Attention, Batman fans: "Mask of the Phantasm" is out and you need to own it


BLU-RAY REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS




Frame shots courtesy of Warner Archive Collection



"BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM: WARNER ARCHIVE COLLECTION"

Blu-ray, 1993, PG, animated violence

Best extra: The original aspect ratio version














SOME FOLKS will always argue that "Batman: The Animated Series" would never have gotten the green light had it not been for Frank Miller's groundbreaking 1986 comic-book miniseries "The Dark Knight Returns" or Tim Burton's 1989 "Batman."

They'll also insist that it was no coincidence that the TV series and Burton's much darker "Batman Returns" both came out in 1992.

Let them. Twenty-five years later, the series still stands on its own, but if you somehow missed it, then by all means put "Mask of the Phantasm" on your must-see list. A continuation of the series, it was an Annie Award nominee for best animated feature along with "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "The Lion King" (the winner), and has been hailed as one of the greatest animated movies of all time, one of the 10 best superhero movies ever and the best big-screen representation of the Batman character.

One site even put it on par with Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy.

No argument here, and no surprise, either. With Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill -- yes, that Mark Hamill -- reprising their roles as Batman and Joker, respectively, it delivers everything the series did: uncompromising storyline, excellent acting, memorable music and unrivaled animation that seamlessly encompasses the past, present and future.





When a mysterious, cloaked figure starts picking off Gotham City's crime bosses, a councilman with a secret (Hart Bochner) tells the press it's Batman. It's not, but the Phantasm shares a link to Bruce Wayne's tortured past. In a series of flashbacks, Bruce meets Andrea Beaumont (Dana Delany) while visiting his parents' grave. As their relationship develops, he drops his plan of being a vigilante and asks her to marry him, but she leaves a note ending their engagement and disappears with her father, Carl (Stacy Keach). That's when Bruce dons Batman's cowl. Andrea returns to Gotham and tells him that she and her father were in hiding because he'd embezzled from the mob. Bruce thinks Carl Beaumont is the Phantasm.

Sorry, that's all you're going to find out here. But if you pick up the movie, you'll not only get a story that plays fair, you get a grade A high-def transfer. Colors are true, contrast is clear and detail is sharp.

Warner Archive provides two aspect ratio versions, including the more desirable, square-shaped (1.33:1 aspect ratio) to match TVs of yesteryear, which was the animators' original intended framing. During the production, Warner decided midstream to release "Phantasm" at the multiplex in widescreen, which meant that work already finished was going to get a hatchet job. In one shot , the heads of Bruce's parents are missing from a grand portrait over the fireplace. The widescreen version (1.78:1 aspect ratio) does provide a larger image, filling your HDTV from top to bottom and side to side.


1.33:1 aspect ratio


1.78:1 aspect ratio

The only thing you don't get are extras – other than a trailer, and that doesn't count. It would have been nice to hear from Conroy and Hamill or directors Eric Radomski or Bruce Timm, who also created the TV series.

Maybe next time. In the meantime, "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" will fill all of your Dark Knightneeds.

— Craig Shapiro





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