The Very Best of Batman Animated
Directed by: Eric Radomski and Bruce W. Timm
Featuring the voices of Kevin Conroy as Batman, Mark Hamill as The Joker.
Secondary voices include: Dana Delany, Stacey Keach, Abe Vigoda, Dick Miller, Robert Costanzo and Efrem Zimbalis Jr. as Alfred Pennyworth .
After the success of Tim Burton's Batman and Batman Returns, the next wave of Gotham's hero begins once again in the animated department with a new attitude. In 1992, the animated series was born and became one of the greatest animated shows in history being faithful to the comic books, exceptional animation, dark tone, crime thrilling stories and much, much more. Mask of the Phantasm plays a spinoff to the series introducing a new villain, a recurring favorite and a complexity to the main character. I figured it would be best to complete batman's animated adventures before I get down to business with the live action adaptations.
Our story begins with our detective doing his usual midnight work around Ciudad Gòtica. One of the crime bosses, Chuckie Sol attempts to escape the masked hero when he unluckily runs into a new masked vigilante know as the Phantasm (unofficially titled by the characters) who's goal is to hunt down and kill specific criminals like Sol. Of course, there's only room for one vigilante in Gotham and for one that kills for justice, Batman won't tolerate for a second.
Mask of the Phantasm balances out Bruce Wayne's past as a beginner before he donned the bat symbol; before it became a curse. Searching for this new adversary, he targets this specific group of gangsters that triggers flashbacks to our hero's past. No, we don't revisit the death of his parents, but they are part of the complexity of the Batman persona. Young Bruce Wayne, during his college years still visits his parent's grave, making promises that killers will meet justice as opposed to asking for advice. He meets Andrea Beaumont and the two hit it off as if they knew each other for a lifetime. In this spin-off, she is his first love and the reason why he accepts his destiny as the caped crusader. During a feud between her father and the mob that is being hunted down by the Phantasm, she disappears from Bruce's life. Before this, he was ready to marry her and leave his costumed adventures behind. An interesting character development that is still memorable for fans of the character. Here you have a man who devoted his entire future to incarcerating criminals, and his only fear was not death, but reaching the climax to his promise too early, thus, not honoring his parent's memory. A lot of weight for a man to handle, where as Andrea is depicted as not just the solution to his endeavors but the catalyst as well. When she leaves and breaks his heart during his discovery of an underground cave inhabited by bats, he washes his hands off any relationships, any promises or compromises and dedicates his life to becoming fear personified: The Batman.
Like any common criminal, if you want something done right, do it yourself. Right? Almost. With batman being the supposed murderer of the gangsters, another villain with the same caliber of genocide is contracted: The Joker. Yes, my children, the pride and joy of DC's villainous roster. Voiced by mar Hamill, this joker has remained the most iconic and memorable adaption of the character since Jack Nicholson's interpretation and even far back as to Cesar Romero as a campy more clown inspired interpretation. Whether it was blowing stuff up or gassing half the city with death inducing laughter, it was all about delivering the punch line. Destined to dance together, Batman and Joker have been in each other's throats for generation and for more to come. No other voice actor will ever capture this psychopath as well as mark Hamill. Many will try, but in the end, there can only be one Joker.
Being Batman has its disadvantages. You can only be tolerated for so long until the city has had enough and you have the entire force of G.P.D. out to catch or kill. This proves that the dark knight isn't invincible. He's a man that can be easily broken, and there aren't enough training methods in the world Bruce Wayne can master to shield the fragility of his character. When you look at the last 15 minutes of the third act, you see why Batman can never have the life his parents wanted for him; even the life Alfred wants for him. Being Batman is more than a responsibility. It. Is. A. Curse. In the end, the mission is never over. The villain will never sleep and will never stop at causing harm. With a "no killing" rule, it's an eternal endeavor.
The voice actors were of course carefully chosen for the secondary characters. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill have already seeded their footprint in the industry as iconic voice actors. No other individual will ever portray Batman in this medium as well as Kevin Conroy. He has played with the voice over the years from gravely to crystal clear "Hey, I'm Batman. Get over it!". There will be no other. Hell, when you hear him in the interviews, who do you see? Conroy or Bruce Wayne? The same goes for Mark Hamill. Ever hear him dub Heath Ledger's monologues at one of his convention? Pure glory to for the ears. Two legends that will never, ever be forgotten.
The animation department spared no expense in delivering a quality movie, especially for its time of conception. It has an intro with a dark score that immediately still sends Goosebumps around your body after 19 years. The animated series has won five Emmys and has become one of the very best, and one of the top five if you take into account my childhood. I doubt anyone levels this show on anything lower than a top ten list. The quality of sound increased tremendously than your average twenty-two minute runtime on TV. The design of The Phantasm was not just inventive but symbolic. Identified as Andrea Beaumont, Phantasm is deemed "Angel of Death". The more I see it, the more Phantasm could have been Bruce Wayne's fate; the path he might have chosen.
In the final shot of Batman standing at the top of a building as guardian of Gotham City, we see broken man. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and the drive for our dark warrior. No matter how imperfect he may be, the city needs him, and the beacon of the bat will always be casted over Gotham. Overall, no other animated hero movie can compare this bad boy.
Written by: Bawnian©-Dexeus.