For its thirtieth anniversary, “Batman and the Masked Ghost” is getting a makeover and is being released on video. The opportunity to (re)see this essential animated film, linked to the cult series from the 90s.
At the beginning of the 90s, Batmania was in full swing. On small and big screens. Thanks to the success of the two feature films directed by Tim Burton. And the animated series launched in 1992. Initially planned as an extension of the films with Michael Keaton, from which it takes the musical theme, the show quickly became a phenomenon in its own right.
So much so that Warner Bros. and the FOX channel, its broadcaster, are thinking bigger. And so a feature film was commissioned from screenwriter Alan Burnett, who was then joined by Martin Pasko, Paul Dini and Michael Reaves to compose this original story and which can be followed independently of the events of the series, despite the presence of the Joker.
Entitled Batman vs. the Masked Ghost, the feature film was released in American theaters on December 25, 1993. And it is a very nice Christmas gift for fans who still consider it today as one of the best films dedicated to to the Bat Man. The French public will have to wait until August 1, 1994 and a VHS release to find out for sure.
After interrupting the meeting of Gotham City mobsters, Batman finds himself accused of the murder of their leader. An assassination committed, in reality, by a mysterious newcomer: the Masked Ghost, an angel of death who came to atone for their crimes on certain personalities of the city. Not all obviously, otherwise it would take much more than the 76 minutes that the feature film lasts to achieve this.
To make matters worse, Bruce Wayne reunites with an old love: Andréa Beaumont. The woman who could have changed his life. A character created for the occasion and thanks to which the film links the past, present and future of the superhero. Interspersed with flashbacks, his investigation into the Masked Ghost returns to his first years as a vigilante and this relationship which could have led him away from this path.
AT THE MASKED BEAT (OHÉ OHÉ)
Like the recent The Batman, which looked back on the young years of the Bat Man without being an origin story, The Masked Ghost is partly inspired by the comic book “Year Two”published in 1987, in which the hero notably went to his parents’ grave in costume, and faced a villain who called himself The Reaper.
But this is only one influence among many others in this story which remains above all faithful to the animated series. Both in its visual style and its film noir atmosphere with gothic accents. And recalls one of its most little-known and surprising episodes, centered not on a cartoonish villain but on a violent gang war.
Despite the presence of the Joker, of whom we discover a little of the previous life, or the look and appearances of the main antagonist, Batman vs. the Masked Ghost remains deeply human and shines with its introspective side. Because the hero sees in his new enemy a distorting mirror of himself. What he could have become if revenge guided him and if he didn’t refuse to kill.
And this while Bruce Wayne, thanks to Andrea’s return, relives his past and sees the possibility of a future life without mask or cape. Where solitude would not be his main companion. More than ever, the billionaire and his alter ego are shown as two sides of a tragic figure, doomed to remain on the tortuous path she has chosen to take.
An aspect which, while being in line with Tim Burton’s films, prefigures Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight and Matt Reeves’ The Batman. Minus the opuses by Joel Schumacher, released a few years later (in 1995 and 1997), and which abandon the darkness in favor of fluorescent colors and an atmosphere closer to that of the Techno Parade.
The results are as criticized as Batman vs. the Masked Ghost is loved, with the same rating as that of The Dark Knight Rises on AlloCiné, with an average of 4.3 out of 5. Even if the notoriety of the latter is not as higher than it should be. Is this linked to its direct-to-video status? Its link with a cult animated series but which, perhaps, has not crossed generations like certain live-action feature films? Whatever the reason, re-releasing it on video can help remedy it.
On the occasion of its thirtieth anniversary, the film is being released on 4K Blu-Ray in a Steelbook edition. The colors are vibrant and the shadows enveloping, and the story has lost none of its strength or its tragic dimension. And it comes with a bonus dedicated to Kevin Conroy, voice actor for the Bat Man who died on November 10, 2022.
A golden opportunity to (re)discover what is not only an excellent animated feature film, but one of the best films dedicated to Batman. And proof that animation is not just reserved for children, as the series had already clearly shown. The latter is also available on Prime Video’s Warner Pass, if The Masked Ghost ever makes you want to dive into it again (spoiler: it will).