Batman is framed for the murder of several gangsters
and goes up against a dangerous new vigilante.
Batman: Mask of
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is important because it was DC's first animated film, and also the first to be released theatrically. I've always thought that DC does its best work on the small screen, and its even better animated. Phantasm is no exception. This film brings a level of humanity to Batman that no movie has yet to do. We get to see him struggle realistically with the idea of giving up the mantle to have his own happiness. We see him plead with his parents' graves to let him know that giving up his crusade is okay. It's heartbreaking to say the least, and his relationship with Andrea Beaumont (Dana Delany) rivals any live-action relationship the character has ever been in.
On top of the fantastic story, we're introduced to a terrifying new villain in the Phantasm, a vigilante who's murdering gangsters in Gotham. When Batman gets framed for these murders, he investigates the connection and it leads to an old enemy, the Joker (Mark Hamill). The story is wonderfully engaging and the action is top notch. Batman: The Animated Series is many fans' definitive interpretation of the character, and this film is simply an extension of the masterful animation, voice work, and storytelling that went into that show.
It had been years since I saw this film, and watching it again has rejuvenated my love of the show and of Kevin Conroy's flawless performance as Batman. I love how this film balances the action and the drama, takes itself just seriously enough, and never comes across as too cartoony or cheesy. It has all the elements of a fantastic Batman tale, and it still holds up after 26 years.