Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this is a more mature Batman cartoon than the ones they might remember from their Saturday morning-TV childhoods. There is real death (including a parent), much violence -- even if it's animated -- involving explosions, guns, knives, etc. There's even some unsettling imagery involving corpses and the Joker that may upset the youngest kids. Anyone unfamiliar with the Batman saga might have some trouble following the story.
What's the story?
Though released to theaters, BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM was produced as a feature-length pilot to Batman: The Animated Series on TV. It fills out some Bat-lore about the character's early career. As college-age orphan millionaire Bruce Wayne starts out uncertainly in his personal crime-fighting crusade, initially dressed in sort of a ninja suit. When he falls in love with a smart co-ed named Andrea (who can do martial arts just as well as he), Bruce considers giving up the superhero thing altogether for marriage and a normal life. We see this in flashback; in the present, Bruce has become the legendary Batman, and he learns the long-lost Andrea is revisiting Gotham City. At the same time, another black-caped, costumed avenger is killing local mobsters, and Batman is getting unfairly blamed by both police and the homicidal Joker.
Is it any good?
It's easy to deduce the identity of the mysterious "Phantasm" -- Batman doesn't earn points here as a great detective; the real surprise is how the characters draw you into this so-so storyline. Watching Bruce Wayne brooding over thwarted romance and the choices he made is genuinely moving. This is definitely economy-style animation, but it's rendered with a nicely nostalgic Art Deco look. It works well in the exciting showdown in the Joker's lair at the dystopian ruins of the Gotham City World's Fair. And, while overshadowed by a flock of spectacular, live-action Batman movies, Mask of the Phantasm possesses an emotional nuance missing from the megabudget Bat-epics. Yes, that's Lucasfilm hero Mark Hamill, reportedly an actor who takes comics with great seriousness, relishing his unrecognizable voiceover as the Joker.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the style and storyline. Is an animated Batman more effective than an actor in a live-action epic? Do you like a Batman with personal problems or a basic high-tech crimebuster? You can also discuss Bruce Wayne's single-minded devotion to his mission. Is he doing the right thing? Is Batman a vigilante? How did kids like Mark Hamill's Joker, and who is their favorite version of this classic bad guy?
|Theatrical release date:||August 29, 2008|
|DVD/Streaming release date:||April 10, 2005|
|Cast:||Dana Delany, Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill|
|Directors:||Bruce Timm, Erik Radomski|
|Studio:||Warner Home Video|
|Run time:||74 minutes|
|MPAA explanation:||animated violence.|