Hi and welcome to Batman: The Animated Series: Revisited – Part 21. If you’re joining me for the first time, WHERE THE HECK HAVE YOU BEEN?
Well, for those who have just walked in, Batman: The Animated Series: Revisited is a collection of blog posts all about, yep, you guessed it, Batman: The Animated Series. Each post talks about the series as a whole, but with a specific focus on the recent release of the Blu-ray boxset.
If you’ve not read any of the previous posts then you’ve missed out on me talking about all 109 episodes of the show. You’ve also missed out on a couple of posts where I’ve talked about the special features on the boxset and where I’ve rambled on about the original UK broadcast order for the series.
In today’s post, I’m going to finish things off with a little discussion about Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993) and Batman: Subzero (1998). This will be followed by a quick round-up of the Blu-ray boxset.
Let’s get cracking…
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Disclaimer: In terms of the Batman: The Animated Series timeline, Mask of the Phantasm takes place early into Batman’s career. For those wanting to watch the movies/series in chronological order, I’d suggest watching this movie after you’ve watched the first few episodes of the series (maybe two or three episodes into the boxset).
1min – Mask of the Phantasm has such an awesome operatic opening sequence. As with the opening credits to Batman: The Animated Series, it is clear this is something special.
2mins – Actor Dick Miller is providing the voice of Chuckie Sol. Miller also voices Boxy Bennett in Batman: The Animated Series.
3mins – The Phantasm is a great villain and looks so damn cool. The character is loosely based on The Reaper – the comic book villain from Batman: Year Two.
5mins 35secs – “Such rot sir, why you’re the very model of sanity. Oh, by the way I’ve pressed your tights and put away your exploding gas balls.”
9mins – Andrea Beaumont is voiced by Dana Delaney. The actress would go on to voice Lois Lane in Superman: The Animated Series.
10mins – OK, so time to talk picture quality. As with all the episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, Mask of the Phantasm has received a HD makeover, making it sharper, clearer and simply better looking than it was in standard definition (obviously).
10mins 30secs – I should probably note, this isn’t the first time I’ve watched this movie in HD – I already own the separate Blu-ray release. A very significant Blu-ray release in fact! In 2017, Warner Bros. released a Region Free Blu-ray of Mask of the Phantasm as part of its Warner Archive series. That Blu-ray release proved so successful it convinced Warner Bros. to release the entire run of Batman: The Animated Series on Blu-ray. So, if not for this movie, we would not have the awesome Batman: The Animated Series Blu-ray boxset.
12mins – For those who have never watched Mask of the Phantasm, the movie switches back and forth between the present day and the past, to tell a story about Bruce Wayne’s life as Batman – his early days developing his secret identity and a romance which nearly caused him to abandon his quest for vengeance. The film introduces a new villain in the shape of the Phantasm and brings back an old favourite in the Joker.
16mins 50secs – “Buzz Bronski, your angel of death awaits.”2
26mins – A pre-Joker, Joker makes his debut in the flashback sequences of this movie. The Joker is depicted as hired help for mobster, Salvatore Valestra.
26mins 30secs – The Joker never gets an official origin in Batman: The Animated Series, but between this movie and a handful of episodes it is suggested that the Joker was a hired goon (and possible one-time stand up comic) who fell into a vat of acid. His real name is possibly Jack Napier, but he’s an habitual liar, so who knows for sure.
37mins – The Joker is a significant character in this story and obviously a big draw for audiences, yet he’s (technically) kept off screen until the mid-point of the movie.
46mins – I just did a quick Google and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm currently has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 82% (and an audience score of 88%). The film scores higher than Batman: The Movie (1966), Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995), Batman & Robin (1997) and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016).
53mins – It goes without saying but Mark Hamill is FANTASTIC in this movie, giving one of his best Joker performances.
57mins – Little fact for you now: Mask of the Phantasm made its cinematic debut on Christmas Day 1993, opening in movie theatres across the US. However, despite a positive critical reception the film bombed at the box office and dropped out of cinemas very quickly.
58mins – The first time I became aware of Mask of the Phantasm was when I saw a trailer for the movie. The trailer played at Warner Bros. Studio Stores in the UK to highlight the film’s forthcoming release. Presumably, at this point in time the movie was being touted for a cinematic release in the UK, but due to the poor commercial reception in the US, the movie never saw a theatrical release over here.
59mins – The first time I watched Mask of the Phantasm would have been on VHS a year after it’s US debut. If I recall correctly, I was given a VHS copy of the movie as a Christmas present. And what a great present it was.
1hour 8mins – “For once, I’m stuck without a punchline.”
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is a near-perfect Batman movie, which continues to stand the test of time. Although it wasn’t made to hold up to the scrutiny of high definition, it still looks great and remains a jewel in the Batman: The Animated Series crown.
Now time for movie number two…
Disclaimer: Subzero is the third chapter in Mr. Freeze’s storyline. If you want to watch this movie in chronological order within the series, it is best viewed after Deepfreeze but before the third season of Batman: The Animated Series (aka The New Batman Adventures).
1min – A cool opening (pun intended).
