Well, as the people who know me know, I’m not really a big DC fan, so Batmonth! isn’t something that really calls out to me for reviewing. Still, I can review some Batman stuff, namely some of the animated movies Batman’s been in.
I can barely remember going to see Batman: Mask of the Phantasm in theaters, because I was so young. At least I’m pretty sure I remember seeing it in theaters. It was long enough ago that I really am not sure. I remember thinking that it was awesome and a great movie. I hadn’t watched it since then, and in the time in between, I’ve become obsessed with comics, watched the entire Superman animated series, the entire Justice League animated series (including JLU) and a decent amount of the rest of the DCAU. I also have watched some Batman, but I mostly saw it when I was a kid and don’t remember it very well. Let me just say that I honestly can’t remember what made MotP so great.
One scene in particular that stood out is when Batman is spying on Andrea Beaumont and the corrupt politician who brought her to Gotham. They are dining in a restaurant that is high up in a building with big windows. Batman is literally sitting across the street, plainly visible, especially through the big windows, just staring at them. Maybe it’s because I’m paranoid, so I’m always looking around, but I can’t see how neither of them, or any of the other diners for that matter, didn’t see Batman just kind of staring at them with binoculars. Now, I will grant you that it is a decent movie and is still a good movie and a lot better than a whole bunch of live action superhero movies, but then again, that’s damning with faint praise, so really, I’m not saying a whole lot.
Batman is supposed to be badass. After reading the first volume of Morrison’s JLA, where he single-handedly takes down several White Martians that have beaten the rest of the JLA. In the Justice League series, he goes up against the Luthor/Brainiac thing, argues with Superman, and in general, is regarded as one of the more powerful league members, especially during JLU. Hell, he goes up against Darkseid and even dodges the Omega Effect. In the comics, he also goes up against Darkseid, in the Superman/Batman Supergirl volume and is able to effectively stop Darkseid. The point is that Batman is totally badass. The problem comes from the series when there aren’t supervillains.
In MotP, there’s pretty much generic criminals, the Phantasm (who is never called the Phantasm) and the Joker. The Joker is barely in it, though, and it mostly focuses on the generic criminals. Batman is an interesting character, to an extent, but isn’t interesting by himself. People like Batman, but by himself, he wouldn’t be as interesting. He has to face criminals that test him. Going up against average, run of the mill criminals isn’t as intersting, so they have to make Batman struggle against them, which makes even less sense to me. He can fight Killer Croc or Clayface, but when it comes to Joe Shmoe with a gun, he struggles just as much?
When the time comes for the showdown between the Phantasm, Joker and Batman, that part is great, because seeing Batman fighting Joker fighting Phantasm is more interesting. I can buy that Joker fighting Batman is a decent fight. The Joker is a villain whose entire purpose is pretty much to mess around with Batman, meaning he should be able to at least be able to fight him. The entire ending, from when the Phantasm confronts the Joker to the end, that part is awesome, because that part is the part that really deals with Batman dealing with problems out of the ordinary.
The entire rest of the movie is pretty much an origin story for Batman and going over his relationship with Andrea Beaumont. While I think Batman’s origin is something that needed to be told at some point in time, there’s a reason they didn’t show Joe Chill killing Bruce’s parents in the entire Batman animated series (in fact, Chill only showed up in flashback in Batman’s head in an episode of JLU). That’s because for the most part, people know Batman’s origin, that his parents were killed, he trained, and now he wears the mantle of the bat to strike fear into the hearts of criminals, a cowardly and superstitious lot and also because Batman is badass, but Bruce Wayne is not. I don’t want to see Bruce Wayne struggling to catch common thieves, or fighting people. I want to see Batman scaring people shitless and beating them up.
Okay, look, I’m not trying to ruin anybody’s parade by saying Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is bad. I’m just saying that it felt like a long episode of Batman: The Animated Series, one with Batman’s origin threw in there for kicks and one that didn’t really focus on a villain as much (while it did have the Joker, he was barely involved). That being said, it is still a lot better than some other live action movies based on superheroes, just not something that I feel stands up to Hulk Vs. Wolverine or Superman/Batman: Public Enemies or Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. I feel that those all were a lot more interesting than Batman’s origin, mixed with a sappy love story (they don’t really explain any connection between Bruce and Andrea other than ‘my parents are dead’ ‘omg, my mom is dead’ ‘lets get married’ ‘k’), and too little supervillain.
For me, it boils down to this: Batman is great when he’s fighting something far too much for him to handle and he’s taking it on like it was normal. Otherwise, it has to focus on the supervillains, which are often interesting. Without those, a Batman story just falls short. While he has a great rogues gallery, they could have used one villain in each Batman movie after the first Tim Burton one, instead of Penguin AND Catwoman, Two-Face AND Riddler, Mr. Freeze AND Poison Ivy AND Bane, Ra’s al Ghul AND Scarecrow, or Joker AND Two-Face (and Scarecrow, but that doesn’t count). Batman movies have lots of villains often because Batman isn’t as interesting by himself and needs his villains to make him work. This just didn’t deliver Batman facing a threat that was interesting.
In general, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is a decent movie, but I feel that it lost a lot in the years since I saw it originally and now.