Director: Eric Radomski, Bruce Timm
Stars: Kevin Conroy, Dana Delany, Hart Bochner, Stacy Keach, Mark Hamill
Whether fans want to believe it or not, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was the most faithful big screen representation of the Caped Crusader until Batman Begins hit theaters in 2005. Shaking off the dark and perverse look of Tim Burton's Batman Returns and the neon madness of Schumacher's Batman Forever, Phantasm embraced the art deco style of the acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series. The movie puts Batman against the the Joker and a mysterious new villain named Phantasm, who is loosely based on the Reaper of comic book lore.
By cutting back and forth between a mystery set in the current day and the early days of Batman's career gives gravitas to Gotham's Dark Knight, and it also allows for some darker moments of violence that The Animated Series couldn't do. This isn't simply a Batman movie; it is a throwback to the pulp heroes of the '30s and '40s.
Gotham is a stylized noir city where the black and white world of heroes and villains are tossed aside for layers of ambiguity.
While most comic book movies today look like soulless video games, Mask of the Phantasm stands out as a superhero adventure with an eye towards sleek design and tortured humanity. —JS