Western Animation: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
"Your angel of death awaits..."
— The Phantasm
Of the various films based on the DCAU
(and DC's original animated films), Mask of the Phantasm
— The Movie
of Batman: The Animated Series
— was the very first one and remains the only feature to have received a theatrical release.
As Batman continues his war on Gotham City's underworld, he discovers a new foe who wants to take that war to a whole new level: The Phantasm, a mysterious masked figure who has killed off several of Gotham's high-profile mob bosses. The Phantasm has a similar appearance to Batman and targets criminals like Batman does, which leads the police to blame The Caped Crusader for the killings. As the police try to stop him, Batman tries to clear his name — and tries to stop Phantasm before another murder happens.
The film also follows Bruce Wayne's past and present relationship with love interest Andrea Beaumont (who has her own ties to The Phantasm) and shows Bruce's first attempts at vigilantism before becoming The Batman.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm contains examples of the following tropes
- Adaptation Distillation: Some elements of the story are loosely taken from Batman: Year Two. The flashback scene where Bruce goes after some crooks before cooking up his Batman persona is also a reference to Year One.
- Amusement Park of Doom: The Joker turns the World Of The Future amusement park into his own abode. Being The Joker, he also fills it with plenty of traps and puts high explosives in every one of the tunnels underneath the park (of which there are 20 miles worth).
- Animation Bump: Unfortunately averted. The animation quality is on level with a really good episode of the series proper, rather than feature film quality. Justified since the producers didn't even know Warner Bros was going to give it a theatrical release. Bruce Timm even said for all intents and purposes the movie was a Direct-to-Video.
- Anti-Villain: The Phantasm falls somewhere between "Well-Intentioned Anti-Villain" and "Nominal Hero". Also a Woobie Anti-Villain once her backstory is revealed.
- Ascended Extra: Not in the film itself, but in the novelization, which ties up a dangling plot thread by giving some extra scenes to a character who's only in the film for less than a minute.
- Asian Airhead: One of the girls vying for Bruce's attention at the party at the beginning of the movie.
What about the "I" word? Bruce:
"I" word? Airhead:
- Asshole Victim: Almost every death in the movie is a violent, unrepetent criminal that nobody mourns. Batman only opposes the Phantasm because, regardless of the fact that they deserved it, it is not any one person's place to be judge, jury, and executioner.
- Award Bait Song: "I Never Even Told You", sung by Tia Carrere.
- Awesome McCoolname: Salvatore Valestra. It's essentially the most mob-bossiest mob boss name ever. Damn.
- Awesome Moment of Crowning: Well, sort of. We get to see Bruce put on the cowl for the first time.
- The Phantasm.
- The Joker.
- Badass Cape: Batman and Phantasm again.
- Behind the Black: Buzz Bronski falls into a grave that's out of view of the camera because it's over the edge of a hill. However, he should have been able to see it from his point of view. Since it was night this may be a case of Hollywood Darkness, but no one else had any trouble moving around before.
- Berserk Button: "Don't touch me, old man! I don't know where you've been!"
- Big Bad: The Phantasm.
- Big Damn Heroes:
- Batman showing up in the Batwing to confront The Phantasm.
- And again when he shows up in the Batcycle at Joker's hideout.
- Big Damn Movie: Averted in that the scale of threat is relatively small compared to some of the episodes of the TV series. Two ways the stakes are higher is that some characters explicitly die and the matter is much more personal for Batman than most of his other cases.
- Bittersweet Ending: In the end, Andrea disappears with the Joker in the explosions, but she leaves Bruce her locket, therefore letting him know she survived. The film doesn't exactly end on a happy note, though.
- Blade Below the Shoulder: Phantasm wields a bladed weapon over one of his hands.
- Bloodless Carnage: Averted, particularly during the sequence where Batman is cornered by the cops at a construction site and nearly killed in an explosion, and in the climatic fight scene with the Joker, where both them end up torn and bloodied; at one point, Batman kicks the Joker in the face and knocks one of his teeth out.
- Calling the Old Man Out: Andrea did this to her father concerning his remarkably poor decision to be business partners with guys like Sal Valestra.
- Car Fu: A villain example: when Chuckie Sol tries to run over Phantasm in the opening scene. Not so much...
- Cast as a Mask: Stacey Keach plays The Phantasm, but not his secret identity. Deliberate misdirection since he also plays Andrea's father.
