TV Party Tonight! #140

TV Party Tonight! #140

Tuesday, 27 February 2024

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
[4K Ultra HD]

The mind plays tricks on us. Especially, the child’s mind. Haven’t you gone back to something you remember loving as a kid and realizing it’s total shit? Distance is probably what’s making the heart grow fonder.

I was having these feelings during the first 15 minutes of Batman Mask of the Phantasm. I remember the cover clearly as a kid, renting it from my video store, and rewatching it relentlessly. I watch movies nowadays where I can’t even remember how they end but the plot and beats of Mask of the Phantasm I remember vividly still. I felt like it was an underrated movie then and was pleased to know it had developed a cult following since its release. Did it bomb in theatres? Kind of. Not really. But, I can see why maybe this didn’t connect with moviegoers.

Mask of the Phantasm deals with some pretty mature themes, but it’s delivering them through a kid’s medium which might not be the best. Not that animation is exclusively for kids, but the Batman animated series is for kids. Why do I say this? Because I rewatched it a few years ago and found it so plain that I didn’t bother going past the first season. But this doesn’t matter. Good adult animated movies exist that have shitty animation. What struck me during the first 15 minutes of this rewatch is that the animation in this theatrical motion picture is pretty average. One expects a higher budget which can be funneled towards the animation department, but no. Mask of the Phantasm looks like a longer version of the show you would see on TV, and that’s kind of disappointing.

Then of course, the final 20 minutes happen and you realize where the millions of dollars in the budget hopefully went. The final act of Batman confronting the Joker is wonderfully satisfying both at a psychological level and as an action sequence, it looks gorgeous, and is absolutely brutal. Even my wife who was listening from the other room was commenting how she was surprised it was a cartoon.

Is this even a review? I think so. I’m not going to talk about what it’s about, because that doesn’t matter. It’s a new villain and a rewriting of Bruce Wayne’s and the Joker’s pasts that happens every so often when they realize the characters have become stale. But, the personal obstacles they’re faced with are strangely human and relatable and, yes, I have to admit, for all its shortcomings, Mask of the Phantasm is underrated and deserves its due. This 4K release is a nice but doesn’t really do much to improve on the so-so visuals of the original.

Mask of the Phantasm is a quaint and underrated entry in the Batman universe that’s imperfect but packs quite a punch.


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