The bigwigs in Hollywood are taking their time with the next comic book adaptation. ”Batman Begins” (starring Christian Bale) doesn’t hit theaters until summer 2005. The much-talked-about ”Superman” movie is on its fourth director and still lacks a leading man. So, while you’re waiting, check out these four online fan films.
”Grayson” made our list of comic book-based fan films
DIRECTOR John Fiorella, 31
CAMERA 16 mm. Rolex
RELEASE DATE 2004
PREMISE When Batman is murdered, Dick Grayson, a.k.a. Robin (John Fiorella), comes out of superhero retirement to avenge the Dark Knight’s death.
THE TWIST In addition to dispatching a series of classic Batman villains (Joker, Catwoman, Penguin, and the Riddler), Grayson faces opposition from a corrupt police chief, Wonder Woman, and a gray-haired Superman (Paul Hasenyager), while his wife, Barbara Gordon (a.k.a. Batgirl), just wants him to stay home and help out with the baby.
SOUNDTRACK A patchwork of borrowed clips from more than 15 films, including ”Final Fantasy,” ”13 Days,” and ”Matrix Reloaded.”
COSTUMES AND PROPS Fiorella sewed, stitched, and spray-painted most of them. Superman’s red shorts? A store-bought woman’s bikini. And Robin’s Batarang is a toy Batman plane, bought at a garage sale for $2 and spraypainted silver.
TOUGHEST SCENE TO SHOOT Robin’s underwater dip; the camera had to be sealed in a weighted, watertight container to get the shot.
THE DIRECTOR’S TAKE ”I used Robin vs. Superman because it’s an uphill battle,” says director Fiorella, who worked as a waiter and sold his home-made costumes and props on Ebay to fund the movie (which cost under $18,000). ”It’s the ultimate confrontation. Like Republicans and Democrats, they both think that what they’re doing is right, so who do you cheer for?”
NOTE Fiorella presents the film like a trailer. But don’t look for the longer version; it doesn’t exist.
RUNTIME 5 minutes, 27 seconds
Batman: Dead End
”Batman: Dead End” made our list of comic book-based fan films
DIRECTOR Sandy Collora, 35
CAMERA: 35 mm. camera
RELEASE DATE 2003
PREMISE When the Joker (Andrew Koenig) escapes from prison, Batman (Clark Bartram) is on the case.
THE TWIST Before he gets anywhere with the Joker, Batman must get through Alien (Jake McKinnon) and Predator (Kurt Carley). Yes, THAT Alien and THAT Predator. The movie fades to black as three Predators and three Aliens surround Batman, leaving the Caped Crusader’s fate ambiguous. Who said being a superhero was easy?
SOUNDTRACK Borrowed snippets from ”Batman,” ”Predator,” and ”Alien” movies
COSTUMES AND PROPS Hollywood special effects sculptor Henry Alvarez, a friend of Collora’s who worked on Legend, Robocop and other films, made Batman’s mask. After working for Stan Winston on Predator 2, Collora knew how to recreate Predator’s costume. Predator’s shoulder cannon is made out of foam, and his “heat vision” effects were created with SHAKE software.
TOUGHEST SCENE TO SHOOT It rained through most of the shoot, making it very difficult to keep the equipment dry. However, some of the genuine rain didn’t show up well on camera, so SHAKE provided synthetic rain.
THE DIRECTOR’S TAKE ”I thought, Batman is cool, but it would be cooler to put Alien and Predator in too!” says Collora, who worked as a concept designer on ”The Abyss,” ”Jurassic Park,” and many other movies. So who prevails? ”[Laughing] You’ll have to use your imagination! If I leave my audience wanting more, I’ve done my job.”
NOTE Be patient. There may be a several-minute delay before the film appears in the pop-up window.
RUNTIME 8 minutes, 4 seconds
”Batman: Madness” made our list of comic book-based fan films
DIRECTOR Aaron Schoenke, 19
SOUNDTRACK Original score, written by Aaron’s dad, composer Sean Schoenke.
RELEASE DATE 2004
PREMISE Batman (played by an actor who wants to remain anonymous) faces off against comic book villains the Mad Hatter (Jimmy Alioto) and Poison Ivy (Kelly Warren) — the character Uma Thurman played in 1997’s ”Batman & Robin.”
THE TWIST Good guys Superman (Scott Cranford) and Nightwing (Tyrone Loukas) confront a hypnotized Dark Knight, who has gone ga-ga under Ivy’s spell and is attacking his superhero peers. Ivy’s seduction of Batman is, dare we say, contagious fun.
COSTUMES AND PROPS Mad Hatter’s oversized chapeau cost $100 at a costume store and his gun is genuine. Batman’s mask was made by the director’s pal, who makes molds for indie films.
TOUGHEST SCENE TO SHOOT A night-time shot, staged in a swamp creek that lead to a sewage tunnel, plunged Batman knee-deep into icy water while Poison Ivy shivered in a bikini nearby.
THE DIRECTOR’S TAKE ”I wanted to do a role reversal,” says Schoenke, an actor and film editor who has made two other Batman fan films and spent $1,000 on this one. ”That’s something that has never been explored before.” As a result, Batman, usually the psychological aggressor, falls victim to Ivy’s mind games.
NOTE This is just the trailer; Schoenke is still working on the final edit of the full-length film. Be sure to download the Xvid software before watching the film.
RUNTIME 57 seconds
”World’s Finest” made our list of comic book-based fan films
DIRECTOR Sandy Collora, 35
CAMERA 35 mm camera
RELEASE DATE 2004
PREMISE Lois Lane is kidnapped by the dastardly duo of Two-Face and Lex Luthor.
THE TWIST Superman (Michael O’Hearn) and Batman (Clark Bartram) team up to save Lane. While the thought of Christopher Reeve and Michael Keaton sharing equal billing may seem strange, the Man of Steel-Dark Knight partnership has been a comic-book staple since 1954. Also, Luthor, who runs for President in the film, was Commander in Chief for a while in the DC Comics universe.
SOUNDTRACK A bit of the classic Superman theme, mixed with original music by a friend.
COSTUMES AND PROPS Lex Luthor’s green and purple armor suit was created by Scott Page, who met Collora at a comic book convention and volunteered his time to build the one-size-fits-all outfit in 10 days.
TOUGHEST SCENE TO SHOOT To make Superman fly, O’Hearn was hung from wires at the back of Collora’s Toyota truck and filmed while being driven down the street. (The torture may have paid off: On his website, the model-actor claims to have nabbed an audition for the upcoming Warner Bros. Superman movie. Studio reps, however, wouldn’t comment on the casting process.)
THE DIRECTOR SAYS ”We had never seen Batman and Superman team up before in live action,” says Collora (who also directed ”Batman: and will soon direct his first feature ”Off World,” with Guillermo del Toro.). ”I wanted to create something different. I wanted to bring them to life and make it [accurate] so that fans can say, ‘Oh my God, that’s really Batman and Superman!”’
RUNTIME 3 minutes, 40 seconds