Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
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|Batman: Mask of the Phantasm|
Theatrical release poster
|Story by||Alan Burnett|
by Bob Kane
|Music by||Shirley Walker|
|Edited by||Al Breitenbach|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$5.6 million|
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (also known as Batman: The Animated Movie) is a 1993 American animated neo-noir superhero mystery film feauring the DC Comics character Batman. Directed by Eric Radomski and Bruce Timm, it is based on the hit TV series Batman: The Animated Series and was distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. The film was written by Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Martin Pasko and Michael Reaves and stars the vocal talents of Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (all reprising their roles from The Animated Series), in addition to Dana Delany, Hart Bochner, Stacy Keach, and Abe Vigoda. It revolves around Batman attempting to apprehend a mysterious vigilante who's murdering Gotham City's crime bosses.
The film was originally thought of as a direct-to-video release. Warner Bros. ultimately decided for a theatrical release, giving the filmmakers a strenuous eight-month schedule. Mask of the Phantasm was released on December 25, 1993 to widespread acclaim from critics, who praised the animation, voice performances, storyline and music, among others. However, due to the decision to release the film in theaters on such short notice, it failed at the box office.
After its release on home video the film found cult success and over the years developed a cult following. The film's success led to two direct-to-video standalone sequels, Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero in 1997 and Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman in 2003. In recent years, many publications including Time, IGN and WhatCulture, have ranked it as one of the best Batman movies ever made and among the best animated movies ever made.
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A group of crime bosses hold a conference in a Gotham City skyscraper to discuss laundering millions of dollars of counterfeit money in a casino. Batman bursts in on the meeting and incapacitates all the gangsters except Chuckie Sol, who flees. As Sol approaches his car a mysterious cloaked figure appears amidst a cloud of smoke, threatens him, and attacks. Sol is killed when the killer causes him to drive his car out the side of the building. Batman arrives soon after; bystanders see him and blame the Dark Knight for Sol's death. Councilman Arthur Reeves tells the media that Batman is a public menace (despite Commissioner Gordon's protests), then later attends a party at Wayne Manor, hosted by Bruce Wayne. Reeves teases Bruce about his bad luck with women and for having allowed an old girlfriend, Andrea Beaumont, to get away.
In a flashback to 10 years before, Bruce meets Andrea in a cemetery while visiting his parents' grave. That night, in one of his first crime-fighting attempts, Bruce foils an armored car robbery. Though he succeeds, he's discouraged that the criminals did not fear him. Around the same time he begins a romance with Andrea. Eventually, Bruce decides to abandon his plan to become a crime-fighting vigilante and proposes marriage to Andrea. Soon afterward, however, Andrea mysteriously leaves Gotham with her father, Carl Beaumont, ending her engagement to Bruce in a Dear John letter. Believing that he has lost his last chance of having a normal life, Bruce dons the mask of Batman for the first time.
The cloaked figure finds and murders another gangster, Buzz Bronski, in the same cemetery Bruce met Andrea by crushing him. Batman investigates Bronski's death and wanders to his parents' tombstone. He overhears Andrea talking at her mother's grave, just as she had been when he first met her; she has returned to Gotham for the first time in 10 years. She is startled by Batman's appearance and he flees. She takes notice that the grave he was standing over is that of Thomas and Martha Wayne and suspects Bruce is Batman. Batman finds evidence linking Carl Beaumont with Sol, Bronski and a third gangster: Salvatore Valestra. He breaks into Valestra's home and discovers a photograph of Bronski, Valestra, Sol and Beaumont seated at a table together. When he visits Andrea to try to get more answers she rebuffs him, intimating that she knows his true identity. Meanwhile, Valestra believes that Batman killed the others and will come for him next, so he turns to the Joker for help.
The cloaked figure arrives at Valestra's house but finds the gangster dead by Joker's hands. The Joker has strapped a video camera to Valestra's corpse and sees the murderer is not Batman. The house explodes as the cloaked figure barely escapes. Batman pursues but is interrupted by the police. After a lengthy attempt to evade them Andrea appears and saves Bruce. They spend the night together, where Andrea explains that she and her father fled Gotham and had been hiding in Europe from Valestra's mob, from whom he had embezzled money. Andrea's father repaid but they put out a hit on him. Andrea leads Bruce to believe her father is the killer. Bruce ponders resuming his relationship with Andrea and giving up Batman. As he reminisces whilst looking at photographs he notices a familiar-looking man in the background of the photo of Bronski, Valestra, Sol and Beaumont: the man who would become the Joker.
Joker pays a visit to Councilman Reeves, who is revealed to have been an assistant to Carl Beaumont. The Joker presses him for information about the masked killer; Reeves insists it's Batman, but Joker tells him he knows the killer is someone else. Reeves professes his ignorance, and that he didn't know Beaumont had been embezzling funds from the mob years before, but the Joker believes Reeves needs to protect his reputation now that he is an elected politician and may be the killer. Joker poisons him. Reeves is taken to hospital and treated with an anti-toxin. Batman breaks into Reeves's hospital room and questions why the Joker met with him and how he's involved. Reeves confesses that he helped the Beaumonts escape and told Valestra's mob where they were hiding in return for election campaign contributions.
