Saturday, April 21, 2012

Fan Film Theatre - Feature Presentations: "Batman: Dark Tomorrow" (Matt Hamilton, 2008)


  
   


 


Directed by Matt Hamilton
Written by Matt Hamilton and Thomas Parker
Based on the DC Comics Characters created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger


Executive Produced by Scott Hamilton
Stunt Rigging by Chad Angell
Cinematography by Travis Martin and Casey Young
Make Up Design by Madeline Lechuga
Visual Effects by Scott Hamilton, David Lackey and Chase Langley
Editing by Matt Hamilton
Music Composed by Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard and Graeme Revell
 

Thomas Parker ... Bruce Wayne/Batman
Scott Hamilton ... Jack Napier/The Joker
Nolen Smith ... Commissioner James Gordon
Lynnlee Stewart ... Leslie Madison
Kimberly Dagdag ... Renee Montoya
Jay Burnam ... Harvey Bullock
Ryan Sabine ... Jones
Chase Nordquist ... Vince
Madeline Lechuga ... Gotham Channel 6 Reporter
Matt Hamilton ... Jonathan Crane
Cody Canafax ... Thomas Wayne
Bryan Parker ... Young Bruce Wayne
Drew Bernard ... Officer Curry
Brad Borton ... Officer Tim
Ryan Thomas ... Arkham Security Officer Miller
Michael Mowrey ... Arkham Security Officer Frank
Mark Hamilton ... Flashback Officer #1
Jason Byas ... Flashback Officer #2
Matt Hamilton/Molen Smith (voice) ... Alfred Pennyworth
David Hamilton ... Gotham SWAT #1
Ben Prater ... Gotham SWAT #2
Josh Whittiker ... Gotham SWAT #3
Brandon Seay ... Gotham SWAT #4
Cody Dearmond ... Gotham SWAT #5
Maxx Dagdag ... Gotham SWAT #6
Devin ‘Killers’ Flores ... Gotham SWAT #7
Braden Mummert ... Gotham SWAT #8
Kyle Andrews ... Joker Goon #1
Wesley Holster ... Joker Goon #2
Zac Best ... Joker Goon #3
Eric Hennington ... Joker Goon #4
Josh Thornton ... Joker Goon #5
Seth Dickerson ... Joker Goon #6
Cody Parker ... Joker Goon #7



As the Gotham Police Department squeezes Jim Gordon to pursue the mysterious Batman, a tragic figure from the dark knight’s past called the Joker returns with a plan to ignite urban warfare and chaos, starting with a siege on Arkham Asylum.


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Walking the wet, desolate streets of Gotham City at night is an act that can very nearly get you killed.


But wading through the darkness on blackened wing is a single man. A lone warrior, beating the heart of an angel while bearing the appearance of a demon.


He is Batman; waging a one man war on the criminal underworld of a hopeless urban warzone and in terms of Save The Empire Productions’ 2008 fan feature "Batman: Dark Tomorrow," a war was surely waged.


 

"Dark Tomorrow" is a tour de force; not just of fan filmmaking, but guerrilla filmmaking. When one takes into account the limitations of the production, you can’t help but cheer how much they manage to pull off with what they have to work with.


I think seeing the film in a theatre with an audience played a pivotal role in my liking it more than a lot of the online viewers and that’s just as well. It was an incredible experience, one that seeded a friendship with the filmmakers that has endured since. Rest assured said friendship didn’t factor into the review, or any of them for that matter; I’m friends with a lot of the fan filmmakers, being a member of that community for so many years.


I know the cast is young, I know it’s obvious that the acting is a bit of a barrier that they just can’t seem to break through. But a huge part of fan film, unless you have the budget and resource to back it up, is that it’s just something fun to do. The cast takes the project as seriously as its hardworking crew, and it shows in some of the most emoting performances given in a Fan Film of this novelty to date.


Thomas Parker has presence as Batman, but what’s ironic is that said presence works to its fullest advantage when Batman is being portrayed as more of an apparition; a moving shadow, a figure in the dark. If he’s on-screen for too long and exposed by light, the seams begin to unravel. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen that often.



Nods definitely go to the Joker’s troops during the Arkham confrontation and to both Nolen Smith as Gordon and Mr. Scott Hamilton himself as the Joker, specifically in the latter part of the film. Joker isn’t played up like his useful self throughout the majority of the piece but the scene where Batman and Joker finally get physical sent chills down my spine as he shows there’s something brewing just underneath.


Most fan films attempt 1 of two things:


Either they attempt to have a cohesive plot, without enough plot in the first place making for a calamity of a short film that tries to go in several directions without getting anywhere.

Or they make a flat-out short, leaving plot and caution of narrative integrity to the wind.


 

"Dark Tomorrow" is the first Batman Fan Film that has ever, to me, felt like a "MOVIE" (“The Joker Blogs” and the “City of Scars”/ “Seeds of Arkham” storyline are the only other examples that have come the closest since).


“Dark Tomorrow” had a plot, despite a lack of true story (what I'm really saying here is really an echo from previous reviews about there not really being a contribution of anything NEW to the mythos of the property) and it has a solid 'Three Act' pattern that you can follow. Just when you think the action can't get any bolder and brassier, it does. It SO does.


While films like "Dark Justice" and "Patient J" are VERY good they, in the end, are only confined to one primary location. "Dark Tomorrow" has several set pieces ranging from Arkham Asylum to Wayne Manor, and every seedy back alley and parking garage in between.


The camera composition, editing and visual effects are the true stars of the piece.

 
There are a number of great camera moves and in-camera tricks that are wildly ambitious for such a small production and they pull it off nearly effortlessly. Batman’s disappearance as a thug pulls a gun on him during his rescue of Leslie Madison is a tremendous example.

Explosions, gunfire, blood squibs, smoke bombs, CG Batarangs; everything is of such quality and in a fan production that’s really saying something.

A lot of what makes “Dark Tomorrow” work as well as it does stems from the ingenuity of the filmmakers.

 
The visceral nature is ever present; the action never takes a step out of pace. It’s clear as the film rolls along that this is a Batman born out of a love of police procedurals and 90s action fests. What the interpretation lacks in narrative subtlety and compelling drama it more than makes up for in kinetics and adrenaline.

There’s a wonderfully orchestrated shootout in Arkham that, while obviously more improvised than anything, manages to pull off a steady momentum that goes down smooth without feeling too gratuitous, albeit perhaps one too many slow-motion effects.

 


Of course the Parking Garage fight and the resulting car chase are the stand out set pieces, the latter of course reigning as a fan film first (provided you don’t count the few seconds of Robin riding atop a van in the “Batman: Legends” trailer).

There are even some genuinely grounded human-comedic elements thrown in for a more well-rounded piece; I especially loved the tip of the hat to the buddy cop ideal with the two officers that just happen to let the finale chase involving Batman rocket past them unnoticed, to which one of them states “Slow night.”


And the nods, oh the nods!


From several obvious bow-downs to the 1987 Cyber-Punk classic "Robocop" to an interesting gun fight involving Batman and the Joker's thugs that seemed to have been inspired by "Equilibrium"s technique of being solely lit my muzzle flashes, which was amazing. Don't know if that was a happy accident or if they consciously did that, but it really doesn't matter.


I don't know HOW Matt, Scott, Thomas and the rest of the gang knew "Robocop" and "Equilibrium" were personal favorites, but I got a real kick out of it.


All in all a terrific addition to the Fan Film collection; while I CAN put the film into the good pile of Batman Fan Productions, "Batman: Dark Tomorrow" is in a league of its own.


 

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