Edge of That Abyss: Looking Back at Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

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The fact that Batman: Mask of the Phantasm turns 25 this month blows my mind. It feels like such a massive part of my childhood. Because I was born in 1993, this was obviously not a theatrical watch for me. I owned a beatdown clamshell copy that I spent a lot of time watching and re-watching with our dusty ole’ VHS. It was that and Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero that gave me Batman fever.

But I always preferred Mask of the Phantasm. This was the best Batman movie of the time, and it wouldn’t be matched until Christopher Nolan came along to change everything.

But why? For starters, it was a feature length sequel to the always incredible Batman: The Animated Series. Same voice cast, same writers, same wonderful world. It’s noir chic and German expressionistic influences made the show’s look iconic.

The Animated Series had some stellar episodes. I don’t need to tell you that.  But Mask is special. By giving us a big screen love story for Batman, we get to see the inner thoughts of Bruce Wayne. His fears. His regrets. Batman/Bruce is famously mopey. Thankfully, Mask gave us a reason for the moping other than, “My parents are dead”. The Phantasm is a formidable villain with an incredible design. Part Grim Reaper, part Dickensesque apparition. Over 76 minutes, we are given a heck of a Batman story. We’re shown his origins, his first doomed love, and a legendary battle with the Joker in a decrepit World’s Fair.

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It’s honestly all very impressive. This was our first big screen Batman that had dimension. Couple that with sterling animation and a cast that still remains iconic to this day, you get a super hero classic. This is a Batman film for the ages.

 

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