- Catch Phrase: "Your Angel of Death awaits"
- Chair Reveal: Used when Phantasm invades the home of Sal Valestra... and finds that Joker got there first.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander / Talkative Loon: Joker, especially in the scene where Sal tries to hire him to kill Batman.
- Combat Pragmatist: The Joker during his brief fight with Phantasm.
- Continuity Nod: The socialite angry at Bruce for dumping her had previously appeared in the episode "Joker's Wild", wearing the same evening dress, Opera Gloves, and fur wrap.
- Cool Mask: The titular Mask of the Phantasm, which resembles a skull.
- Counterfeit Cash: Chuckie Sol, the first gangster victim of the Phantasm, intended to launder a briefcase full of the high-grade variety in his casino before his encounter with Batman (and Phantasm).
- Darker and Edgier: It's a widely held consensus that this is easily the most mature of the DCAU Batman adaptations. (And that's saying something!) It's only logical since the show had the same amount of finesse with handling adult issues but keeping it at a PG-rating, or at least trying to.
- Deadpan Snarker:
- Andrea also has her moments.
- The Dreaded: The Joker. Even the guy who hires him wishes there was another way and for good reason- Joker murders him off-screen.
- Empathic Environment: The World of the Future.
- Evil Is Not a Toy: Sal Valestra hires the Joker as a hitman. The latter kills the former to use his corpse as bait for the hit.
- Evil Laugh: The Joker.
- Evil Old Folks: Sal Valestra, at least in the parts of the movie set in the "present".
- Expy: The Phantasm is heavily inspired by the Reaper, a violent vigilante from Batman: Year Two.
- False Reassurance: Pretty obvious it's false, considering the source, but during the final battle:
Phantasm: You're not smiling, Joker. I thought you found death amusing.
- Earlier in the film, he has another.
Joker: Nobody's gonna hurt my pal, Sal.
- Fat Bastard: Buzz Bronski, the second of Phantasm's victims.
- Femme Fatale / Dark Action Girl: Andrea, upon being revealed to be The Phantasm.
- Fiery Redhead: Andrea sometimes. Also the one socialite who chews Bruce out for suddenly dumping her.
- Film Noir: This is probably the most noir-ish example of a Batman adaptation ever, even by The Animated Series' standards.
- Fly-at-the-Camera Ending: In this case, actually a Swing At The Camera Ending.
- Foot Popping
- Foreshadowing: Loads of it.
- Andrea telling Bruce that her father "doesn't matter anymore." Bruce thinks this is because he was told Andrea's father is the Phantasm, but it is because Beaumont is already dead and Andrea herself is wearing the costume.
- Joker confronting Reeves in his office hints that they know a good deal about the Beaumonts. Joker puts the pieces together about the Phantasm's identity in this scene and later tries to kill Andrea with a booby trap phone call (calling his intended target "toots" and "boopsie"). The reason he does not suspect Andrea's father is also foreshadowed in all of this - because Joker was the one to kill him all those years ago.
- Batman picked up the phone, and realize the Phantasm isn't Andrea's father.
- Bruce's proposal to Andrea is interrupted by a swarm of bats erupting from the cave below them.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Dual examples in the spooky, unnamed Mafia Hitman who eventually becomes The Joker and Andrea, who takes a few levels in badass and becomes The Phantasm.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: In classic Batman: The Animated Series fashion, this film manages to get away with a number of things such as alluding to Bruce having sex with Andrea, the Joker making sexual jokes at his robot wife, etc.
- Godzilla Threshold: Things have gotten pretty desperate when you try to hire the Joker as a hitman.
- The Grim Reaper: The Phantom's design is based on this.
- Groin Attack: Andrea to the Joker, no less.
- Heartbroken Badass: Batman again, and especially so by the end of it. Andrea is also one.
- Heroes Want Redheads: Andrea Beaumont. Bruce was actually prepared to marry her. Incidentally, a socialite who he previously dated, and then calls him out for not bothering to phone her near the beginning of the film, is also a redhead.
- He Who Fights Monsters: Phantasm. Alfred even notes it when consoling Bruce near the end of the movie.
Alfred: Vengeance blackens the soul, Bruce. I've always feared that you would become that which you fought against. You walk the edge of that abyss every night, but you haven't fallen in and I thank heaven for that.
- Hijacked by Ganon: The Joker's relevance to the plot and centrality to the climax does kind of come out of nowhere; he's not even introduced until about halfway through, and even then his connection to events is only hinted at for a while after. A case of Tropes Are Not Bad.
- Hit Flash: For a hammer hitting a windshield, at that.
