Batman: Mask of the Phantasm - 4K Ultra HD Blu-rayOverview -
One of the greatest cinematic adventures of the Dark Knight, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm deals fresh justice on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. With a new 4K HDR10 transfer and 5.1 audio, the film picks up modest visual improvements but sounds phenomenal. While bonus features aren’t plentiful, the tribute to the late Kevin Conroy is heartfelt and fitting of his legacy. Highly Recommended
When the city's most feared gangsters are systematically eliminated, the Caped Crusader is blamed. But prowling the Gotham night is a shadowy new villain, the Phantasm, a sinister figure with some link to Batman's past. Can the Dark Knight elude the police, capture the Phantasm and clear his own name?
Unmasking the Phantasm is just one of the twists in this dazzling animated feature. Discover revelations about Batman's past, his archrival the Joker and Batman's most grueling battle ever — the choice between his love for a beautiful woman and his vow to be the defender of right. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is "a mystery that is genuinely absorbing, suspenseful and moving" (Cincinnati Enquirer).
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
After Tim Burton and Michael Keaton set the benchmark for modern cinematic Batman adventures, it would be Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, and Kevin Conroy that would ultimately define the character for generations of Bat-Fans. From the first episode of Batman: The Animated Series there was something unique and special about this version of the Caped Crusader. It had vibes of the early Max Fleischer Superman cartoons with the grit of a Frank Miller story with the gothic art deco stylings of Burtan’s live-action films. And when those live-action films started to go off the rails, it was Batman: Mask of the Phantasm that saved the day. Not only is directors Kevin Altieri, Boyd Kirkland, and Frank Paur’s film the perfect continuation of the Animated Series, but it remains one of the best Bat-Films ever made three decades later.
Before Batman: Mask of the Phantasm the average movie fan only knew the basics of the world’s greatest detective. His parents died, he's rich, he puts on a bat costume, and fights crime with a really cool car and other gadgets. Change the villain, rinse, wash, and repeat the rest. What I feel is so overlooked about Mask of the Phantasm is that this is the first film that not only explored Bruce Wayne/Batman’s (Kevin Conroy) loss but also his sacrifice. With the return of his long-ago love Andrea Beaumont (Dana Delany), Bruce is faced with the memories of needing to avenge his parents, but also giving up his own human needs for love and connection to achieve that goal. Batman Forever kinda-sorta touched on this aspect, but nothing with any emotional depth - at least in the current theatrical cut we all know. Maybe one day that elusive Director's Cut will get a real release.
Ultimately I feel Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is the gold standard for all Batman films. It’s the one any filmmaker aiming to tackle the character should look at and recognize what they need to aspire to achieve with the character. He's a crime fighter, he's a detective, but he's also uniquely human compared to the likes of Flash, Superman, or Wonder Woman. With the excellent voice cast of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill returning as Batman and Joker respectively, Dana Delany is a wonderful addition (before putting in her time as the voice of Lois Lane). Then you also have fun voice talents from Stacey Keech as Phantasm with Dick Miller and Abe Vigoda as some colorful gangsters while Hart Bochner lends his practiced Die Hard vocal talents for a schmuck politician. While I love the entirety of Batman: The Animated Series - it’s Mask of the Phantasm I return to most often. Even more than most of the live-action films.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
The Caped Crusader unleashes some 4K-sized justice with Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. A Single-disc 4K UHD + Digital release, the BD-66 disc is housed in a sturdy black case with identical slipcover artwork. The disc loads to the static image main menu with simple navigation options.
Note - As of publishing time we haven't been able to rip the 4K disc to provide image samples or a video clip. It's why we held off as long as we have. When we can we'll circle back to add 4K-sourced pics and hopefully video as well. Current images were sourced from the previous WAC Blu-ray release.
This is one of those animated titles that just gets better with every release. Warner Bros. reportedly took the time to do a brand new 4K scan providing minimal cleanup to preserve film grain and the specks of dust or dirt trapped under the cels - similar to what they did for Batman: The Animated Series. In other words, this is the complete opposite of what we saw with the Max Fleisher Superman set. Also to notch up another win for this release, it’s been properly framed in its original theatrical 1.85:1 versus the 1.78:1 version WAC released years back. However, for some fans, this release may yet prove irksome with the omission of the 1.37:1 open matte version of that old disc. Similar to The Transformers: The Movie I rarely ever went back to the old fullscreen framing so I don’t personally see that as much of a loss - especially when this new transfer is just damned beautiful. Fine lines are a bit tighter letting you enjoy the littlest details in the animation unscathed. Soft shots from optical zooms obviously still remain and some of the CG-rendered backgrounds like the opening credits remain a little rough around the edges. So those slight inconsistencies in quality can't really be knocked when they are what they've always been.
The HDR10 grading is just right. It’s not so intense that it skews colors badly but enhances the rich deep blues, reds, and the yellow/gold accent around the Bat-Symbol and the Utility Belt. I was also pleased to see the lighting accents absent from the previous release restored. Neon lights now have the popper pulsing glow to them whereas the previous Blu-ray transfer simply washed out to solid reds/pinks. Classic cell animation, more or less, has a set limitation on how much better things can look, and I feel like we’ve hit that point with this release. Those improvements in detail are nominal, but they do add depth to the image in a way the 1080p transfer doesn’t express. Color grading brings this film to peak with those rich beautiful primaries and deep inky blacks. Simply put, it’s not likely to get better than this. At least not without completely recreating the film from the original cel elements and that’s not likely ever going to happen.
On the sound front, we see the biggest improvement with the move to DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio. The older DTS-HD MA 2.0 is included and easy flipping between tracks proves just how much bigger and bolder this new 5.1 track runs. Those opening Shirley Walker score moments set the stage with a bigger more powerful orchestral presence and choral accompaniment. Dialog sounds cleaner and more present, that deep guttural growl Kevin Conroy so famously added to his Bat-Voice really hits. Sound effects feel more present giving the film a more active and immersive soundscape to play in. By comparison, that 2.0 track just sounds thin.
Bonus features are not plentiful by any standard, but then the previous disc only had a trailer so this is a bit of an improvement. While the trailer doesn’t return, we pick up a loving tribute to the late Kevin Conroy. It feels like everyone he ever worked with from the Batman: The Animated Series to the video games to his appearance in the CW’s Crisis storyline make an appearance. At just over 26 minutes, it’s not the longest featurette ever but it was clearly made with love and attention.
- Kevin Conroy: I Am The Knight (HD 26:08)
If you’ve gotten to this point, you’re probably already on board for upgrading your disc or well on your way to Best Buy or popped in an Amazon pre-order long ago. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is simply one of the greatest Caped Crusader stories ever told in any medium. It just happened to be animated and released to theaters. It’s a true culmination of all the goodwill and exceptional storytelling from the team behind Batman: The Animated Series rolled up into an 80-minute feature film. And now on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, it looks and sounds better than ever. For the first time, it’s given the appropriate theatrical aspect ratio complete with HDR10 as well as a sonic upgrade to DTS-HD MA 5.1. While I would have loved a more robust bonus features package, I can’t deny the Kevin Conroy tribute hit me in the feels. An essential piece of any Bat-Collection - Highly Recommended
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