Over the years, I’ve had an up-and-down relationship with the Batman franchise. I watched the cartoon when I was kid, but I thought it was pretty boring. I don’t like the Tim Burton movies, but I don’t like any Tim Burton movies. I liked “Batman Forever,” and Val Kilmer is my favorite Batman, but I (wisely?) stayed away from “Batman and Robin.” I thought “Batman Begins” was one of the most boring movies I’ve ever seen, but I loved “Dark Knight.”
Guess it just comes down to taste; all in all, I never loved Batman (or the DC comics world) as much as I loved Spider-man and X-Men. But with all that baggage, I still would recommend “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm,” the somewhat forgotten animated movie from directors Eric Radomski and Bruce W. Timm.
The movie opens with a mob boss getting whacked by some robbed figure. Batman (voiced by Kevin Conroy) was on the scene for a different, but related, reason, but since the culprit was in the cape, the police and the residents of Gotham City believe that Batman has finally lost it and has taken to executing criminals.
Of course, Batman would never do that, so Bruce Wayne begins investigating this new crime stopper in town. Of course, Wayne’s got his own problems; an old flame, Andrea (voiced by Dana Delany), “the one that got away,” decides to come back to town and Bruce is once again faced with the choice of love or his Batman mission.
We get a little background on Batman and Bruce Wayne, a story with both decent and believable twists, gorgeous animation and a satisfying ending. Bonus: the film is only 76 minutes long. It’s not rushed, and in parts (especially some fight scenes) the film drags, but most of the way through I was pretty gripped by Batman’s latest mystery.
I don’t think “Mask of the Phantasm” packs the same emotional punch “Dark Knight,” but in my book, it’s the second best Batman movie. No one is more surprised at that statement than me.
“Batman: Mask of the Phantasm” (1993)
Directed by Eric Radomski and Bruce W. Timm
Written by Alan Burnett
Starring: Kevin Conroy (Batman, voice)
Dana Delany (Andrea Beamont, voice)