Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fan Film Theatre - Coming Attractions: "Grayson" (John Fiorella, 2004)


 

Written and Directed by John Fiorella

Based on the DC Comic Characters Created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster and William Moulton Marston


Produced by … John Fiorella and Gabriel Sabloff
Cinematography by … Gabriel Sabloff
Editing by … John Fiorella and Gabriel Sabloff
Costume Design by … John Fiorella and Virginia Medina


 
John Fiorella … Richard ‘Dick’ Grayson/Robin
Mark Brodkin … Police Commissioner James Gordon
Anthony Heartly … Police Chief O’Hara
Gloria Payne … Barbara Gordon/Batgirl
Paul Hasenyager … Clark Kent/Superman
Kate Clarke … Diana Prince/Wonder Woman
Brian C. Bethel … The Joker
Kimberly Page … Selina Kyle/Catwoman
Buddy Daniels Friedman … Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin
Gabriel Sabloff … Edward Nygma/The Riddler
Kofi Natei … Gotham Police Officer



After the tragic murder of Batman at the hands of his foes, his ward Dick Grayson seeks to avenge the death of his mentor, despite attempts by Superman, Wonder Woman and others to stop him.


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One of the most appreciated fan films isn’t even a film at all; though it boasts a budget that some independent features would be envious of.


Writer/Director/Star John Fiorella, along with his company Untamed Cinema, unleashed “Grayson” upon audiences in 2004.


 

A trailer based upon a wonderful feature length script by Fiorella, “Grayson” tells of the unthinkable as Batman has finally met his end; murdered in the midst of his crusade to preserve law and order in Gotham City.


But the time of sorrow quickly passes as the caped crusader’s former protégé, Dick Grayson (Fiorella) suspects that his mentor wasn’t simply killed by some no-name punk. In fact, he suspects foul play. Looking into the murder, Grayson finds himself being shut out and left aside by Police Chief Clancy O’Hara (Anthony Heartly) as well as Clark Kent (Paul Hasenyager).


 
 
With nothing more than the aid of Commissioner Gordon (Mark Brodkin), Dick begins re-training his body to take up the fight his mentor had left behind. And much to the dismay of his wife, and former Batgirl, Barbara (Gloria Payne), he assumes the mantle of Robin once more to uncover the truth behind Batman’s death; a truth everyone from the Joker (Brian C. Bethel) and Catwoman (Kimberly Page) to Wonder Woman (Kate Clarke) and Green Lantern will fight to keep hidden.


Now as a trailer, one obviously has to look at it more as a trailer than the film its representing. Since there’ll never be an opportunity to see what’s going on between the scenes, you have to take it at face value.


And at face value the trailer, put frankly, is a fanboy’s dream.


 

At a time when the thought of seeing a collection of heroes in one piece was unfathomable, a good eight years prior to the release of “The Avengers,” to feature Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern together with a respectable budget to back them up was just fantastic.


In its own small way, it proved the weight and impact of putting all these powerhouses together in a film. The anticipation, the elation and the expectation of something comic book fans thought they would never have the opportunity to see.


As much as I’m looking forward to “The Avengers,” I can only hope that the day comes when we get to see a “Justice League” film grace the silver screen.


The story of the trailer is certainly shocking; the thought of Warner Brothers ever sanctioning a film that kills off DC Comics’ most popular character (sorry, Superman, but let’s just go ahead and be honest) is highly unlikely. It’s unfortunate because the story also happens to have a wealth of emotional material and subsequent visual potential.


The backbone of the plot here details the importance of legacy; its pressures and consequences as Grayson takes it upon himself to continue his mentor’s crusade despite the fact that it’s reasonable to assume he hasn’t been fighting crime for a while, settling down with Barbara and raising a daughter. It’s difficult to determine whether Dick needs to carry on the legacy or he has to do it.


On the one hand, it can be interpreted in terms of a concept like the pupil rightfully avenging his mentor through simple obligation. But you could also say that, in this mundane existence he’s been placed in, Grayson isn’t as alive as he could be, as he wants to be. With the death of Batman, a trigger is put in place to give Dick an excuse to go back to the life he wants.


It’s just a trailer, but it’s fun to speculate.


 

I think it’s a great benefit to the piece that it aligns itself specifically with the universe of the Bill Dozier television series. Fiorella could’ve easily just set it within the parameters of the comic books or more contemporary fare like the animated series or the Burton/Schumacher films. But there’s something very clever to be found in putting a dramatic twist on the camp of the Adam West/Burt Ward regime.


This explains why Grayson returns as Robin instead of Nightwing; because within the paradigm of the TV show and at that time in the books, the Nightwing mantle hadn’t been conceived.


There’s just something about it that I can’t put my finger on but it works. It works when you know that this is carrying over from the 60s show; knowing that creates a strange dynamic that fits the project.


Making Chief O’Hara a villainous bastard after all those years of his lovable buffoonery alongside Commissioner Gordon just clicks in your brain in a way that’s charming.


Fiorella himself provides a commanding presence as Grayson; it certainly exudes the idea that this is an older version of Burt Ward, hardened by the loss of Batman.


   

The Joker is rightfully very creepy and I love his presence in the trailer; he’s got a great look and a tremendous laugh. The shot of the door opening on him with the axe is chilling, as is the image of him skipping through the park with Grayson’s daughter as if he were just a harmless street performer when we all KNOW he’s anything but.


That’s the thing about the trailer to. Watch it once, and its images stick with you. They have a power.


The sequence of shots depicting a fist fight between Robin and Superman on the beach is iconic. When Dick takes a swing and it connects with a jaw of steel as he reels back in pain; I’ll never forget that image!


Very emotionally charged and packed with explosive visual extensions of a fresh and inspired narrative, “Grayson” achieves in the sum of a few minutes what a lot of fan films that are two to three times longer fail to do.


On top of everything, it’s a great case for proving just how bad ass Robin can actually be.


If the boy wonder were ever handled like this in an official movie, I don’t think anyone would question the validity of his presence in the Batman universe.


 

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