So, I’m kind of a nerd. Kind of obvious from the whole movie blog thing, but I’m even moreso when it comes to my favorite comic book character, Batman. I grew up watching “Batman: The Animated Series” which originally ran from 1992-1995 and, to a lesser extent, “Batman Beyond” (1999-2001).
While I read some of the comics off and on, those cartoons were my source material of choice. So it only makes sense to start off my Batman countdown with my favorite animated films.
Not counting several Justice League films (all of which I would recommend if that’s your cup of tea), there have been a few animated films released in the last 20 years that I have enjoyed. These are great additions to the live action stories I’ll mention in later posts because they explore stories that would be too difficult to tell in a big Hollywood production. The average runtime is about 75 minutes, so it’s not much of a time commitment either.
So, without further ado…
“Batman: Mask of the Phantasm” (1993)
Before “Batman Begins,” there weren’t really any movies that told the story of Bruce Wayne’s transformation into Batman. While “Mask of the Phantasm” doesn’t show as much as “Begins” (as far as Bruce ordering the parts and such), we do get to see Bruce as a vigilante. There is also a strong theme surrounding the oath Bruce took after the death of his parents. We see the things he is forced to leave behind in order to don the cape and cowl and the inner turmoil he suffers because of it.
On top of this, the story sees a new vigilante that has come into town. One who is not afraid to break Batman’s one rule. Between the Phantasm taking out gangsters left and right and the story’s inclusion of the Joker, the film is pretty dark for an animated film. I consider “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm” to be the best of the animated films for its action scenes and its development of the story and characters.
As for my other favorite among the animated films, that belongs to…
“Batman: Under the Red Hood” (2010)
As much as I have always enjoyed Batman cartoons (not to be confused with the animated films), they always seemed a little too safe for a Batman story. People rarely, if ever, die and there’s almost always a happy ending. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised with “Under the Red Hood.” It’s a great adventure for characters in the Batman universe and its more violent than probably any other of his animated films.
The film is basically centered around three individuals: Batman, Jason Todd (the 2nd Robin for those unfamiliar) and, of course, the Joker. Without spoiling too much of the film, its plot shares a few elements with “Mask of the Phantasm.” A newcomer to Gotham challenges the local crime syndicates and takes over the drug trade by killing off the competition. Obviously, this puts him in Batman’s cross hairs. Also featuring characters like Black Mask, Nightwing and Ra’s al Ghul, the film shows a side of the Batman story that isn’t always featured in the live action films.
With a great story, dark tone and interesting characters, it’s easily the 2nd best of the animated films.
I only used this post to talk about these two films, but other recommendation of mine would be “Batman: Year One” (very similar story to “Batman Begins”) and “Superman/Batman: Apocalypse” (more of a Superman story, but still great). And for those of you who are Batman fans and enjoy these animated films, there will be another Batman film this fall based on Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns,” which is excellent.
That’s all for this first part of the countdown. Next I’ll talk about the Burton and Schumacher films.