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4 Ways Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is Basically a Christopher Nolan Movie

Spoiler Alert: Plot points from several Christopher Nolan's movies are revealed in this blog entry.

Did you know one of the best Batman films from the '90s was ignored the general public? (Hold on, let me finish.) Produced by WB Animation, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993) was released to critical praise, yet failed to generate box office revenue due to limited marketing. Since then the film has found success in home-video releases and is known to fans as a classic in Batman canon. In 2005, Christopher Nolan directed Batman Begins which received universal praise and two excellent sequels. Fans of MotP rallied for Nolan to make a Dark Knight film based on the animated feature but when the trilogy finished in 2012 hopes for a live-action Phantasm movie faded too. So while the director may never do a Phantasm-based film, here are a few reasons why the original is practically a Christopher Nolan piece.

Slow down there, fanboy.

Use of Noir

Throughout Nolan's career many of his films have relied on classic noir tropes to build suspense. Following (1998) is the story of a guy who gets a thrill out of stalking other people and is pulled into the criminal world. In Memento (2000) the protagonist is a man with amnesia searching for the person who aided in the murder of his wife. And in Inception (2010) the hero takes on “one last job” before he retires from the field.


Batman: MotP shows the World's Greatest Detective at his finest. Hunting down the Phantasm, a baddie who Gotham keeps mistaking for the Dark Knight himself, Batman must discover the identity of Phantasm and stop him from killing. This film relies on Batman's deduction skills to solve the case, which was something Nolan's DK hardly touched on. Sure, Bruce analyzed a bullet hole to get a thumb print for some reason, but that doesn't count. A Phantasm movie would give Nolan the chance to stretch his noir fingers on a characteristic often associated with Bats.

Non-linear Storytelling

A common critique of Nolan's films is that he does not like to tell a story straight. Whether its in Memento (two different parts of the same story, one told forward and the other backward), The Prestige (flashbacks on top of flashbacks), or Inception (dreams on dreams on dreams), Nolan's ability to present a cohesive plot out of order is common in his films.

This may come as a shock, but that dark hair means this is a “young” Alfred.

In MotP flashbacks are used to tell the origin of Batman and how Bruce almost gave up the Batsuit before he ever wears it. When the mystery of the Phantasm is revealed, these flashbacks add emotional depth to the climax and in turn the audience ends up sympathizing with the villain.

Duality and Identity

A lot of Nolan's films have a protagonist and its antagonist share similar desires but go about them in different ways. The Prestige (2006) tells is about two rival magicians and their attempts to out-stage each other to become the best in their craft. The ending to Memento asks audiences if Leonard is a hero or a monster. In Insomnia (2002), Detective Dormer accidentally murders his partner while chasing after a suspect.

To be or not to be... Batman.

Duality and what vengeance means has been a common theme in the Batman lore and brings his own vigilantism into question. In MotP the origins and beliefs held by Batman and the Phantasm are similar but display two different outcomes to their means. The Dark Knight (2008) features The Joker, an anarchist who perceives himself to be the yang to Batman's yin.


Several of Nolan's movies use the parent and child dynamic to further the plot or to show connection between characters. In The Prestige a mysterious man uses Borden's daughter as a hostage in exchange for secrets. Mal's children are his motivation to do one more job in Inception. And in Interstellar (2014) the special relationship between Coop and his daughter solves the answer to humanity's salvation and explains the mystery of the force that contacts them at the beginning of the film (Surprise! That force was “love”).

Ooh, wicked burn.

True, the death of Bruce's parents has always been a basic motivation for becoming The Batman. In MotP they're used as a sounding board for Bruce to monologue his feelings about Andrea. Also the audience learns at the beginning of the film that Andrea's mother is dead. So naturally Bruce and Andrea fall in love at their parents' cemetery. Dead parents are kind of Batman's thing. 

So while a Phantasm movie directed by Nolan would have been great, the original is already so close to his style you could think he used the cartoon as a source of inspiration for his own trilogy. If you're interested in seeing how Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is essentially a cartoon Christopher Nolan film, Hollywood Blvd is holding a special screening on Saturday, April 11th. Visit www.hollywoodblvdcinema.com for more information.


Private comment posted on August 28, 2016 at 12:54:25 am


March 25, 2015
This was a good read,"dead parents are kind of batman's thing" lol. They should definitely do a movie showing more of batman's detective skills, and its incredible to see an animated movie made 20 years ago that have so many similar styles of Christopher Nolan.


March 25, 2015
Nanananana Batman!

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