Batman: Mask of the Phantasm


Having already cracked the code to what would yield the best animated Batman of all time (and arguably the best adaptation of The Dark Knight, period), the team behind TV’s The Animated Series was ultimately given the green light to make a PG-rated feature film in that same style. And while small-screen Bats pushed creative boundaries, in theaters he went even further, with blood, violence and even (gulp) sex adding a palpable impact to this wholly satisfying adventure. A new masked vigilante is in Gotham City causing serious trouble for key members of the criminal underworld as well as for our Caped Crusader, as old wounds from a previously hidden chapter out of his murky past are reopened. And how does the homicidal Joker fit into this mayhem?

The restoration of the (mostly) traditionally animated movie, sourced from the original camera negative, is an absolute joy to behold, removing unwelcome flaws while preserving ample film grain plus the dirt and scratches inherent to the physical cels. This release also marks the first time the movie has been presented in its full and proper 1.85:1 aspect ratio since its theatrical run. The frequent black areas of the frame are deep and organic while colors are pleasingly strong. Scenery was given a surprising amount of texture that reproduces wonderfully, and line art has an appropriate roughness to it. HDR10 highlights, as in the glow of Batman’s eyes within the cowl, are fine if not extraordinary. (The streaming version offers Dolby Vision.)

The soundtrack, meanwhile, has been remixed from its vintage 2.0 (also included) to 5.1, both versions brilliantly remastered for improved fidelity. Incidental effects such as doors opening and closing or glass breaking have a refreshed clarity and subtle resonance is appreciable, while the many scenes with rain or thunder truly envelop us. Shirley Walker’s musical score, riffing on Danny Elfman’s themes, hits hard with its bass thumps, and the explosive finale can be felt all the way to Metropolis.

The only on-disc extra is a brand-new mini-documentary about the recently deceased voice actor at the center of it all, the one and only Kevin Conroy. There’s no Blu-ray disc here but a Movies Anywhere digital copy is provided. Here we’ll find the entire movie in 4:3 open matte (revealing more picture top and bottom) as a bonus, which is significant since this is how it was initially intended to be shown, direct-to-video, for 1.33:1 screens of the era. In short, Warner’s awesome 4K package is a masterfully realized 30th anniversary edition.

STUDIO: Warner Bros, 1993
AUDIO FORMAT: DTS Master Audio 5.1
LENGTH: 76 mins., PG
DIRECTOR: Eric Radomski, Bruce W. Timm
STARRING: Kevin Conroy, Dana Delany, Mark Hamill, Hart Bochner, Stacy Keach, Abe Vigoda

3ddavey13's picture

Definitely one of the best animated Batman movies, and worth getting even if you own the complete Animated Series on bluray. Too bad DC's live action films can't match their animated ones. My one minor disappointment was the absence of Mark Hamill in the Conroy tribute.