Friday, April 20, 2012

Fan Film Theatre - Short Reels: "Batman: Dark Justice" (Aaron Schoenke, 2004)


Written and Directed by Aaron Schoenke

Based on the DC Comic Characters Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger

Produced by Sean Schoenke
Cinematography by Aaron Schoenke
Editing by Aaron Schoenke
Fight Choreography by Tanoai Reed
Sound Design by Sean Schoenke
Original Music Composed by Sean Schoenke

Tanoai Reed … Batman
Kim Hunt … Police Commissioner James Gordon
Kim Weber … Barbara Gordon
Sean Schoenke … Allen Harris
Tyler Rollins … Ninja
Trey Howell … Derek
Dave Jenkins … Thug 1
Doug Klug … Thug 2

Commissioner Gordon asks help from Batman for a personal rescue mission.


Director Aaron Schoenke certainly has a knack for knowing what people want to see as far as Batman’s concerned.

Pulling the visuals straight from the comic books is a great start, and 2004’s “Batman: Dark Justice” has it where it counts.


Playing before the simple backdrop of a rescue mission and revenge, Batman rushes to retrieve Commissioner Gordon’s daughter Barbara after she’s kidnapped by Allen Harris; a convict put away by Jim during his days walking the beat in Chicago. What it weaves is a reaffirmation of Batman’s initial obligations in his war on crime.

He fights to see to it that families aren’t broken apart the way his were.

Thusly, the stakes are raised on a personal level with the threat of the same fate befalling one of his most trusted allies.

What really stands out about the film early on is the wonderful score composed by Sean Schoenke; it’s what I’d call moody minimalist. Obviously the budget, or lack thereof, can’t afford a big brass ensemble. But the beauty of this depiction of Batman is that it neither requires nor asks for such boldness to be taken musically.

The piano motif that plays us into the short and in the scene when Batman offers roses to his parent’s grave is poetic and understated; there’s a sadness to this Gotham City that’s beautifully rendered through Sean’s work and it’s great.


Not to forget the nature of action for the character, Aaron creates some dynamic camera work and, specifically, fine-tuned editing. The fight scenes are very well orchestrated and paced and Batman is presented as a genuinely menacing presence. The shot where a twirling flashlight only reveals the emblem of a bat before the goon is quickly dispatched is indicative of a man who’s not wasting time suiting up in his cave or crashing through a skylight.

This Batman means business and former Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson body double Tanoai Reed certainly pulls off an imposing stance as the dark knight.


The confrontation with the ninja is a great example of both the editing and Reed’s own self-created choreography and it’s a welcome advantage for a fan film to handle its action well.

There's even a nice touch of comedy in this with the two ski-cap wearing thugs as they lounge around playing cards. When Harris questions the whereabouts of their lookout outside, he asks for their input:

"You should've used Shamus."

"Shamus is in jail."

Now I can't be sure, but this might very well have been a nod to Gareb Shamus, former CEO and Chairman of WIZARD Comics Magazine. The publication routinely held contests to submit anything from self-created comic book artwork to comic-based videos and "Dark Justice" could've been one such submission. I might be grasping at straws though.


Kim Hunt maybe falls a bit flat as Gordon, but there’s not a whole lot the character is given to do anyway. In a scene from the original cut (now since subtracted), Gordon chooses to meet with Batman in a whole in the wall of a back alley to inform him of Barbara’s abduction. Hunt’s body language is great, such as lighting and handling his cigarette, but there’s not a whole lot of authority in his tone of voice. Given that this guy should more often than not be depicted as an equal to Batman, that’s a real shame since Hunt looks the part in the trench coat and fedora.

Ultimately, “Dark Justice” is yet another example of the trajectory Schoenke and ‘Bat in the Sun’ was following, giving way to improvement in future projects.

Even so, the film is certainly well shot and conceived.

Just a nice little something to enjoy!


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