The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Reclaiming a missing piece of my childhood.

"Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" was released in theaters on Christmas Day, 1993. It came, and went in less than a week. There were few screenings, and it was a box office flop. I was twelve when it was released, and missed  the very brief window to see it. Of course I bought it on VHS a few months later and then on DVD. I've seen the movie dozens of times since then, but I always wished that I could have seen it on the big screen.

Sometimes wishes come true.

Last night, the Alamo Drafthouse ran a special showing of "Mask of the Phantasm". Despite having seen it dozens of times, despite owning it on DVD and VHS, I went and paid $10 to see it on the big screen. And I was happy to do it. Even happier when I found out that what I was about to watch was one of only two 35mm prints left in existence. I left the theater an hour and a half later feeling like a kid again. I wanted to see it on the big screen back in the day and now... twenty-three years later, it's finally happened.

It's still the best Batman movie ever made and, as far as I'm concerned, there is no competition. None. After the atrocious "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" and the offensive "The Killing Joke", I needed to step back in time and remember when Warner Bros. was capable of making great DC movies like this.

Why isn't this movie on Blu-ray, yet?


  1. I'm still waiting for WB to get a clue and release the Blu-Ray of this animated masterpiece.

    See you didn't mention "Suicide Squad" (which also features Batman and Joker, albeit briefly) in the non-competition list. Haven't seen it myself but I've read less than flattering things about it.

    1. The chances of me seeing "Suicide Squad" are practically zero.

    2. Good. You suffered through DC's first two strikes this year already - by their third strike, it's just not worth anyone's time.

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  3. "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" was probably one of the first ten VHS tapes I ever owned so I saw it a lot as a pre-teen and early teen. I haven't seen it recently but I likely saw it at least three dozen times, and know most of the lines by heart. It is an incredible, underrated film and I would agree that it is likely the best Batman movie released on the big screen. It is a shame that WB had no idea how to promote it, a feat the would repeat with even worse results years later with "The Iron Giant". To a degree it was Alan Burnett's baby since he wrote the story for "Phantasm" as well as co-wrote the screenplay (alongside Paul Dini, Martin Plasko and Michael Reaves) and co-produced it. It easily is the best animated movie that an animated TV show ever got, especially considering how common such things were in the 80's (or even 90's with Pokemon). It wasn't so scary that a kid couldn't watch it but it was more "grown up" than even many of the TV episodes, dealing with murder and revenge. The soundtrack by Shirley Walker is also amazing. And of course all of the voice acting is top notch.

    B:TAS did have an interesting set up to Batman's origin. I don't mean just the shooting of his parents, I mean his path to becoming Batman. Two episodes dealt with him learning martial arts in Asia and dealing with a rival from that period. We even learned that he learned escape artistry from Zatara. And here we see the period between him returning from his training and before donning the cape and cowl for the first time, and that final push over the edge away from a normal life. It also was great use of the inherited Tim Burton continuity of Joker being a mafia gunman before getting his skin bleached without being slavishly devoted to it as the first season of the TV show was.

    You've mentioned your fondness for Andrea Beaumont and I do agree that she is quite an interesting character and it is a shame that she never made the leap into the comics, or even more animated appearances. Her costumed alter ego bares some resemblance to the Reaper, a minor Batman villain, but she's loads better and should have just replaced him. DC Comics was willing to retcon in a childhood friend for Jeph Loeb when he introduced Hush in 2003 so there's no reason why inserting Andrea into Wayne's past couldn't have been possible (especially given his public identity as a bachelor playboy). It is sort of interesting that most of the original characters that were made for the Batman mythos from the Bruce Timm era were women. Harley, Renee Montoya, Andrea, even more minor ones like Calendar Girl or Roxy Rocket. Like Jason Todd's Red Hood, Beaumont allows for some morally ambiguous challenges for Batman since in general she agrees with his philosophy - that Gotham is corrupt and that too many criminals escape justice - it's simply her methods which differ. Everyone ships Batman with Catwoman, but imagine all of the weight and tension that this flick just touches on with Wayne and Andrea.

    As a kid I also found it interesting that Bruce Wayne couldn't be both a superhero and a husband, yet Spider-Man could. It was a different era in comics.

  4. I saw part of Mask of the Phantasm in the theater. I was 9. My mom and I were unexpectedly delayed and didn't enter the theater until the 27 minute mark when Bruce is fighting the muggers on motorcycles. I never saw all of it in its entirety until high school when Cartoon Network aired it, about 9 years later.

  5. Mask is my all time favourite film and am happy you got to see it on the big screen (though I am a little jealous). It is ashame that andrea never appeared in the comics, just imagine the stories we could have gotten with her.