- Batman confronted Andrea about what she knows, but she claimed ignorance and wants him to leave. Before leaving, he spitefully asks her whether she's still following her dad's orders. She retorts that he's the only one in the room being controlled by his parents - she knows who he really is after seeing him near the tombstone of Bruce's parents. But as soon as he's gone, she collapses onto her bed, sobbing uncontrollably. She probably said that so Batman/Bruce wouldn't interfere, but hurt her to say that to him.
- Later in the movie, this exchange may qualify:
Batman: But, Andy, what will vengeance solve?
Andrea: If anyone knows the answer to that, Bruce, it's you.
- I Did What I Had to Do:
- Inexplicably Awesome: The Phantasm appears to have super strength, super speed, and smoke-related teleportation and makes it pretty clear in a couple instances that the last one is a bona fide superpower. The movie never explains how the Phantasm is able to do any of this.
- In the Hood: Phantasm.
- Ironic Echo: One of the mob bosses Phantasm kills had earlier said that Phantasm's previous victim "always was a loser". Right before Phantasm kills him, he says that the mob boss always was a loser.
- Jerk Ass: Arthur Reeves. And that's putting it mildly.
- Joker Immunity: Joker's fate at the end of the movie is not revealed, but his appearances in later DCAU materials show that he clearly survived.
- Kick the Dog: "Chuckie, Chuckie... you always were a loser". Some thing to say to a dead friend's grave.
- Played for Laughs when Joker kicks the robotic dog in the World Of The Future amusement park.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: Joker's murder of Sal Valestra and later poisoning Arthur Reeves with some of his laughing gas.
- Kung-Foley: Immediately following Bruce's first night trying his hand at this whole vigilante gig, we see him practicing Jujitsu in his front yard accompanied with full sound effects.
- Lady Killer In Love: Inverted with Bruce. He was genuinely in love with Andrea before he became the womanizer he is in the modern parts of the movie. Then he and Andrea briefly get back together again...
- Laser-Guided Karma: Arthur Reeves sold out Andrea and her father to the mob for refusing to fund his first election, thereby facilitating Andrea's father's death. As a result, the Joker initially suspects him of being the Phantasm (or hired him) to get rid of loose ends and confronts him. Though Joker quickly deduces that it's Andrea instead, he still doses Arthur with Joker toxin, leaving him hospitalized.
- Laughing Mad: Joker constantly laughs throughout the film, but the most notable instance of Laughing Mad is right when, shortly after being captured by Phantasm/Andrea Beaumont and Batman, and certainly going to die at the former's hand, the bombs across the abandoned future fair grounds explode and start demolishing the fairgrounds, making any chances of him dying even more likely, the Joker starts breaking down into uncontrollable laughter.
- Leave Your Quest Test: Take away everything to do with Batman being framed, the Phantasm trying to get revenge on the Joker, and Bruce Wayne's failure to hold on to a woman, this is the core of the film, where Batman's ready to become a masked vigilante and go down the path of darkness and angst forever (although he hasn't seen any bats yet)...but has found happiness with Andrea Beaumont, the Girl of the Week. This leads into one of the saddest scenes in all of the DCAU, where he begs his (dead) parents to let him go.
- Leitmotif: Batman and Joker's respective themes are carried over from the show (and benefit from the full orchestra). Composer Shirley Walker also created news leitmotifs for the Valestra Gang, the Bruce/Andrea romance, and the Phantasm.
- Loan Shark: This is strongly implied to have been the reason Andrea's Father had to uproot both himself and her and run to Europe. Though he eventually recoups their money, they decide they've had enough of his stalling and send a certain hitman to kill him.
- Loved I Not Honor More: Bruce refuses to do this. "It's gotta be one or the other, I can't have it both ways. I can't put myself on the line if there's someone waiting for me to come home."
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Does the Phantsm have supernatural abilities? Or does he use smoke grenades and other tricks?
- Mêlée à Trois: The film is largely a three-way conflict between Batman, the Phantasm, and Joker, as demonstrated by this◊ nifty color guide. By the time they're all gathered in the same place, though, Enemy Mine has come into effect.
- Monster Clown: The Joker, who else?
- Mood Whiplash:
- A slight version occurs when Sal Valestra tries to convince the Joker to take out Batman. The Joker pokes fun at the old man and seems to ignore him the entire time. Then we find out he murdered the old guy and propped him up in a chair to lure The Phantasm into a trap.
: (to Sal) That's it! That's what I like to see! A nice big smile
- In that whole scene he goes through some.
