72 of 75 people found the following review helpful
It's unfortunate that an animated series rarely gets serious attention, even when made into a movie, like Mask of the Phantasm. The writing is superior to the live action Batman movies, and the movie has more self-respect. We delve into Batman's past: not his why-I-became-Batman past which everyone knows; rather, we learn why he remains Batman despite the intense personal cost. This is a great movie, with a great voice cast (including Mark Hamill <yes, Luke Skywalker> who is just perfect as the Joker). The score is wonderful, playing a little with the score from the first Michael Keaton Batman movie, then proceeding along its own course.
The movie is, of course, not for everyone. If all you want to see are fists hitting the bad guys in the gut, you'll be disappointed (or perhaps, your kids will be). There is romance, sorrow, and introspection, in addition to the violence of Batman's confrontation with villains. This is simply a far more thoughtful movie than one might expect, and though it is well-done in this regard, it may not be what you are expecting.
37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 1999
When I was younger, I used to brush off Batman: The Animated Series as stupid, and for little kids. Now at the age of seventeen, I see that I was gravely mistaken. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm would have to be my favorite movie of all time. How can I even begin to count all the things I love about it? It's gripping, exciting, witty, funny, sad... Needless to say, it's head over heals over any other Batman movie I've ever seen before. Unlike the live-action movies, it's not about appealing to the audience with predictable James Bond action sequences and famous actors. This movie truely does justice to the comic and to Bob Kane. Each character is portrayed perfectly, with wonderful animation and amazing voice acting. I absolutely love the dark deco art style as well. And the plot is one of the best I've seen. It really keeps you interested. I'd recommend this movie to anyone, Batman fan or not! Definately try this one out!
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2003
This is probably the greatest recreation of the Batman characters ever, Tim Burton's spectacular flick included. Gotham's simplistic but dark, tall, and gothic (pun VERY MUCH intended) style, the way that most of the scenes in "the present" were never during the day, the ingenious use of flashbacks, all came together to make a visually stunning movie. And this was a cartoon that didn't pull its punches. It was one of the only "kid-oriented" animated films to recieve a PG rating back in the 90's.
The voice cast was spectacular. The characters of Comissioner Gordan, Detective Bullock, Alfred; all are wonderfully cast (I would argue that this movie has the best Alfred of any Batman film EVER). And of course, the casting of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill (Batman and The Joker respectively) in a reprise of their roles on the show couldn't have happened any other way, simply because they embody these characters so well, and put far more heart into their performances than you get from many live-action parts (read: the last two live-action Batmans).
The story is both simple and complicated at the same time. Sure, some kids won't get all of it, but the thing is rated PG for a reason. A killer has shown up in Gotham, a murderer who is offing mob bosses with brutal efficiancy. The D.A. blames Batman, and starts a city-wide manhunt. On the Bruce Wayne side of things, an old flame has returned to Gotham (voiced by Dana Delany, the same dame who did Lois Lane in the Superman animated series; funny ol' world, in' it?), who is, in a roundabout way, the reason Batman was able to exist. Bruce is torn between his love, and the responsibilities of, and new dangers to, his secret identity. Batman is turned into a fugitive by the police, even as he tries to unmask the mysterious "Phantasm" murderer, and tries to keep his head together as Bruce Wayne all the while. There are a LOT of flashbacks, all of which give us a lot of insight to Bruce Wayne, Batman, and even a little about the Joker. Of course Joker gets involved eventually, (Mark Hamill RULES), and we get one of the greatest battles between the two arch-nemeses ever put to screen. Honestly, it makes the battle on the clock tower in the 1989 "BATMAN" seem downright tame, and that's no small feat.
Another great part of the movie is the love story. It is iconic of the comics, and easily the best love story in an american-made animated film. Also, it doesn't feel the need (like so many other animated films do) for everything to have a perfectly happy ending. It's like things turn out in life, and how things always seemed to end up in the comic book. Ironic how this animated Batman can feel more real than the live-action ones at times.
