Kyle Cubr of Cine-File reviews “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm” screening this week at Doc Films

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Over the many years of Batman’s existence, the Caped Crusader has been portrayed in a variety of ways. From the campiness of the Adam West version to the gritty, humane rendition of Christian Bale in the Christopher Nolan trilogy, there’s been no shortage in the versatility of representation that the character offers. Perhaps one of the most fondly remembered variants is Eric Radomski and Bruce Timm’s 1950’s noir and gothic architecture-inspired television show Batman: The Animated Series from the 1990s. In the 1993 feature film spin-off BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM, the mysterious and spectral Phantasm is hunting down and killing mob bosses that are all associated through their nefarious business dealings; meanwhile, Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) is both surprised and happy to find that his former fiancée, Andrea, has returned to Gotham City. The film intercuts flashback sequences that both show the origins of Batman from his humble ski-masked vigilante beginnings and the beginning/end of his relationship with Andrea. This pacing helps the film flow freely from exposition to action in a delightful manner. One of PHANTASM’s strongest features is its rich character development and its satisfying tying up of loose ends. The film also maintains the same creative team that the animated series utilized and the craftsmanship translates well to the longer than usual narrative typically found on the show. Shirley Walker’s score punctuates the action with sweeping vibrato and functions much in the way the ‘Wham’, ‘Pow’, and ‘Bang’ sound bubbles do in the comics. BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM stands among the pinnacle of all versions of Bob Kane’s beloved crime fighter, not because of its influences on future Batman works but also because of its own development and depiction of canon.

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