There are few films out there that have so effortlessly conveyed the essence of the Dark Knight, or DC Comics, like 1993's Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.
A spin-off from Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski's seminal Batman: The Animated Series, Mask of the Phantasm is, today at least, heralded as one of the finest animated efforts of a generation. That wasn't always the case however, and while it was gothic, operatic and chilling in its delivery - all components that exemplify the film's authenticity - renewed interest in BTAS' sole theatrical release is a relatively new phenomenon; audiences couldn't have cared less when it premiered in the Christmas of 1993.
The reasons for this are myriad but simple, and while the film's eventual success would spawn subsequent home releases for Warner Bros.' other animated properties (such as the equally compelling Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker), Mask of the Phantasm debuted to a tepid commercial reception, owed in part to a flagging marketing campaign by WB, which failed to thoroughly intimate the credentials of the Timm, Radomski and Alan Burnett effort.
But what does it have that other Batman films don't? Well for one, Mask of the Phantasm has the benefit of working within the framework BTAS constructed during its original run, lending it an authenticity that, although tested by its contemporaries, is largely unmatched. The stories Paul Dini, Alan Burnett et al. created on that show created the perfect version of Batman, and while other interpretations should be celebrated (the Nolan and Burton films being the two most immediate examples), there's just something boundless about the Caped Crusader's animated self that sets it apart from those other, live-action efforts.
Anyone who's had the pleasure of watching BTAS will know just how good a film Mask of the Phantasm is, but while it lives on today as a cult classic, things could've gone a lot differently...