What DC can learn from the masterpiece that is “Mask of the Phantasm”

batman phantasm dceu.jpgImage via Warner Bros

After finishing Stranger Things, I felt I was out of things to watch until television series start picking back up over the next couple of weeks.  So, I had the grand idea to re-watch Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, the 1993 animated feature based off the animated series.  I hadn’t seen the film in its entirety since I was six or seven years old, picking up parts of it on television every now and then.  Having seen the film again, I concluded that not only it is a masterpiece, but that DC and Warner Bros can take some ideas and apply it to their upcoming films, especially those involving Batman.

***Spoilers for Batman: Mask of the Phantasm ahead.***

Handling Batman’s One Bad Day

batman dceu grave.jpgImage via Warner Bros

One of the most understood criticism’s of Batman’s first appearance in the DCEU is that it gives us a third retelling of the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne.  Granted, the death of Bruce’s parents are his single biggest motivator (a part of the character I felt was missing from The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises), but Mask of the Phantasm is able to show the emotional gravity Bruce still feels from their death in the perfect way.  He visits their grave, and often looks to their portrait for advice.  All of this, and we don’t see their murder in Crime Alley.  Mask of the Phantasm handles Bruce’s parent’s death in a way that DC should recreate.  No flashbacks, no back story, and no Martha from this point on, but we do know that it is still the driving force behind why Batman puts on the cowl (we might see another reason in the DCEU, which seems more likely to me honestly, which is the death of Robin, but I think they should still have references to the dead Waynes).

The Joker is pretty much perfect in this film

the joker phantasm dceuImage via Warner Bros

Mark Hamill’s iteration of the Joker always seems to be perfect, but his characterization in this film stands above most of the character’s other outings.  The reason is simple: Mask of the Phantasm boils down the Joker to his core concept, and that is mayhem.  Joker has no agenda in this film. His goal, as always, is to get Batman.  But everything he does is perfect, using the Future of the City as his base of operations is classic Joker vs. Batman.  Everyone likes to think that Batman is the only one equipped to deal with things when they do not go his way; Joker proves that to be wrong, especially in this film.  Of course, rigging the place to blow is classic Joker, but it goes to show that he isn’t some laughing crazy person; he is a laughing crazy person with a plan, which is how the Joker should be characterized.

It Sets the bar for original storytelling in comic book adaptations

phantasm batman joker dceu.jpgImage via Warner Bros

You’re probably right that I should consider this more of a spin-off of a television series than a comic book adaptation, but I’m not going to let that bother me.  Mask of the Phantasm is a completely original story written specifically for the screen.  Even the character of Andrea Beaumont/Phantasm was created for this movie.  DC has shown us that a story doesn’t need to adhere to the comics or even draw inspiration from the comics to create good stories (see: Harley Quinn).  With The Batman rumored to be an original story written by Ben Affleck and Geoff Johns, they could take some cues from the writers of this film.  While I do not think there will be any original characters in the DCEU anytime soon, this story shows that a successful comic book adaptation needs no basis in comic books.

It shows the struggle between Batman and Bruce Wayne

batman mask of the phantasm dceuImage via Warner Bros

I already touched on this a little bit, but I will expand here.  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice didn’t do it, most likely because the film was already overstuffed and Bruce Wayne’s life isn’t important to the plot of that movie.  Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy attempted to do it, but either there was not enough of it in The Dark Knight or too much moping in The Dark Knight Rises.  Mask of the Phantasm shows us a struggle that Batman has to go through- take up a normal life with Andrea, or keep the vow he made to his parents.  This helps to humanize Batman to audiences.  We kind of saw it with Superman already in the DCEU, so why not with Batman.  We do not need a lot of it, but enough for audiences to think that he isn’t just Batman, but also Bruce Wayne (which honestly I find unlikely, especially after the mid-credits scene in Suicide Squad).  

Well, those are my thoughts on Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.  It really sets the bar high for DC animated movies and superhero movies in general.

What are your thoughts on Mask of the Phantasm? Let me know in the comments!