Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

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Released 19-Oct-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Animation Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1993
Running Time 73:18
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Eric Radomski
Bruce W. Timm
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Kevin Conroy
Dana Delany
Hart Bochner
Stacy Keach
Abe Vigoda
Dick Miller
John P. Ryan
Efrem Zimbalist Jr.
Bob Hastings
Robert Costanzo
Mark Hamill
Marilu Henner
Jeff Bennett
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Shirley Walker


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.75:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Italian
Spanish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     It's taken Warners a long time to finally get around to releasing Batman: Mask of the Phantasm in Region 4 - the US has had this title on DVD since 1999. Thankfully, the title has now been made available to coincide with the DVD release of Batman Begins, which actually provides an interesting point of comparison, since both movies do in some fashion deal with why Bruce Wayne adopted the guise of Batman.

     While Batman Begins presents Bruce Wayne as a tortured soul indeed, Mask of the Phantasm has a scene where Bruce, talking to the grave of his dead father, suggests that "it doesn't hurt so much anymore" ('it' being the pain of seeing his parents gunned down before his eyes, which was his motivation for adopting the path of the cape and cowl). While diehard Batman purists may shudder at this line, it does delineate the difference in approach between the two interpretations, and underlines the fact that this animated feature, spun off from the successful Batman animated series of the late 1980s, is aimed at a broader audience, with perhaps a larger component of younger children.

     This said, I hasten to add that the script of this feature is well in keeping with the groundrules of the Batman mythos, 1990s-style. We have Batman as the dread creature of the night, we have Bruce suitably brooding (with the wisecracks kept to a minimum), and there is no Robin to lighten the tone. Best of all, The Joker makes an appearance (wonderfully voiced by Mark Hamill) and is played absolutely true to his comic book characterisation - at least, the one I used to read, back in the 1980s.

     The artistic approach of this feature mirrors the design of Batman: the Animated Series from the 1990s. It is inspired at least partly by the old animated Superman shorts of the 1940s produced by the Fleischer studios, but also betrays a strong anime influence. There are grim shadows falling across faces, there's art deco buildings, and a general noir feel. Although set in contemporary times, there is a 1930s ambience to the designs which is wonderfully appropriate for Batman.

     The storyline is broader and more sophisticated than the episodes of the animated series that I've seen, benefiting greatly from the feature-length running time. While most viewers won't have any great difficulty identifying the mystery villain, the plot progression nevertheless holds your interest, partly through the judicial use of flashbacks as a narrative device.

     The character voices are all well done and importantly always take the material seriously.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     While it's certainly pleasing to be able to watch this in its intended theatrical aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (or to be precise, 1.75:1, 16x9 enhanced), the print used for the transfer is clearly not in pristine condition. There are quite a lot of film artefacts in the form of white spots throughout. These, however, are not distracting. What's more noticeable is the amount of what appears to be grain in the image - though it could also be deterioration of the video master used for the transfer. This is most apparent when white backgrounds appear on screen - they look speckled with dirt.

     Sharpness and shadow detail is fine for the most part and there are no obvious film-to-video artefacts.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio is English Dolby Digital 2.0 and is in very good nick. All dialogue is clearly audible and the effects sound great, especially given the age of the film.

     I must also mention the wonderful score by Shirley Walker, which utilises a traditional orchestra rather than electronics (as often favoured in animation). Ms Walker has scored the film as though it were live-action and refrained from any 'Mickey Mouse' effects.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    An excerpt from Shirley Walker's excellent score played over the menu.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version appears to be identical to ours.

Summary

    An enjoyable animated feature, especially for fans of Batman: the Animated Series, though there is also much here to entertain the casual viewer. A neat storyline, engaging characters and an approach that stays true to the Batman mythos. Marred only by the less than pristine quality of the print.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Alex Paige (read my bio)
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-2200 (NTSC/PAL Progessive), using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TX-76PW60. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to Amplifier.
AmplificationSony STR-DB940
SpeakersFronts: B&W DM309; Rears: B&W DM303; Centre: B&W LCR3; Subwoofer: B&W ASW300.

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Does anyone know if the R1 transfer is better? -
R1 transfer - Sean Brady