Joker: (fuming mad) Don't touch me old man! (shoves Sal, then smiles, laughs and brushes him up) I dunno where you've been!
- Later on, when the Phantasm shows up to get Valestra but instead finds a camera set up by the Joker, this trope is fully reinstated:
: (on a speaker)
Whoops! Looks like the joke's on me, you're not Batman at all. There's a new player in town and soon his name will be all over town... to say nothing of his face, legs, spleen, and head! (bomb detonates)
- When The Joker is meeting with Arthur Reeves, he goes from intimidating, to nonchalant, to full-on psychopathic in about 2 and a half-minutes.
- My Name Is Inigo Montoya You Killed My Father Prepare to Die: Yes, the movie has all three of these tropes in one. Turns out, Andrea is The Phantasm, her father was killed by The Joker when he was still just a regular mob enforcer (she'd already killed all but one of the bosses who'd ordered the hit) and she attempts to kill him.
- Mythology Gag: During a flashback, a bat was briefly seeing outside Bruce's window and flew away. However, Bruce didn't see it.
- Never Got to Say Goodbye: The end credits song by Tia Carerre.
- Never Say "Die": Averted in the climax of the film: "Let me go or we'll both die!" "Whatever it takes!"
- New Old Flame: Andrea Beaumont
- No Name Given: Despite the film titled "Mask of the Phantasm" the word Phantasm is never used and leaves Andrea's disguise nameless.
- No Sell: Phantasm's first appearance has a mob boss shooting at him almost a dozen times with the bullets not doing a thing. Exactly how Phantasm was able to do that is never actually explained but presumably it was him making good use of his Smoke Out abilities.
- Not So Different: The Phantasm thinks this of Batman and herself. Alfred agrees, to a point.
Alfred: Vengeance blackens the soul, Bruce. I've always feared that you would become that which you fought against. You walk the edge of that abyss every night, but you haven't fallen in and I thank heaven for that.
- Not So Stoic: Alred, seeing Bruce in the cowl for the first time.
Alfred: Dear... God!
- Oh, Crap:
- Bruce gets one when examining a group photo of Sal Valestra's old gang. One of the men looks familiar. With a red pen, he draws a grin and...
Batman: Oh, no!
- Arthur when he realizes Joker is in his office.
- Also when the Joker believes Arthur hired the Phantasm to kill the mobsters, erasing his connections with them.
Arthur: Uh, wait a minute, you don't think...?
[phone call from Andrea]
- Then Joker when Andrea looms over him after his jetpack crash.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: Played with. The opening theme for the movie is a choral version of the main theme from the animated series. However, the language isn't Latin, or even a real language. Word of God is that the lyrics were the names of some of the film's producers written backwards.
- Only a Model
- Origins Episode: We see Bruce's first night out as a vigilante, the inspiration for his costume, the discovery of the Batcave, and the first time he put on the mask.
- Pay Evil unto Evil: Phantasm's entire modus operandi.
- Photo Doodle Recognition: Bruce realizes a gangster in an old picture is the Joker after drawing his trademark grin on it.
- Precision F-Strike:
: You think you know everything about me, don't you? Alfred
: I diapered your bottom, I bloody
well ought to, sir
. Batman: Well, you're wrong!
- Pretty in Mink: A socialite wears a black fur wrap while describing how Bruce dumped her. The fur even adds a dramatic flourish when she throws a drink at Bruce, turns around, and storms away.
- Psycho for Hire: The Joker's first instance as one in the DCAU, though he screws his employer over big time.
- Put the "Laughter" in "Slaughter": An especially chilling example happens when we find out what Joker does to Sal Valestra.
- Refusal of the Call: We see that Bruce tried to do this, but...
- Revenge Before Reason: And she admits it too.
Phantasm: "I'm not saying it's right or even sane, but it's all I have left, so either help me or get out of the way!"
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Andrea's motivation for being the Phantasm is to make the mobsters who ruined her life (and took her father) pay for what they've done. And She's not letting anyone stop her, especially not Bruce, even if she'll lose his love.
- Rule of Symbolism: The World Of The Future amusement park is a metaphor for Bruce's own future. When he and Andrea visit it, it's bright, shining, and hopeful. In the present day, however, the park has become decayed, rotted, and unforgiving — not to mention being haunted by an insane clown. And the second Andrea refuses Batmans Last-Second Chance by stating that she intends to break his one rule the place explodes into utter chaos.
- Running Gag: Alfred walking in on Bruce and Andrea kissing, where he quickly walks out without disturbing them.
