Flashback Friday – Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

Batman: The Animated Series was a popular show in the early 90’s. So it came as no surprise that a movie based on the show was released. First it was considered a direct to video movie but eventually became a theatrically released movie. Not doing well at the box office but found an audience when released on home video. Continuing the standard set by the television series but able to go further due to not being restrained by standards and practices. The movie is a tale of Batman as he deals with a new enemy Phantasm as ghosts from Bruce Wayne’s past reemerge.

A new villain, The Phantasm, is taking out the mob bosses of Gotham City. Due to the villain’s MO and Batman just being a presence, he is blamed for the killings. So while Batman is dealing with this, Bruce Wayne has his own issues. His old girlfriend Andrea Beaumont has returned to Gotham City. She was not just a fling but someone Bruce was actually giving up being Batman for. So you can say that his plate is full.

The animated series rarely brought up Bruce Wayne’s past. The few instances we saw mostly dealt with his training to become Batman. This shows his personal life. We see a 20 something Bruce Wayne who is known around campus as brooding. While visiting his parents’ grave, he meets Andrea who is visiting her mothers’ grave. The two instantly spark a connection and fall in love with one another. But Andrea’s father has connections to the mafia and eventually has to end things with Bruce. Heartbroken this is the final push to Bruce becoming Batman.

 

In the present, Batman is dealing with being a wanted man and the killings of the mob bosses. When Andrea comes back, old wounds become fresh once again. In a rather interesting case, he actually stalks her as Batman to see what she is up to. It is clear that the two still love one another and in fact Bruce once again considers quitting being Batman to be with her. The last remaining Mafioso becomes so desperate for help that he enlists none other than The Joker for help.

tumblr_m6as5eiQPG1qjkugeo1_1280Why is The Joker involved? Because he is the man who killed Andrea’s father. Throughout the flashbacks there is one silent figure with a distinctive long nose. While the Tom Burton linked Batman and Joker as Joker being the one who killed Bruce’s parents in a frankly ham fisted way. This was much more subtle in linking the two arch enemies together. Both met one another before they established their alter egos. If the pre Joker did not kill Andrea’s father, Bruce may never have become Batman and thus Batman may never have incidentally caused the incident that created The Joker. In fact The Joker figures out who the Phantasm actually is…Andrea.

The flashbacks are poignant for many reasons. We see Bruce trying to become a vigilante but he doesn’t know what to do. His first instance is of him barely getting away with his life and injured in the process. Noting to Alfred as to how the criminals are not afraid of him. In another moment, while on a date with Andrea, he sees a group of hoodlums harassing someone and he is fixated on it like a deer in headlights. Talking to his parents’ grave about he never planned on being happy. It really shows how dedicated and ultimately sad Bruce Wayne is. This will have echoes in future series such as Batman Beyond where he notes how while he does not regret his actions as Batman, he does have some personal regrets.

The whole movie is one about tragedy. We see Bruce at various emotional lows. He loses the woman that he loves twice. Each time Alfred is there. The first time, doing nothing to stop him from becoming Batman. The second reaffirming that he is glad that Bruce never succumbed to the darkness. Also pointedly he just calls him “Bruce” instead of “Master Bruce” showing more fatherly concern than usual. Eventually the story ends with Andrea alone on a boat to who knows where. Bruce as Batman mourns in the night before being called into action. Because despite his own personal pain ad sacrifice, Gotham City still needs saving and that’s what Batman a tragic hero but hero nonetheless.


This movie was not so much an extended episode of the animated series. Instead it took what was great about the series and spun it off into its own thing. The movie handles much more mature themes that could only be touched upon in the series. We actively see Joker kill people with his unique Joker gas. Instead we would usually see the victim in the laughing throws but instead we see a corpse with a bomb attached to it.The emotional aspect is played up that probably wouldn’t fly in a cartoon show. Showing that all relationships do not work out despite the two people loving one another. That heartbreak is inevitable in some cases and that shapes us in the future. Any Batman fan show check out this film as it really goes unappreciated when it comes to Batman films.

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