The FFOW! series takes a look at that vast library created by the proud and the passionate: fan films. Whether the budget and talent is astronomical or amateur, FFOW! celebrates the filmmakers whose love of comics, books, movies, video games, and TV shows inspires them to join the great conversation with their own homemade masterpieces.
This week, a fire rises in the convention centers of San Diego. Next week, Christopher Nolan’s Caped-and-Not-Wearing-Hockey-Pads Crusader will also rise. With fan excitement at an all-time frenzy, I thought it best to do what fan’s do best: MAKE A LIST!
We know Nolan’s two Bat-films are a cut above the rest, but what’s your favorite Batman fan film? Dead End? Grayson? World’s Finest? There are hundreds, if not thousands, of fan films that take place in Gotham City, and I thought it would be fun to list my favorites and allow everyone to chime in with their preferences, as well.
Without any further ado, and in no particular order, here are Jake’s Favorite Batman Fan Films:
Written and directed by Christopher Schrader of 27th Letter Productions, Batman: Black & White takes its name from the seminal comics anthology but tells an original story. In the not-too-distant future, Bruce Wayne finds himself working alone again when a serial killer known as the Tallyman takes on Rupert Thorne’s criminal empire. Meanwhile, Tim Drake is now a Gotham City detective working with Selina Kyle who also intends take down Thorne. Who will reach him first — the law or vigilante justice?
Part of the fun in watching Black & White is seeing the homemade elements come together. The production value is less than other films, so Schrader makes up the difference in his casting, his editing, and his dark depiction of Gotham City. All good fan films distinguish themselves from the mainstream in some way. What sets Black & White apart, besides the monochrome cinematography, is its hard R violence.
In the first five minutes, we are introduced to a morgue employee who rents cadavers to clients for lunch-losing purposes. The Tallyman’s murder victims suffer stabbings comparable to those in Goodfellas. In a final battle, Batman defeats a goon by squeezing the villain’s face so tightly that his teeth crack out of his gums. I don’t know if the Nolans ever considered going that far, but it made me scream, “Oh no he didn’t!”
There are good performances, especially from Dan Krall as Tim Drake, who becomes the emotional heart of the story when his family becomes involved in the gangsters’ plan. The Tallyman is frightening and mysterious, a smart adaptation of a villain that works differently from his comic book inspiration.
Not based on the massively popular video game franchise, but adapted from Grant Morrison’s classic 1989 graphic novel Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth.
Would you like to know what Batman would look like in the hands of Guillermo del Torro? Batman: Arkham Asylum is the fan trailer that answers that question. This Spanish language fan trailer tells the story of Batman facing his villains and an age-old family curse at the hub of Gotham’s criminally insane. If good fan films only distinguish themselves from the mainstream, this one is great because it laughs at Tim Burton’s two movies and jests “Oh yeah? I got that beat.”
The film magically captures the feel of Dave McKean’s art on screen. The deep shadows and smoke of the Asylum. The high ridges and ears of Batman’s costume. The grotesquely deformed Joker and Two-Face that appear more insane and threatening than I’ve ever imagined. Much credit is due to filmmaker Miguel Mesas, who shot, chopped, and edited this piece on his own, as well as being in charge of costumes, props, and the post-production effects process.
One of my favorite things about it is the exceptional use of Danny Elfman’s iconic score. This is the best it has ever been used by a fan production, perhaps even more effectively than in Batman Returns. I’m being too harsh on Tim, so I’ll stop.
We’ve seen what the grown-ups can do, so let’s let the students have a shot at the Batman. Produced by Save The Empire Productions back in 2008, Dark Tomorrow is a sequel to their previous Batman that told the story of Batman’s battle against the Scarecrow and Jack Napier. This time, Napier is back as a familiar Clown Prince of Crime, and Batman races against the clock to rescue a brave newspaper reporter.
What sets this one apart are the action sequences. Many Batman student films take place in basements, back alleys, and parking garages. This one features an epic SWAT gun battle in an industrial basement, a white-knuckle car chase through a back alley, and a beautiful brawl with a whole squad of goons in a parking garage.
You can tell the producing team of the Hamilton brothers had fun choreographing their fight scenes. One notable sequence takes place in total darkness with occasional flashes of gunfire. This replaced the failed attempt to actually light a smoke bomb and stage the fight in the cloud of choking gas, which you can see in their behind-the-scenes videos. Another sequence shows just how much faith friends have in each other: Thomas Parker’s Batman leaps onto a moving car and fights the Joker’s henchmen on top of it before he kicks him off into the street. Then, in the parking garage, Batman grabs a gun and disengages the magazine as he kicks it right into another thug’s face. Click. Click. Boom. All while the cast and crew had to evade a security guard doing his nightly rounds. That’s guerrilla filmmaking at its finest.
Batman: Dark Tomorrow premiered to a sold out theater in the Hamilton’s hometown of Wichita Falls, TX. You can watch it online. Their next big premiere is this summer in the LA Comedy Shorts Festival at Graumann’s Chinese Theater, for their original short, Saved by the Belding. Check it out.
How hard can it be to deduce Batman’s secret identity?
Here we have one of the funniest shorts I have ever seen. The story of one Mr. Gilbert Harvey, who is kidnapped and interrogated by . . . The Interrogator, a man who has figured out Mr. Harvey’s secret: “Should I just call you BATMAN?”
Short, sweet, and full of laughs, The Interrogator excels because of John Ramsey’s performance in the title role. Diabolical, crafty, melodramatic, and deductive to a fault, his Interrogator is the best. He’s a stand-up comedian from Texas who recently appeared on Conan O’Brien’s talk show and has produced many great shorts under Ramsey Bros Pictures. I would quote my favorite line, but I wouldn’t want to ruin it for anyone.
So, that’s it! My favorite Batman fan films. Not the most famous or the ones with the biggest budget, but the ones I keep coming back to watch all over again. What are your favorites? Did I leave out City of Scars or did I need to rant against The Death of Batman? Comment below and tell us what you think!