Not to put down Tim Burton's movies in any way (I absolutely loved Batman, and Batman Returns was, aside from the butchering of Penguin's character, a more than worthy sequel), this is the REAL Batman movie. It shows parts of his origin, gives a glimpse of his phsyche, and explores the darker sides of Batman's quest for retribution, what he could have become. An astounding movie, though really not for kids under six. Make no mistake, this film deserves a place of honor right next to its (original) live-action counterpart.
Again, that is no small feat.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 2000
Mask of the Phantasm is an on-film example of what not only the movie franchise, which was terribly ruined by Joel Shumacher, could have done with the character, but of how much better the 1990's Animated Series, good as it was anyways, could have been if it was scheduled in prime time instead of during the Kid's Hour. Don't get me wrong; the show went further then then any other long-running animated series yet has (with the possible exception of The Transformers back in the 80's) in terms of skimming close to adult level sophistication and dialogue. Still, this film shows how much better still the Animated Series could have captured the essence of the comic book Dark Knight if American adult audiences were more accepting of animated shows that were not purely idiotic sitcom fare (i.e., The Simpsons, Family Guy, Futurama, etc., ad nauseum). Unfortunately, for any super-hero series to get done, it has to be made 'kid-friendly' and put on Saturday or Sunday mornings, or weekday afternoons, in order to get a chance at the small screen (with the only few exceptions being MTV's Aeon Flux and HBO's Spawn, though these weren't really marketed for a mass audience, which may have contributed to their short life spans despite their success). This is quite unfortunate. What is also unfortunate is that no more Batman animated movies are likely to get onto the big screen after the very undeserved failure of this one, simply because audiences couldn't be bothered with going to see a 'serious' animated movie, unless it was a 'family-friendly' Disney epic. Thus, successive entries in the direct-to-video slot like Sub-Zero were made in the same mold as the series was, and was not given the PG rating that Mask of the Phantasm was awarded. WB has not yet attempted to snare the adult audience whose attention it caught with its super-hero shows of the 90's, and the failure of this one attempt to do so makes the odds of successive efforts in the future dim. I am hoping that a good deal of direct to video support of this film will get us more PG rated animated Batman movies from WB now that the TV series has apparantly run its course for good thanks to, of all things, the success of Batman Beyond, more's the pity. This big screen treatment of the Dark Knight was even closer to the great comic book version in tone, sophistication, action sequences and dark film noir then the animated TV series. The origin of Batman was told in a manner that could not have been conveyed on the more 'kid-friendly' TV version. The Joker was here in all of his insane glory, and we were now able to see him at his peak of homicidal brutality, which was especially welcome since we were not allowed to see the Clown Prince of Crime kill anyone on the TV series, which took away his most distinctive, if chilling, attribute. Finally, we got to see his twisted schemes cause people to buy the farm, including the use of his trademark 'smile venom', even if the filmmakers made sure that only other gangsters were his victims here. No longer did viewers have the comfort of knowing that all people onscreen would be inevitably saved from death by the Dark Knight that we were guaranteed in the TV series thanks to network restrictions for kid shows. The Phantasm was a way cool new anti-hero who seems to have been inspired by the brutal vigilante known as the Reaper from the Batman: Year Two comic book storyline, but with even more spectral aspects added (although the Reaper didn't turn out to be...well, I won't spoil things for those who haven't seen this great animated film yet). The dialogue, storyline and onscreen pathos were great. Also, a surprising amount of blood was seen in this film, even for a PG-rated movie, which was in stark contrast to the only occasional blood allowed for the TV series. This virtually unrestrained ability to show blood and death may turn off some parents, but was much more attuned to the type of serious crime drama and psychological thriller that the Batman character most logically embodies. However, no expletives at all were used in the film, not even minor ones; this silliness was in tune with a criticism I once heard of the original 1931 version of Scarface, in which the original filmmakers were allowed to show tons of brutal gangland murders, but no character in the movie was allowed to say anything as "horrible" as "damn" or "hell" (even though the Al Pacino remake more then made up for the loss of strong language in the original). This is no biggie, however; a lack of unrealistic language didn't destroy tons of good storytelling and realistic action. The scenes of Bruce Wayne attempting to fight crime before taking on the Batman moniker, when