33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Easily on a par with the live action films,
This review is from: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm [DVD]  (DVD)
Everyone loved the Batman animated series of the early nineties. There was no mystery as to why it was such a huge success. It consisted of nothing but pure quality. The character of the Batman and his universe was transferred perfectly from comic to TV, so it was no surprise that a movie would follow.
Given the fact that Batman Begins had just come out in the cinemas last June, it seemed only logical for Mask of the Phantasm to be released on DVD (at last!) round about the same time. Because, really, this can be interpreted as the animated version of Batman Begins (even though this was released twelve years prior!), as the Dark Knight's origin is explored in great capacity, as he has to deal with one of the most enigmatic and perverse foes he has ever faced: The Phantasm.
Batman is framed for the murders of Gotham's most dangerous gangsters. As the Caped Crusader has to unravel the mystery of the Phantasm's identity and motives, he must also have to confront his past and along the way, we discover how Batman almost never came to be because of Bruce Wayne's one and only chance to be happy.
There's so much going on in this film and there's so much depth to the plot. The mystique and aura of the Phantasm is what drives the film, but there's also a lot of creative insight regarding the past of Bruce Wayne. The exploration of who he was on his road to becoming Batman brings the film a lot of merit, along with the introduction of Andrea Beaumont, who unlike Batman's on-off relationships with Catwoman and Talia, was perhaps his only genuine shot at happiness.
Another positive boom is the inclusion of the Joker in this film. Given that this was the first-ever, feature-length, animated Batman movie, it would've been so easy to use the Dark Knight's greatest enemy as nothing more than window dressing. But fortunately, the Joker plays a very meaningful, and very significant role in the entire film. The Joker has always been one of the most fascinating characters in all of fiction, and his role in this film justifies that truth, as we discover that he's been in Batman's life much longer than we realise.
It's not just the dive into the past that makes this film, or the rich characterization, or the sheer mystery of the film. It's the action as well. There are tremendous sequences involving Batman being pursued by the GCPD, the murders of the Gotham mobsters, and of course the epic, brutal fights between Batman, the Phantasm and the Joker. They're all brought to life by the quality animation and Shirley Walker's fantastic music score.
Any negatives? Hardly. The only possible bad thing I could bring against this is that the animation may not be on a par with Disney or some of Warner Bros.' later stuff, but so what? It suits the film perfectly. And at the end of the day, it's the presentation that matters, and that certainly hasn't been messed up.
Mask of the Phantasm is right up there with the Tim Burton live-action films. It is the epitome of Batman storytelling, and without criticism, and I'm sure that nobody can dispute that. Yet for some bizarre, incomprehensible reason, it failed miserably at the box office.
One of the greatest Batman films has finally been released on DVD in this country, and it's about time. Sadly, there are no extras, despite the fact that there's supposed to be a trailer included as listed on the back of the case. I would've liked to see the trailer, along with audio commentary and a documentary or two, but I suppose it's irrelevant really. This timeless classic is here at long last, and that's all that matters.