Warning: Spoilers included.
If you’ve ever dined in at a restaurant and hear someone say, they could have cooked better, this is the Hollywood version of it.
Kind of. Fan films have been a by-product of popular franchises for the past few decades, where audiences move from writing their version of events, to filming it. We’ve seen it popularised in major properties including Star Wars and Star Trek, and of course, those spinning off from comics books, video games and proposing crossovers that can never happen in real life (Batman vs. Aliens anyone, or Street Fighter vs. Power Rangers), but more recently, the quality of some fan films have even surpassed those made by Hollywood, putting blockbusters to shame.
Then there is the casting, which has included actual Hollywood stars. Who can forget Jason David Frank (the original Green/White Ranger from the Power Rangers TV series) appearing in a fan film, or Joseph Kahn, Adi Shankar and James Van Der Beek’s Power/Rangers starring Katee Sackhoff as the Pink Ranger.
And more recently, we have Batman: Dying Is Easy, a 21-minute Batman Indiegogo funded fan film from the incredible Bat in the Sun team that rose to fame with their YouTube channel featuring superhero fights with great action sequences pairing characters from different franchises audiences will get to see happen otherwise. This isn’t their first attempt at a short film, as there was also Batman: City of Scars released in 2011, with 4.1 Million views to date. What does set this piece apart is the addition of Hollywood royalty.
As you can see, that’s Batman. It’s not a riff off the movies or TV series, but more of Alex Ross’ Batman paintings come to life. The opening scene and soundtrack are decent, as it tries to take a page from the musical cues from Danny Elfman’s moody and iconic theme from the 1989 Batman movie theme turned animated series theme song. There are also some great computer graphics and while not perfect, worth applauding since it’s from a US$75,000 (from an initial goal of US$25,000).
The first scene starts with a panoramic shot of the Gotham skyline with a couple of blimps in the sky, which immediately hits the nostalgic buttons of Batman: The Animated Series title sequence. A shot of a TV playing a news clip of 3 officers in Gotham gone missing (with a TV-only appearance of Commissioner Gordon played by Casper Van Dien from 1997’s Starship Troopers) and very quickly turns into a scene with Batman breaking in to save a kidnapped child from the clutches from the Mad Hatter. Kevin Porter (2004’s Dodgeball) plays Batman reprising his role as Batman from the amazing Batman vs Darth Vader fan film (2005), who, for the most part, is one of the more accurate non-Hollywood depiction of the Dark Knight.
But the fun truly begins when the Bat Signal is lit, but it’s not Gordon. Instead, the camera pans and in comes Michael Madsen of Quentin Tarantino fame (Reservoir Dogs, Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood, Hateful Eight), playing Harvey Bullock who summons Batman to pass on a message from Arkham Asylum.
Batman speeds off to Arkham Asylum and connecting via a video call with Hugo Strange (played by Chris Daughtry, from American Idol Season 5 fame).
The scene where Batman walks the green mile into Arkham is a tad too long but it’s your one chance to take a tour of Arkham and indulgent fan service give a glimpse of characters that we’d wish that we could see more of, including, in order of appearance, Dr Freeze, Zsasz, The Riddler (Doug Jones, from Star Trek: Discovery), Condiment King, Poison Ivy (Vera Bambi), Harley Quinn (Amy Johnston, stunt double for Scarlett Johansson in the MCU, and stunt performance for many other Hollywood blockbusters including Iron Man 3, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D) and Killer Croc (Lionel Washington). Everything you see here is pure fan service, they have no other plot or role for what’s to come.
The highlight of the film comes at the 9-minute mark, when Batman faces off against the Joker (played by Aaron Schoenke, also the director of this short film).
We won’t spoil the short film for you, but for the most part, this is an impressive production. And so stay when the credits start to roll, as you’ll be rewarded with a scene with Catwoman and the Caped Crusader.
Notable is the end credit song titled Laugh Away, with vocals by Madelynn Rae (written and performed by Sean Schoenke).
The attempt of a fan-made film is worth shouting out, especially when it’s of this amazing quality.
The limits of a short film bounds the character development of the Joker (and others), yet also a tough set of shoes to fill especially when you first think of the likes of Heath Ledger, Jack Nicholson or even Joaquin Phoenix.
Tackling a famous character and the world of Batman and Gotham City and its evil city dwellers will always be tricky and definitely more at risk than reward, but what the folks at Bat of the Sun with their years of experience does a decent enough job to make it watch-worthy and entertaining.