he was totally wet behind the ears as a vigilante, was also a welcome change that cemented into our heads the fact that Batman is a very human being under the suit that didn't become the master crimefighter that he is overnight. I highly recommend this film to all diehard Batman fans, even those who may not have religiously followed the Animated Series for whatever reason (lot's of American adults just seem to have a bias against any film or show that is animated since we are so socially conditioned to think that anything animated is automatic kiddie fare despite a decade of The Simpsons and its numerous prime time offspring, both good and bad). Any action or martial arts fan will also like this movie, as well as fans of Japanese anime, especially of the Street Fighter animated episodes from Japan. In short, if you like Batman, action flicks or anime, you will love Mask of the Phantasm. As stated above, this film is also heartily recommended if you are simply curious to see what the series could have been like if aired in prime time for a more adult audience. Kudos to WB for making this bold attempt, even if this particular one didn't work out as well as they hoped. I am hoping they will learn from the previous, if short-term, successes, of Aeon Flux and Spawn that there may indeed be a market for more adult super-hero/action fare if only they will someday take another chance with this largely untapped genre in America.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2002
Batman couldn't be better, whether in a live action or an animated feature, Mask of the Phantasm sets a high standard that has so far been unsurpassed. While Mask of the Phantasm is animated, this film should not be mistaken for a children's cartoon. The plot is sophisticated, providing more insight into Batman/Bruce Wayne's personality than any of the dreck that Tim Burton has turned out.
The story is told partially in the present and partially through flash back. Someone is knocking off some old time crime bosses and Batman is the primary suspect. I don't want to give too much away, but the flash back sequences link back to when Bruce Wayne was first becoming Batman. The love of his life has returned, and Bruce/Batman is faced with some difficult decisions regarding the price he has paid to wage his war on crime. The great thing about this movie is the characters. Bruce Wayne is a multifaceted character whose hopes and dreams have become subrogated to his Batman persona. This movie really explores that aspect of his personality. Make no mistake, like any Batman film, there's plenty of action but the story is character driven. The voice talents are excellent. Kevin Conroy has really defined the Batman character. Dana Delaney gives the Andrea Beaumont character a sensual vivacity that hasn't been seen in any of the female characters in other Batman films. Mark Hammil is perfect as the Joker.
The DVD production is solid if unspectacular. The picture is crystal clear and really serves to highlight the palette of colors employed by the artists. The film is intended to have a noir-like quality, and this is really felt on the DVD. The DVD comes with the widescreen presentation on one side and the pan and scan on the opposite side. The soundtrack has been reproduced magnificently. The score and the sound effects really resonate with strong clarity. My complaints are twofold. At times the dialogue seemed rather muted when compared with the overpowering sound effects. I found myself constantly turning down the volume during the action scenes and cranking it up again during dialogue. The dialogue seems particularly muted, since I had to turn the TV volume higher than usual. It would've been nice to see more extras. Other than the trailer and a french language track, there's nothing else here. If you're looking for a Batman fix or a solid film, this is the purchase for you.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 1999
It always amuses me when animation outpaces many big Hollywood blockbusters. B:MOTP does this very thing. More gripping & intelligent than any of the live-action movies, MOTP brings Batman back to his roots by placing him in a mystery that, when finally solved, forces the Dark Knight to do some HEAVY soul-searching. I'm a fan of the series too & am constantly surprised at how it & this movie tackle heavy issues without being preachy about it. Not really for the kids, but then again neither is the series. Kid viewers will be satisfied with watching Batman run around & fight, but they'll totally miss the emotional crisis that Batman/Bruce Wayne finds himself in. The Joker is particularly nasty in this film & comes in right when you're thinking that all this is too heavy for a cartoon. That's just it though; this is not a cartoon per se. Rather it is an animation & should be viewed as such. Hollywood take note. This is the level that all other Batman films, live & animated should aspire to.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2006
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is one of my favorite animated films. it is, in my opinion, an essential film to watch or own for any fan of the modern Batman series. the story has amazing depth, as do the characters, and the dark knight is quite possibly seen at his very best.
