Review & Interview by Chris "Excelsior" Mason
As any red-blooded Batman fan, I love Batman. I've been a Bat-geek since I was a four-year-old watching Adam West KA-POW! & URRGH! on TV in 1966. Then when Tim Burton came along and worked his twisted visions on the dark knight detective I thought, Okay they almost got Batman right, 'almost.' There was always something about a live-action Batman that nobody could seem to get right. Batman is one of those icons that has been around for decades and has seen more interpretations and retellings than any other character in comic book literature. At his core Batman is a dark and brooding detective out to stop the evils of Gotham City, pretty simple yet very complex. Enter Sandy Collora and his wild team of Hollywood professionals. Sandy wanted to create a 'Director's Demo' to showcase his many talents that would catch the film industry's eye, and as an added bonus make the ultimate Batman film, and feature a Batman that "fans" have always wanted to see.
I first heard about BATMAN: DEAD END quite by accident on a message forum, where I saw a couple of images from the production posted. Needless to say my interest was piqued, later I made contact with those in the production and finally Sandy Collora the writer/director. (at right with actor Clark Bartram) Over the months that followed I kept tabs on the film. Very little was known about it on the net, and for a while it seemed like I was the only one who knew. I did know that the film featured a dark and gritty Batman battling the Joker, but that was it. I was told by the filmmakers that they wanted to premier the film at the 2003 San Diego Comic Con to get a fan reaction - and were afraid that Warners might get advance warning and possibly shut them down, so the secret was kept until nowâ€¦
BEWARE BAT-SPOILERS AHEAD!
Synopsis: The film opens with a battle worn Bruce Wayne suiting up as Batman, heard in the background a radio gives the details; the Joker has escaped from Arkham and is on the loose in Gotham City. Perched high on a rainy roof top Batman spies the Joker running in the alley below. Batman leaps to the ground, the visual of Batman grouched down surrounded by his out-stretched cape as he slowly rises is breath-taking and right out of the animated series - just perfect! Batman confronts the crazed clown only to take a fist full of brass knuckles in the jaw. With a swift backhand punch the Joker goes down...
It's here that one of my favorite moments occurs, Batman with his back to the Joker spits a loogie of blood then clocks the Jokerâ€¦ a pure Dark Knight moment! Batman then picks Joker up by the straight jacket collar, the two old foes exchange pleasantries of who created who, "You made ME!" - a great familiar moment all Bat-fans know well and can't seem to get enough of. As Batman threatens the Joker with his return to Arkham, the Joker is suddenly ripped out of frame and over the roof top edge leaving behind his bloody brass knuckles. Batman whirls around to find himself face to face with the ALIEN. Yes that's right the Alien, in all its slimy jaw snapping glory. Batman & the Alien do the pavement tango and when it looks like the dark knight is about to get his face hugged - three small laser targets appear on the Alien's headâ€¦ KABLAM! The Alien's head explodes. Batman leaps to his feet only to see he's now face to face with another alien, the Predator! Batman and the Predator go at it mano-e-mano and Batman soon gains the upper hand and is about to dispatch the Predator with his bat-bladeâ€¦ when suddenly an deep evil laugh erupts in the alley, Batman turns to see three more Predators waiting for a piece of the Batman. Ol' Bats flips open another bat-blade and makes his stand in the pouring rain against the new Predators, even as more Aliens appear form the shadows behind Batman. The dark knight is clearly out numbered as the film ends - but somehow we know as the film FADES TO BLACK that the outer-space baddies are in for one big ass whooping!
I must admit that when I first watched the film I had no idea what to expect, other than a cool confrontation between Batman & the Joker. Seeing the Alien then the Predator took me clearly by surprise. It was great! And it's this twist and mixing of worlds that really make this film stand out and has caused so much controversy among fans. You either love it or you hate it...