3mins – So, this film is all about Mr. Freeze and fills in the gap between Deep Freeze and Cold Comfort.
4mins – This film was originally put into production so it could receive a straight-to-video release during summer 1997 – coinciding with the theatrical release of Batman & Robin. Due to the poor reception of Batman & Robin, Subzero was held back until spring 1998, in order to distance itself from the big screen Bat-flick.
10mins 15secs – There’s one very clear difference between Mask of the Phantasm and Subzero and that is the inclusion of Robin & Barbara Gordon! Mask of the Phantasm was produced during the early days of Batman: The Animated Series, when Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992) were the big Batman movies of the day. Subzero was produced post-The Adventures of Batman & Robin, when movies such as Batman Forever (1995) and Batman Robin were around. This is a time when there was more emphasis on the Bat-family rather than solo Batman tales.
12mins 40secs – In this movie, Batgirl/Barbara Gordon is voiced by Mary Kay Bergman. This is the only time Bergman voices the character in the series. Across the course of the DC Animated Universe, Barbara has been voiced by five different actresses including Bergman, Angie Harmon, Tara Strong, Stockard Channing and Melissa Gilbert.
16mins – The character of Dr. Gregory Belson – an old work colleague of Victor Fries – is voiced by George Dzundza. The actor has previously voiced Scarface & The Ventriloquist in Batman: The Animated Series and Perry White in Superman: The Animated Series.
17mins – Veronica Vreeland makes a brief appearance in this movie. Here she is sporting blonde hair, instead of red – her usual hair colour.
22mins 30secs – As Subzero takes place before the events of The New Batman Adventures, Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon are still an item.
24mins – Interesting fact for you: Hellboy creator, Mike Mignola was the artist responsible for the look of Mr. Freeze in Batman: The Animated Series. The artist was asked to provide a design idea for Freeze and it was this design that was adapted for the series.
26mins – Dick Grayson takes part in a really fun car (bike) chase. This scene blends together traditional animation with computer generated imagery and it is a great sequence in the film.
34mins – With the exception of a brief moment in costume, Barbara Gordon spends the majority of this movie sans Batsuit.
38mins – I’ve just done a little more Googling and Subzero has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 92% (and an audience score of 67%). The RT score is 10% higher than Mask of the Phantasm. While the story isn’t quite as good as Mask of the Phantasm, visually Subzero is superior. In HD it looks terrific and it’s great to see Barbara Gordon given so much screen time.
50mins – Into the final act now – a showdown on an abandoned oil ring. This who sequence is delightful to watch. The animation is crisp and the action is on point. Plus Batman & Robin are just excellent together. Easily my favourite depiction of the Dynamic Duo in any medium. Bravo!
57mins – This whole end scene is perfect because for once, Mr. Freeze seems genuinely scared. He’s immortal and pretty much devoid of emotion, but the possibility that he might lose his wife again terrifies him.
59mins – Had Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin used this script then chances are it would have been a far more successful movie.
1 hr 1min – Summer Gleason!
1 hr 1min 45secs – As the movie concludes, Nora Fries has been revived (cured using Victor’s research) and her treatment was paid for by Bruce Wayne. Mr. Freeze is presumed dead, but he is very much alive.
One-hundred-and-nine episodes done, two movies watched and (some of) the special features under my belt – my journey with the Batman: The Animated Series Blu-ray boxset is almost at an end.
Well, what a fantastic release. Simply, fantastic.
This is a boxset that has been put together with care and attention. Sure, some of the content was lifted from the old DVD sets, but even so, this is top notch stuff!
If you tot up the cost of the boxset and divide it by just the amount of episodes alone, this release works out at around 55p an episode. Wow – 55p for a HD episode of one of the best animated shows of all time.
But of course, this doesn’t take into account the two movies (worth at least £10 each), the commentaries, the documentary, the featurettes, the BONUS Batman Beyond episode or the SD digital downloads of all 109 episodes of B:TAS. So, if you weigh all that up, you’re now easily talking far less per episode.
That’s just crazy value.
If you’re considering picking up this boxset for yourself or for the Bat-fan in your life (possibly as a Christmas present), then do it. If you can afford the £60, it is completely worth it, especially as it is a series you will revisit.
It has taken me three weeks of solid viewing (and blogging) to get through this set and there’s still additional content that I’ve not even covered. So, from a cost/value point of view this boxset really does sell itself, but really it’s the episodes themselves that make this set what it is.
Back in the day, Warner Bros. invested the right money and the right people into Batman: The Animated Series and it continues to pay off after more than a quarter century. Marvellous.
I hope you’ve enjoyed following this series of blog posts. I’ve loved watching and talking about Batman: The Animated Series over the past three weeks. Seeing the show in HD is just brilliant and talking about it has been even better.
When I heard the boxset was getting a release I knew I would talk about it – most likely in the form of a short review. As it has turned out, that short review has become 21 blog posts, but hey, I think that just demonstrates how good this set is.
Although Batman: The Animated Series: Revisited is now done and dusted tomorrow I will be publishing one final post, ranking all of the episodes in order of merit – from bad to good. If that sounds like something you want to check out, then I’ll be happy to see you back here for one last Bat-post.