however, the DVD release of this wonderful film is quite disappointing. I owned the VHS prior to buying it, and hoped that the DVD would be an improvement, but it really isn't. the video is in no way re-mastered and has quite a bit of noise, as though it was sourced from a VHS tape. the only reason I gave this release 4 stars is because of how much I truly appreciate this film. sadly, I don't think it is likely that there will be a re-mastered release of the film, but in any case this will do, since I really just want to be able to watch it and not worry about degrading the media every time I do.
if you're a batman fan I suggest you buy either of the two DVD releases; the keepcase is $2 more, but aside from being in a different case, the items are identical. I spent the $2 extra because I prefer having a keepcase and think it's more aesthetically pleasing, but there's no qualitative difference.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2000
This is DVD contains no special features, merely a trailer for the film. This makes buying the video as good an idea as buying the DVD.
The movie isn't bad. A new masked figure, looking somewhat like the reaper in Batman: Year One, is killing of gangsters in Gotham. At the same time Bruce Waynes old girlfriend arrives. When the gangsters asks help from the Joker, everything starts to happen at once. Interesting thing is that the Jokers origin story seems more based on the Nack Nicholson Batman-story (with Joker as a gangster before, well, himself) rather than the one in the comic books, as best told in The Killing Joke.
This film is quite brutal with some very scary scenes. The Joker is at his worst, like a madly laughing clown from hell. This is why I wouldn't recommend this movie for small children, at least not without their parents. People that say Comics are for children don't know the half of it.
I recommend this movie for every Batman fan. See it as a way to get deeper into his character than the ordinary animated series has time for.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2001
A little ironic that this turned out to be the least cartoonish Batman film ever made, isn't it? On the heels of the overblown and quickly crumbling batman movie franchise, this movie was released to a very small box office return. Yes, sad but true, but the god awful bad joke that was "Batman and Robin" grossed more money than this baby. If the people only knew that despite using the animated medium that "serious movie goers" seem to have stigmatized as child's fair, this was as interesting, mysterious, thrilling and well done a Batman flick as one could ask for. The origins of the Dark Knight are given to us in poignant flashbacks that are relevant to the plot (unlike the similar scenes in "Batman Forevor") and all the characters are deep and add to the beauty of the Batman mythos. (Unlike...well, any other Batman flick, where the villains are an excuse for big celebrities.) All comparisons to other Batman films aside, this was just an interesting and well told story. Certainly worth the rental, if not the purchase.
33 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 1999
This is really more of an animated movie than a cartoon. I find it captures the spirit of the Batman comics much closer than the live-action movies have done. As this was a theatrical release, there was more freedom for the producers to explore the man-behind-the-Bat. It gives more insight into Batman/Bruce Wayne's history and what motivates him. It's also more violent than the Animated Series on television, showing cuts, scrapes, and even a tooth that gets knocked out! The Joker is the insane, homicidal villain he is in the comics and actually kills people in this show, as does the Phantasm. We even get a brief look at what the Joker was before he was the Joker.
As for the disc itself, the transfer is only adequate. There is is some light grain and scratches apparent, but not enough to distract from enjoying the show. I guess I can live with it, but it could've been better. The colors are nice and rich and the sound quality is quite good, considering it's only 2.0.
It's obvious that Warner Bros. did not put much money or effort into this disc. There are no extras, other than a lame theatrical trailer and the packaging is a flimsy, cardboard Snap case, not a plastic Keep case, (Amazon needs to correct their product information about this). On the plus side, if you prefer a full-screen presentation, you have the option for it with this disc.
Overall, this disc could've used some remastering, but it's flaws are not really enough to spoil your enjoyment of an entertaining show.