Saturday mornings are some of my fondest childhood memories. I would wake up every Saturday at 6:00 AM, get a bowl and box of cereal, and plop down in front of the TV. Before there were hundreds of channels and streaming options to choose from, cartoons followed a strict schedule and Saturday mornings offered some of the best. As I grew older, there were less cartoons on Saturday but more options to watch them the rest of the week and it was inevitable that the Saturday morning cartoon tradition would come to an end. When I learned that the Alamo Drafthouse would be having a Batman: Mask of the Phantasm: All You Can Eat Cereal Party on a Saturday morning, I knew I was going to take my godson.
Mask of the Phantasm tells its story during the present and also uses flashbacks to jump to the past. The movie is unique for the time since it tells the origin of Batman after his parents have been murdered but before he has donned the cape and cowl. Few movies have this much emotional depth to them. Batman’s beginnings are familiar to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the character. Mask of the Phantasm takes it beyond a man seeking to avenge the death of his parents and explores the toll his decision has taken on Bruce Wayne’s life. The movie expertly deals with the struggle Bruce Wayne faces in trying to accept what has happened. Along with acceptance, the film deals with themes of vengeance, remorse, and loneliness.
Meanwhile, in the present, someone is murdering all the crime bosses in Gotham City and Batman is the top suspect. The stories of past and present intersect and Bruce Wayne is once again forced to deal with what he has become, how he got there, and what it all means. An old flame, a new enemy, and a Clown Prince all become a part of the story. It is an emotionally impactful story that captures the essence of who Batman is.
The animation is beautiful. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is part of the Batman: The Animated Series universe and the futuristic/art deco style are a perfect fit for the Bat-universe. The distinctive look of Batman: TAS adds to the noir feel of a movie with suit wearing gangsters and trench coat wearing police. Batman looks intimidating and stealthy while Bruce Wayne looks conflicted and forlorn. The artwork during the scenes when Bruce first becomes The Batman are incredible. This is easily the highlight of a movie filled with great moments.
The cereal party added to the entire experience. The Alamo had boxes of cereal spread out on two tables. There was Apple Jacks, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cocoa Puffs, Fruit Loops, Cheerios, Lucky Charms, Frosted Flakes, and Honey Nut Cheerios at the table I kept going to. I started with Cinnamon Toast Crunch based on my godson’s recommendation. As the movie continued, I went through a small bowl of Fruit Loops, followed by some Cocoa Puffs. It was at that point my stomach started to hurt so I stopped to watch the movie. It was like so many Saturday mornings during my childhood.
There movie was sold out and there were many little ones who definitely did not see Mask of the Phantasm when it was released in 1993 and had probably never seen it before. There were many children (and some adults) wearing Batman pajamas, jerseys, T-shirts, hoodies, and hats. It was like being at a Batman convention, however the best part was the reaction of the kids. The theater was filled with oohs and ahhs and Mark Hamill’s Joker was a particular favorite. The excitement of a seemingly endless supply of cereal was quickly forgotten once the movie started. (Special mention to the Teen Titans Go to the Movies trailer which had everyone laughing at the line, “If Aquaman can get a movie, anyone can.”)
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is one of best Batman cinematic releases. Watching it at an All You Can Eat Cereal Party on a Saturday morning was a great experience as I got to relive one of my fondest childhood memories. Mask of the Phantasm still holds up today and goes great with a bowl of cereal.
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