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‘Batman: Mask of the Phantasm’

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 27, 1993


Eric Radomski;
Bruce W. Timm
Gary Conway;
Mark Hamill;
Dana Delany
Parental guidance suggested

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Closer to radio drama than kiddie fare, "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" is the strangest PG film of the year.

Though drawn from television's popular new animated series, the movie is not bound by TV's restraints, which may surprise some parents. The opening sequence, the finale and several othersegments in "Phantasm" are in fact quite violent. Overall, the film is stylishly dark in the manner of the Tim Burton "Batman" films and the graphic novels of the late '80s. Even the story line here seems more adult-oriented than the animated series's action-plots (and since much of it is told in flashback, it may also be confusing to younger filmgoers).

"Mask of the Phantasm" is a love story, of sorts, tracing Bruce Wayne/Batman's relationship to Andrea Beaumont, who comes into his life at a time of self-doubt about the self-imposed burden of justice and vengeance. Bruce and Andrea seem sympatico and as they travel through the Gotham City World's Fair, the future (theirs and Gotham's) seems bright. Soon after accepting his engagement ring, however, Andrea must flee the country with her father, a financial adviser who has misappropriated mob investments. Batman is crushed.

Years later, mob figures start getting bumped off by a Batman-like specter and Batman himself is not only suspected, but savagely hunted down by the police. He soon finds himself in conflict not only with the mysterious Phantasm but his old enemy, the Joker. Everything comes together, and falls apart, at the long-abandoned site of the World's Fair, about to undergo apocalyptic remodeling. This World's Fair is clearly a corollary to the Love Affair, and its tracing of the transition from hope to abandonment is clearly not standard kiddie animation fare.

The film does look good on the big screen, very Burtonesque from a long opening-credit journey through Gotham's dark architecture, to the Gothic/deco shapes and angles. The voices are good too, from Gary Conway's brooding Batman and Mark Hamill's insane Joker, to Dana Delany's troubled Andrea. As usual, it's the colorful and loquacious Joker who is most riveting. Shirley Walker's orchestral score is also quite powerful.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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