I don't remember the drive to the theater. I don't remember getting the tickets. I don't remember sitting down.
I remember where I sat though. On the left side of my Mom and I was in the aisle. I remember the lights going down and the movie starting and suddenly I was flying. I was in complete shock. I was a six year old flying through Gotham City and I will never forget what that felt like. The beautiful music was so loud I couldn't hear myself think. What followed was Batman crashing through the window and giving a crew of gangsters a beat down they wouldn't forget. It was fantastic to such action on the big screen. The rest of the film involved gangsters being killed off in brutal ways and Batman gets the blame. He has to find the killer, clear his name, and somehow both the long lost love of his life and the Joker are involved. It was an intense film both emotionally and physically for all the characters. I remember being spooked by how Batman and Joker were literally taking chunks out of one another at the end. Batman punched out one of Joker's teeth and Batman was getting cut up by remote controlled airplanes. I remember wincing every time Batman (Kevin Conroy) yelled out in pain and wondered if he'd be okay. This was much more violent than the cartoon I was used to. At least for a six-year old.
And then there's the climactic scene where Batman basically decides, "Screw it. Let's end it and we both die."
Mark Hamill will forever be the one true Joker in my mind. He's about to either die in an explosion or be killed by the daughter of one of his victims from over a decade ago and he just laughs his ass off at how funny it all is. But it wasn't just Hamill that impressed. Kevin Conroy is just as much Batman as Hamill is the Joker. Dana Delany's Andrea Beaumont spoke her lines with such a muted rage that you'd think she's about to go off like one of Joker's bombs one minute and the next her soft spoken voice shows nothing but regret that she dedicated her life to that rage.
The film has held up quite well over the years. (With the exception of one scene where Batman chases the Phantasm in the bat-plane while she's on foot. As a kid I didn't care but as an adult I can't help but find that sequence remarkably stupid.) But don't take my word for it. Both Siskel and Ebert loved the film and actually apologized for not giving it attention during its release. Here's a link to their review from their TV show.
This movie impacted me a great deal. There are several writers that have influenced my own writing style when it comes to story structure. I consider them to have the benchmark for not just animation storytelling but for how to write with an ensemble cast. Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett and Paul Dini are among them and they were the creative force behind Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. I've already outline Timm and Burnett's new project coming in July. You can bet I'll be snagging a copy.
So now that I've gone on about my childhood movie going experience I want to hear from you. What was your first movie and what did you take away from the experience?
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