Friday, April 20, 2012

Fan Film Theatre - Short Reels: "Batman: Dead End" (Sandy Collora, 2003)


Written and Directed by Sandy Collora

Based on the DC Comic Characters Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger
Based on Creatures Created by Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett, H.R. Giger, Jim Thomas, John Thomas and Stan Winston
Produced by Simon Tams and Daren Hicks
Executive Produced by Jo Vogelbacher, Ron Brinkmann and Sandy Collora
Cinematography by Vince Toto
Production Design and Art Direction by Sandy Collora
Costume Design by Mike MacFarlane
Visual Effects by Dennis Manske, Simon Tans and Ron Brinkmann
Editing by Toby Divine
Sound Design by Al Samuels and Jeff Sliney
Music Composed by Elliot Goldenthal, Alan Silvestri and Shirley Walker

Clark Bartram … Batman
Andrew Koenig … The Joker
Kurt Carley … Hero Predator
Jake McKinnon … Hero Alien
Dragon Dronet … Predator 2
Patrick Magee … Predator 3

When the Joker escapes once again from Arkham Asylum, Batman sets out and corners him in an alley. But the shadows of Gotham hide more than even the dark knight detective could’ve imagined.



Being a fan of a character like Batman instills one with a sense of passion and creative expression. It’s imprinted on us from the beginning, drawing little doodles of the caped crusader and putting our action figures through dazzling adventure scenarios during play time.

As those of us artistically inclined grow older, we still have it within us to invest creativity into our fandom, eventually allowing the two to feed off of one another.

Thus the advent of the fan film was truly born in essence.

And the explosion of Batman fan films began with an 8 minute, $30,000 firestorm called “Batman: Dead End.”


Helmed by visual effects artist and former Stan Winston employ Sandy Collora as a sizzle reel to promote his directing ability, the 2003 short follows the dark knight (Clark Bartram) as he swings into action after news spreads like wildfire of the Joker’s (Andrew Koenig) most recent escape from Arkham. However there’s more to this latest confrontation than meets the eye as Batman is faced with extraterrestrial monstrosities; a deadly Xenomorph and a bloodthirsty Predator.

Dubbed by Kevin Smith at the time as “the greatest Batman movie ever,” “Dead End” certainly has the visual style to account for it; it looks incredible for such a modest budget and running time, specifically the few minutes of pure-Batman action before things take a turn into the cinematic surreal.


Vince Toto’s cinematography is absolutely gorgeous in this display; particular shots like the one with Batman crouched on a rain-soaked alley floor with his cape spread around him are simultaneously iconic and effortless and the graphic play with both shadows and light throughout the entire short is spectacular.

The opening montage is the suit up to end all suit ups as Batman gears up with the news playing in voice over; it’s very moody so early on and it’s awesome to see little highlights like the bandages on Bruce’s hand and the texturized nature of the Batsuit (LOVE the bits when he snaps the clip on his boot and clenches his gloved fists; the sound effects work is great here).

Clark Bartram has a commanding presence in the role and that’s certainly the priority given the lack of anything else to do; it’s one giant fight scene and in that respect, the bodybuilding actor fills out the costume and fits right in.


Some could question the fervor of Koenig’s Joker; while it’s hammed up here and there, it’s somewhat frightening. I love that close up on his eye as the laughter becomes sharper, more panting and manic.

There’s one line I do like of his:

“You made me...daddy!”

In the time since the film Andrew, the son of “Star Trek” star Walter Koenig, had disappeared and, tragically, was later found dead by his own hand. Also known for his role as Boner on the television show “Growing Pains,” it’s so unfortunate to see a young, promising actor be taken prematurely; a moment of utmost sympathies to his family.


Of course the most talked about aspect of “Dead End” literally comes out of nowhere as one of H.R. Giger’s conceptualized Aliens descends from a roof and captures the Joker.

Huh after all this time and all these interpretations, turns out Batman just had to wait for a new species with a convenient lack of morality to come around and resolve the issue of the Clown Prince of Crime. Kind of a chump way for Joker to be taken out...though I guess it’s also a chump that would refer to punching someone with brass knuckles as a ‘joke.’

Since there’s not a whole lot narratively speaking, it’s all in the moments...the visual details and the attention brought to them.

When Batman smacks Joker away and takes a second to spit a wad of blood before flapping his cape and delivering a body blow is great stuff.


 The battle between Batman and the Predator is also a great treat and I love that how it escalates; much in the same way as it's skill transforms Arnold Schwarzenegger by the end of the original John McTiernan film, the Predator's effectiveness as a hunter seems to bring about Batman's more brutal nature in the quest to overpower the other-worldly opponent.

How about that? Even in eight minutes, you can still find a wrinkle of character and personality in Batman!

I suppose Bartram’s physicality has a lot to do with the fact that, unlike his official live action predecessors, he was fitted into a spandex costume born more out of the character’s appearance in the comic books rather than the movies and I have to say it actually works. A lot of what can work on a comic page might not necessarily translate to a screen and Batman’s costume is certainly debatable to this day but through a combination of Collora’s tight close ups, Toto’s lighting and Toby Divine’s editing a great depiction is created for the iconic cape and cowl.


With his background, Collora does a great job of both conceiving of and creating the Aliens and Predators. Their presence seems odd at first glance but given both said background as well as the “Batman vs. Alien” and “Batman vs. Predator” comic books, it’s certainly a valid angle to take on the character.

Extending the involvement of these movie monsters is the score of the short, which is a combination of previously composed music. Collora and his post-crew utilized and manipulate the tracks to their advantage very well, particularly in the scene where Batman spots the Joker and descends into the alleys. That moment is underscored with “Agnus Dei,” which opens the main titles of 1991’s “Alien III.” The chorus fits the bill for this Batman.

All in all a solid effort, “Batman: Dead End” is a fun take on Batman visually. It’s all it can be so it doesn’t try to be what it’s not.

Great fun to watch!


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