Thursday, August 3, 2017

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

2.5/4

Starring (voices): Kevin Conroy, Dana Delaney, Mark Hamill, Hart Boechner, Stacey Keach

Rated PG for Animated Violence

"Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" is somewhat of a cult classic, and after seeing a rave review by Siskel and Ebert, I was intrigued.  I'm not a fan of superhero movies, and this one is about as good as the most mediocre entries in the MCU and Justice League canons.  It's not awful, but it's not all that great either.

A mysterious figure is killing mob bosses.  Batman, aka Bruce Wayne (Conroy) is on the case.  Meanwhile, an old flame by the name of Andrea Beaumont (Delaney) is back in town to visit her new boyfriend, the sniveling city councilman Arthur Reeves (Boechner), who blames Batman for the killings.

The problem is not the story, which deals with violence, guilt, and how the sins of the past can literally come back to haunt someone.  The problem is that it's poorly told.  Warner Bros. commissioned it based on the success of "Batman: The Animated Series," and it was originally going to be direct-to-video.  But the studio changed its mind and set it for theatrical release.  Unfortunately, no one rewrote the script or recast the acting talent.  Both are flat, and hamstring what could have been a great movie.

Kevin Conroy is adequate as the lead character.  Usually, he's okay, but whenever he reaches for grand emotions, it comes across as being similar to whenever "Family Guy" parodies William Shatner.  Dana Delaney is better, but she can't save the dialogue or the overly expressive character movements.  Hart Boechner is dislikable enough as the jerk and Mark Hamill has a great time as the Joker.

The animation, which was singled out as praise by Siskel and Ebert, is mixed.  The backgrounds and cityscapes are gorgeous.  They're an art deco style that is perfect for this sort of comic book epic.  However, the animation of the people is hopelessly over-exaggerated like in a trashy cartoon.  The subtler moments are fine, but when you have a character wave his arms like a gorilla to express something, it takes you out of the moment.

Perhaps the film just hasn't aged well.  It would be unfair to compare this to something like "The Dark Knight" or "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow," two films that bear similarities with this one, but perhaps their breaking of new ground spoiled it for me.  Maybe as a kid I would have liked it more.

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