The film in its very tight eight minuets delivers what every BATMAN fan has been waiting for, one of the better screen versions of the comic book hero! In my opinion this is the closest you can get to Batman ever put to film. You must keep in mind this was never intended to be seen by the general public, form the get-go it was intended to showcase Sandy Collora's directing talent (much like a demo reel) and so a narrative story is kept to a minimum in favor of some great visuals and action. The fight scenes are well choreographed and stay away for the over-used Matrix styled wire work, this is a down & dirty, wet & gritty series of fights. Batman does take a licking but so do the bad guys... Clark Bartram in full bat get-up and in the rain handles the fights realisticly.
I thought the Bat costume based on the designs of Alex Ross worked perfectly, seeing Batman in his black & gray togs just proved that it works and that the character doesn't need to be incased in 50lbs of rubber & nipples! The Joker dons a traditional sanitarium straight jacket with ARKHAM printed on it. The Aliens & Predators are as close to the real thing as you can have without hitting Stan Winston up for one big favor!
Only a couple of things could have worked better for me, and they are very minor cripes. I thought the opening titles were a little too plain & simple and give the impression that the production may be a bit amateurish. The opening sequence of Batman suiting up, we've seen this many times before and I would've loved to have seen it done a little differently here. But once the film gets going you know right away this is NO amateur film and more than makes up for the simplistic opening. Also the music is stock sound track fare. The familiar Aliens, Predator & the various Batman sound tracks round out the score. While they work great here and are mixed well together, it would have been nice to hear an original score. In the end it all works beautifully, with every penny spent showing up on the screen.
The film was never intended to be viewed by the general public; it was designed to showcase Sandy's directing talent, to serve as a flashy demo reel! So those lucky enough to see it at Comic Con were indeed lucky.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Sandy, and asked him a few questions about BATMAN: DEAD END.
SHH: What inspired you to make your own BATMAN film?
SC: Sincere passion and love of comic books and the genre, especially all things Batman.
SHH: The Bat costume (in BDE) looks very Alex Ross-ish, was that your intent?
SC: Very much so, Alex is a tremendous talent, with a great vision of how comic heroes should look. I really enjoy his "retro" approach and his painting style... How real it looks. It's very inspiring. I also injected a lot of my own style and ideas to the suit, i.e., the belt being black, the boots, and a slightly different cowl, but yes... The design and approach to Batman's threads are very much Ross inspired.
SHH: How long did it take to make the film, to shoot it, how much did it cost?
SC: Pre-production was about six months, mostly to build all the creature suits and do all the storyboards. We shot for 4 days, and it cost 30 thousand dollars.
SHH: Where was the film shot, what kind of sets did you build?
SC: It was shot in North Hollywood, CA USA, and we built one wall of the alley (the brick one) the other side of the aluminum foundry was just a chain link fence... We MADE it an alley.
SHH: Clark Bartram is the perfect Batman, how did you find him?
SC: Who is this Clark Bartram guy everyone keeps talking about? Bruce Wayne played Batman in my film. LOL!!! To make a really long story really short here, someone recommended I look at his website (www.clarkbartram.com) I liked his look, and liked him in person even better, we hit it off immediately, we've become very close friends, he's one of the most sincere, genuine, loving, and inspirational human beings I know... and he IS Batman.
SHH: Joker is played by Andrew Koenig (Boner of Growing Pains & son of Walter 'Star Trek' Koenig) how did you come to cast him?
SC: He answered a casting ad we put out. He came in and auditioned, I loved him from the moment he walked in the room, he and Clark, I mean Bruce were a great fit.
SHH: By now it's no secret that Batman is confronted by some unconventional bad guys, what made you want use the Aliens & Predators?
SC: I love the comic books, and I also love those two characters (alien & predator) as well.
SHH: The entire film takes place in the rain, what was it like being wet for the entire BDE shoot?
SC: I thought it was a BLAST, so did Bruce and our DP, Vince Toto, unfortunately, our crew didn't think so... Oh well.
