a picture of the criminals gathered with Andrea's father. The sight of Carl Beaumont triggers in Batman the last memory he had about Andrea. Bruce had abandoned his promise to avenge his parents and in order to start a new life, he proposed to Andrea. She gladly agreed to marry him, but during their moment, a flock of bats emerged from a crack underneath the cliff below Wayne Manor. Later that night, Bruce took Andrea home to tell her father the good news, but much to their dismay, Carl Beaumont was having a meeting with his "associates". Andrea told Bruce that they should better wait to tell him about the engagement, but that was the last time Bruce saw her.
The next day, Bruce went to investigate the place from where the bats had come and realized there was a big cave under Wayne Manor. As Bruce ended his exploration, Alfred gave Bruce a note from Andrea along with the engagement ring. In the note, Andrea explained that she and her father must leave Gotham and their engagement was cancelled. Andrea was gone and with her, the reason why Bruce wouldn't keep his promise. It wasn't long before Bruce adapted the cave beneath Wayne Manor as his base of operations and wore the Mantle of the Bat for the first time, becoming The Batman, much to Alfred's shock. The memories fade out and in the present, Bruce decides that it's time to interrogate Andrea about her father's connection to all the criminals that have been murdered.
Elsewhere, Valestra has no choice but to turn to the Joker, who is hiding at the abandoned World of the Future Fair, and ask for help against the killer. The Joker has a past connection with the gang, which is why Valestra demands that Joker protects him or he could be the next criminal murdered. Joker doesn't take the threat lightly, but he agrees to help Valestra, under his own terms...
At that moment, Andrea returns home from a date with Reeves and Batman is waiting for her inside the apartment. He interrogates her about her father's whereabouts, explaining that he might be involved in the murders of the gangsters. Andrea doesn't give Batman the information he needs and Batman implies that she is following her father's wishes, to which she replies that he is the only one doing that, revealing that she knows the truth. As Batman leaves her apartment, Andrea breaks down and cries in solitude.
Later that night, the Phantasm goes to Sal Valestra's place to murder the old gangster, only to find the man's corpse in the living room, clearly exposed to the Joker Venom. A camera has been placed in the corpse's lap and Joker learns that the killer is not Batman. Regardless, he has placed a number of explosives on Valestra's place, forcing the Phantasm to escape from the place before it is blown to bits. The explosion draws the attention of Batman, who jumps from the Batwing and starts chasing the Phantasm across the rooftops of Gotham City. However, the villain uses his burst of smoke to escape from Batman and the Dark Knight is left at mercy of the Gotham City Police Department, who want to take Batman as he is the primary suspect of the murders. Batman tries to escape by running through narrow alleys and hiding in building's ledges, but the entire GCPD is looking for him. Batman reaches a construction site, where the confrontation with the police leaves him badly injured. Batman is forced to drop his cape and cowl and run for safety as the GCPD is still chasing him. Andrea comes out of nowhere and takes Bruce in her car, allowing him to escape from what would've been the end of the Batman.
Back at Wayne Manor, Andrea finally explains the reason why she abandoned Bruce in the past. Her father was being blackmailed by Valestra, Sol and Bronski and they had to leave the city to avoid being murdered. Bruce then comes to the conclusion that the Phantasm is Carl Beaumont getting revenge of the gangsters and Andrea feels bad for ruining everything a second time. However, Bruce finally understands and the two of them resume their lost relationship. Bruce tells her that the Phantasm still needs to be stopped, but Andrea explains that her father's activities are none of her concern anymore. Bruce takes a look at the old photos of him and Andrea, but among them he also notices one of Valestra's old gang and focuses his attention in the only remaining member of the gang: a young enforcer who was always working for the gangsters. Bruce finds the face familiar and after drawing a smile with a red pen, he realizes this man is his worst foe.
The Joker is now looking for the man responsible for the killings of all the members of the old gang and he goes to Arthur Reeves as the main suspect. Joker believes that Reeves has an interest in eliminating them all, but while talking to him, Joker also learns of Andrea's presence in Gotham. Reeves is taken to the hospital much later when he was found intoxicated with Joker venom and unable to stop laughing. Thanks to the sedatives, Reeves is barely able to contain the laughter and it is then that he is interrogated by Batman, who learns that he is responsible for selling Beaumont to the mob many years ago.
Batman then goes to Andrea's apartment to warn her about The Joker, but he finds the place empty and the phone starts ringing. Batman picks up the phone and the Joker addresses him as if he was Andrea. At that moment a bomb approaches the apartment through the window and Batman uses a batarang to blow it before it reaches the place. The explosion is strong enough to knock Batman to the ground while Joker laughs maniacally from the other side of the phone. However, Andrea is safe and sound listening to the Joker's laugh from outside of his hideout at the ruins of the World of the Future Fair. Andrea is The Phantasm and she remembers the fateful day when the enforcer of Sal Valestra found their home and murdered her father in cold blood. That was the moment that drove Andrea over the edge and she became The Phantasm to avenge her father's death.
The Phantasm breaks into Joker's hideout and a confrontation between the two of them start. Joker knows her identity and she has no reason to use the mask anymore. The fight is even, but Joker decides to take the confrontation to the main area of the abandoned fair, where he activates a giant plane engine that creates a deadly vacuum to which Andrea is dragged towards. Batman arrives in time and drives the Batcycle towards the engine, destroying the turbine and saving Andrea. Batman asks her to leave and let him deal with the Joker and reluctantly, Andrea agrees.