The cloaked figure tracks Joker to his hideout — an abandoned world's fair amusement park, and reveals itself as Andrea, intent on avenging her father's death by killing every last surviving member of Valestra's mob. With the others dead, the Joker is the last one alive, and is revealed to have been the one who carried out the hit on her father. Having already deduced her identity and ready for her attack, Joker fights her. Just before he can kill Andrea, Batman arrives and begs Andrea to give up her quest for revenge. She refuses and tells Batman that he himself is driven by revenge before disappearing. Batman and the Joker battle but neither gain the upper hand. Moments later Andrea returns and seizes the Joker, bidding Batman goodbye before vanishing with the maniacally laughing clown as the amusement park erupts in a series of explosions. Batman barely escapes.
Alfred later consoles a heartbroken Bruce, telling him that no one could have helped Andrea. Bruce finds her locket containing a picture of himself and Andrea left behind in the Batcave. Meanwhile, Andrea is shown standing alone on the deck of a departing ocean liner. In the final scene, Batman stands alone on the top of a Gotham building when the Bat-Signal appears in the sky. He swings off into the night to continue his war on crime.
- 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, Bruce becomes Batman, Gotham City's secret vigilante protector.
- Mark Hamill as Joker; Batman's most famous nemesis, who was once an assassin for Valestra, thus, he is implied to be responsible for the murder of Carl Beaumont. Valestra hires him to kill Batman, but the Joker kills Valestra instead. 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; 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 Gotham, Bruce's frustration leads him to becoming Batman. Delany's voice performance in the film impressed the filmmakers, leading to her becoming the voice of Lois Lane in Superman: The Animated Series.
- Hart Bochner as City Councilman Arthur Reeves; a corrupt city official who was once an intern for Carl Beaumont. He later becomes involved with Valestra's gang in order to gain the influence to enter City Council, and told them where his former boss was hiding in return for campaign funds. Years later, Joker tracks him down and poisons him with his laughing gas. He last appears in the Gotham City Mental Hospital, having been driven insane by the Joker's chemicals and possibly died as a result. Bochner's father was the voice of Mayor Hamilton Hill in The Animated Series.
- Stacy Keach as Carl Beaumont; Andrea's father, who was secretly in business with the Valestra gang. He goes in debt to Valestra and flees to Europe with Andrea, but is later murdered by Valestra's personal hitman, who would become the Joker. Keach also provided the voice for the Phantasm.
- Abe Vigoda as Salvatore Valestra; a powerful crime boss who goes into business with Carl Beaumont, and threatens to kill him for embezzling money. Once Andrea returns, he is an old, decrepit man, dependent on an oxygen tank to live due to years of smoking. He hires the Joker to kill Batman, but the Joker double-crosses him and kills him with Joker venom.
- 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 Batman's closest confidante.
- Robert Costanzo as Detective Harvey Bullock; a detective with the Gotham City Police Department who distrusts Batman and is put in charge of the police task force assigned to hunt down the Dark Knight after he is framed for the gangster murders.
- Bob Hastings as Commissioner James Gordon; the police commissioner of Gotham City and Batman's closest ally. He refuses to capture Batman, believing the Dark Knight is not responsible for any of the gangster murders. Hastings reprises his role from The Animated Series.
- Dick Miller as Charles "Chuckie" Sol; a crime boss and the Phantasm's first victim.
- John P. Ryan as Buzz Bronski; a crime boss who seems to have had a brief partnership with Chuckie Sol. He is later killed by the Phantasm at the cemetery while visiting Sol's grave.
- Arleen Sorkin as Mrs. Bambi.
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. 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 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." Aiding Burnett in writing the script were Martin Pasko, who handled most of the flashback segments; Reaves, who wrote the climax; and frequent Animated Series writer Paul Dini, who claims he "filled in holes here and there." Orson Welles' 1941 classic Citizen Kane served as an influence for the flashbacks, a story about loss and the passage of time.
Early in production, Warner Bros. decided to release Phantasm as 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 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.
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."
Comic books and merchandise
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 was 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.
|Batman: Mask of the Phantasm – The Animated Movie|
|Film score by Shirley Walker|
|Released||December 14, 1993
March 24, 2009
|Length||34:43 (original release)
61:03 (expanded release)
|Label||Reprise Records / Warner Bros. Records
La-La Land Records
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.
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.
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
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)
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 $5,617,391 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.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm received generally positive reviews from critics. The film has an 82% overall approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes 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 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 in its theatrical release and gave the film a positive reaction, with Siskel feeling that Phantasm was better than Batman Returns and Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever, and only slightly below Batman. Siskel's only quibble was Hamill's voice as The Joker.
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".
Over time, the film has become a beloved cult hit. In a 2010 list, IGN ranked Mask of the Phantasm as the 25th best animated film of all time. Total Film named Mask of the Phantasm the 47th greatest animated film out of 50 in 2011. That same year, Time ranked Phantasm as one of the 10 best superhero films ever. In 2010, IGN stated it was "the Dark Knight's best big screen story" until Batman Begins (2005). Wired's Scott Thill called Kevin Conroy "the finest Batman on record" in 2009. In October 2012, WhatCulture also praised the film, saying it was at the same level as Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy, if not slightly higher. In 2016, the popular Internet reviewer Nostalgia Critic reviewed the film and called it the best ever cinematic representation of Batman, as well as it being completely underrated and deserving of a Blu-Ray release.
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, though this time 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 but it is currently out of print. Warner Home Video released the film once more in February 2008, but as a double feature DVD with SubZero.
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