- Samus is a Girl: Phantasm is in fact, Andrea Beaumont
- Scale Model Destruction: The climactic battle takes place on a scale model of Gotham in an abandoned fair.
- Scare Chord: We get one of these about halfway through the film, although the moment was creepy enough without it.
- Servile Snarker: Alfred as always.
- Sexy Discretion Shot: A rare one for the DCAU, but this movie got away with many mature themes.
- Sexy Shirt Switch: Andrea is only seen wearing a large shirt after she spends the night with Bruce.
- Bruce taking out a motorcyclist on foot is a direct reference to AKIRA.
- When Batman is washed down the sewer near the end of the movie, the sequence of shots is the same as Lupin being washed down an aqueduct in The Castle of Cagliostro.
- Batman's escape from the police through a construction zone is similar to a scene with a condemned building in Batman: Year One.
- Joker tries to escape on a jet pack similar to the one James Bond used in the beginning of Thunderball
- The end scene is almost identical to that of the 1989 Batman: Batman standing on a rooftop, looking at the Bat-signal. It's just that both are never fully in frame at one time.
- Alfred's line about vengeance is very similar to Friedrich Nietzsche's quote about becoming that which you fight against.
- The lyrics of the chorus singing the Batman theme are the production crew backward. It's elaborated on in Ominous Latin Chanting.
- Sleazy Politician: Councilman Arthur Reeves starts out as a typical anti-Batman crusader (who is also friends with Bruce Wayne), and we later learn that he used to work for Andrea's father. When Carl and Andrea vanished with the money Carl embezzled, Arthur kept in touch with them and later sold them out to the gangsters in order to finance his first election campaign.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The film is blisteringly cynical for a kids superhero cartoon. (The major theme is that Batman's life always takes a turn for the worst and that he is damned to sadness and loneliness)
- Smoke Out: Up to Eleven with Phantasm, who uses it for both teleportation and immunity to projectiles, including bullets.
- Smoking Is Cool: Flashback Sal Valvestra is frequently seen smoking, in all his mobster badassness. Fast forward to the present however, and it is easy to see the toll all that smoking took on him.
- The Sociopath: Joker. Even his pre-acid dip incarnation who only appears briefly in flashbacks, has shades of this
- The Spook: This is the only time we get a glimpse of the Joker before the clown appearance, and he is still appropriately mysterious and without a name. Even then, he only appears marginally less psychopathic than his current incarnation.
- Suit-Up of Destiny: When Batman first puts on the cowl. It is a moment so utterly awesome and epic that Alfred is shocked.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Bruce and Andrea.
- Taking You with Me:
Joker: I'm your only chance to get out of here. Let me go or we'll both die!
Batman: Whatever it takes!
- Talking to the Dead: Andrea to her mother, Bruce to his parents.
Andrea: So, tell me - with all that money and power, how come you always look like you want to jump off a cliff?
Bruce: Why should you care?
Andrea: I don't. Mother was asking.
- Took a Level in Badass:
- Andrea after becoming The Phantasm.
- Bruce Wayne finally going from well-meaning citizen to full-blown vigilante. No matter how you slice it, it's 100% badass...
- Tragic Villain: Andrea, Andrea, Andrea...
- Trailers Always Spoil: The Joker showing up about a 1/3rd of the way into the movie was suppose to be a surprise, too bad the trailers decided to feature the Joker.
- The Unfought: Batman and the Phantasm only meet once, and their tussle is over almost before it begins thanks to the police.
- The Voiceless: That mob hitman with the pointy nose. Likely to obscure the fact that he's a pre-chemical dip Joker.
- What's an X Like You Doing in a Y Like This?: The Joker asks a variation of this:
The Joker So, what's an old-timer like you want with a two-timer like me?
- What the Hell, Hero?: Andrea becomes angry at her father for them running away, forcing her to not only cancel her and Bruce's wedding, but can never see him again. Breaking in tears, she asked why did he get them involved with the mob. Ashamed, he tells her he's trying to give her a good life, but now swears he'll get them out of their debt. Which proved to be futile.
- You Gotta Have Blue Hair: The Joker has green hair, as always.
- You Look Familiar: Andrea is voiced by Dana Delany, who later became more famous as the voice of Lois Lane in Superman: The Animated Series. In fact Word of God has stated that it was her stellar performance here that caused them to pursue her for the role of Lois in the first place. Bruce even had a brief relationship with Lois.
- Zeerust: The World Of The Future amusement park.