Batman starts looking for the Joker among the ruins of the fair and he is attacked in a miniature model of the Gotham City from the future. Batman and Joker deliver their best blows to each other, but Joker decides to run and leads Batman on a wild chase. Joker reveals that the whole place is wired with explosives and he intends to leave Batman to die in the explosion as he escapes using a jetpack. Batman runs toward the madman and prevents him from getting far by breaking the jetpack and causing the two of them to fall down to the ground. Both of them are badly injured and Andrea approaches Joker, grabbing him by his clothes. Batman can only watch as the whole place explodes and turns into a fiery red nightmare while Andrea stands amidst the chaos, still holding the Joker, who simply laughs in the most deranged manner. As Batman approaches them, Andrea uses her smoke trick to disappear, taking the Joker with her and Batman is pushed by the explosion waves into the river nearby the fair.
Back in the Batcave, Bruce finds small comfort for his loss in the words of Alfred, who tells him that Andrea had gone too far into the path of vengeance and that it was impossible to save her. As Alfred expresses his gratitude for Bruce never going down that path, Bruce notices a shiny object in the cave and upon a closer inspection, he realizes it is Andrea's locket with a picture of them, which she kept for many years and now she has left behind as a memento of their love.
Elsewhere, a ship is leaving Gotham and Andrea is there, taking her sorrow and solitude with her while in Gotham, the Bat-Signal is activated and Batman goes to action once again and forever.
Impressed by the success of the first season of Batman: The Animated Series on the Fox Network, Warner Bros. assigned Alan Burnett to write a story for a full-length animated film. 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." The writers were highly cautious of placing the Joker in the film as they did not want any connection to Tim Burton's Batman (1989), 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." Aiding Burnett in writing the script were: Martin Pasko, who handled most of the flashback segments; Michael Reaves, who wrote the climax; and Paul Dini, who claims he "filled in holes here and there." Citizen Kane (1941) served as an influence for the flashbacks, a story about loss and the passage of time.
Early in production, Warner Brothers decided to release Phantasm with a theatrical release, 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 once more in order to accommodate widescreen theatrical aspect ratio.
In addition to the creative control, the studio 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 a homage to a mainstay of Batman comic books of the Dick Sprang era, often featuring the hero fighting against a backdrop of gigantic props. From start to finish, the film was completed within eight months. Composer Shirley Walker cited the score of Phantasm as a favorite among her own compositions.
Notes and Trivia
- Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was the official origin story of Batman, which was not deeply explored in Batman: The Animated Series. The movie uses some references from the Batman comics, but for the most part the story is an original interpretation of the Batman's origin.
- The movie was released after the first season and before the second season of The Animated Series. However, none of the events of the film are addressed in the second season. In fact, Joker is still alive without any explanation.
- Because Mask of the Phantasm was a feature film, it didn't have the same restrictions as The Animated Series and thus, the film is more explicit in violence and the use of drugs.
- The movie reveals Bruce Wayne's inspiration for the Batmobile while visiting the World of the Future Fair.
- The name "Phantasm" is not used in any way, shape, or form within the context of the storyline. Without the title and credits of the movie, Andrea Beaumont's alter-ego would be practically nameless.
- Chuckie Sol's line when he tries to run over the Phantasm, "This time I've got you, you lousy stinking..." is almost exactly what was said by Tony Zucco in the episode "Robin's Reckoning Part I", in which he almost runs Batman over, "Now I've got you, you lousy stinking...".
- Joker's line during the jetpack fight against Batman in the climax, "You just don't know when to quit, do you?" was later mirrored by Harley Quinn in the episode "Harley's Holiday", also during the final fight with Batman, "You don't know when to quit, do you?"
- One of the thugs in the semi truck heist is named "Radomski", shown in the newspaper where he claims to be innocent. This is a homage to The Animated Series co-creator Eric Radomski.
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 Beaumont, 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 Carl dead by the hands of an assassin. 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 writer Michael Reaves, this scene was to be a pivotal moment in Bruce's tragic life, as he is denied 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."
- Pat Musick as The Announcer
Based on 23 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm received an average 88% overall approval rating with the consensus stating, "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 close call with 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 in its theatrical release. They did give a positive reaction, with Siskel feeling that Phantasm was better than Batman Returns and Batman Forever, and only slightly below Batman.
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 was overly negative. He felt the overall themes and morals were clichéd and cited the animation to be to the "point of self-parody".
IGN ranked Mask of the Phantasm as the 25th best animated film of all time in a list published in 2010.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm opened on Christmas Day 1993 in the United States in 1,506 theaters, accumulating $1,189,975 over its opening weekend. The film went on to gross $5,617,391 in the domestic total box office intake. The filmmakers blamed Warner Bros. for the unsuccessful marketing campaign. Mask of the Phantasm did eventually pass its $6 million budget with its various home video releases.
Alongside The Lion King and The Nightmare Before Christmas, Mask of the Phantasm was nominated for an Annie Award in the category of Best Animated Feature, but lost out to The Lion King.
In December 1993, two novelizations were released. One was written by Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, and Andrew Helfer with the other authored by Geary Gravel. DC Comics released a comic book adaption written by Kelley Puckett and drawings by Mike Parobeck.
The film was released on VHS in May 1994 and again in April 2003, though this time, part of a three tape pack with Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero and Batman Beyond: The Movie. 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 released in April 2004 as a three disc DVD box set that included SubZero and Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, but it is currently out of stock. Warner Home Video released the film once more in February 2008, but as a double feature DVD with SubZero. Warner Archive Collection made a blu-ray available on July 25, 2017, with the original theatrical aspect ratio, still with no additional features.
The soundtrack was composed by Shirley Walker, the main composer for Batman: The Animated Series. A rather interesting choice was the use of choirs for the opening sequence of the film using the Batman theme composed by Walker.
The soundtrack of the film has been released three times by different record companies.
- Originally the episode was supposed to be a two parter called Masks; while Batman's origin story (from the perspective of Alfred) was supposed to have its own episode called Virgil.