SHH: The costumes all look great who made them?
SC: Lots of very talented people... Most of Batman's costume was put together by Mike MacFarlane, the make-up was done by Patrick Magee, and the creature suits were sculpted by myself and Nick Alvarez (also my writing partner) I painted most of them, with some help from Erick De La Vega. Simon Tams, the producer, also helped out a lot in the creature shop. We all multi-task very well.
SHH: The make up for Joker is very creepy what inspired his look?
SC: I did a sketch for Patrick based on "The Killing Joke." I wanted him to be very gaunt and whispy looking...sick and demented... Almost rotting from being kept in a dark, damp, dreary, cell... You know, that fresh from Arkham Asylum look.
SHH: I understand you had a different ending for the film in mind, what can you tell us about that?
SC: Not really a different ending, more of the "extended" ending... I wanted Superman to come down at the end and ask Bats if he needed help...LOL!
SHH: You recently 'premiered' BDE at the San Diego Comic Con, how did that go and what do you think of the fan reaction?
SC: I'm very excited, I honestly never thought the fans would dig it this much, and such a tremendous amount of buzz would be generated... It's beyond words... The (Comic Con) screening room held about 250 people, there were over a THOUSAND lined up outside this little room, the line went on forever it seemed. I was in the room the whole time prior, someone grabbed my shirt sleeve and pulled me outside... I was shocked. I simply could not believe it. When it was playing, people were yelling and cheering at the top of their lungs, they couldn't believe what they were seeing. The entire audience went completely ape-shit. BOTH times they showed it. It also showed TWICE, AGAIN, later that night at the masquerade... 5,000 screaming, rabid fans... It got the biggest, loudest, and most enthusiastic response but of anything showed there this weekend...it was HUGE!!!!! Everyone I talked to said it was the best thing at the Con this year. I was very moved.
SHH: Have you had any feedback (good or bad) from Warner Bros.?
SC: No, but quite frankly, I'm expecting it... I just hope they understand why I made the film, and that I'm not generating ANY MONEY whatsoever from it. I was offered hundreds of dollars for just ONE DVD at the Con on more than one occasion. The 100 DVD's were made as a special, limited edition kind of thing, and were ONLY given out to press and people I'd like to do business with, strictly to showcase my directing ability. I did not sell one single DVD at the con or anywhere else, and most definitely WILL NOT anywhere in the future. I also want to squelch all of the rumors right here about all this Kazaa nonsense: I did not give any DVD's or quicktime, AVI, or realplayer files to ANYONE for distribution on the internet.
SHH: If you had the chance to make an official Batman film, who would be your favorite villain for Batman?
SC: That would most likely be decided by the studio, but my personal choice would be very similar to what I did with BDE, dark, moody, brooding, rainy...and he'd fight Killer Croc! And of course, Clark-I mean Bruce as the Bat. I'm really eager and excited to see what Christopher Nolan does with the franchise, he's such a talented filmmaker... I LOVED "Memento," and think he'll do a great job with the Bat!
SHH: Your film features a lot of "live onset" special effects, tell us what effect was the hardest.
SC: The finally shot with all the Aliens behind Bats with the Predators Jumping into the foreground... LOTS to coordinate and make happen at once... CRAZY!!!!
SHH: You have some very seasoned industry professionals working on BDE, did anybody think you were crazy for wanting to make a Batman film?
SC: Pretty much... But as the project progressed, people saw how passionate and serious I was about shooting this movie.
SHH: Everyone is dying to see the film, where can fans see it?
SC: Sorry to say that if you weren't at the Comic Con, on the crew, or a studio executive, you will not see it. I do not want to disrespect Warner's or Fox by distributing, even free of charge, something I do not have the rights to. Like I said above, it was made STRICTLY as show reel to promote myself as a director.
SHH: You've worked in the film & TV industry for some time particularly for FX master Stan Winston, how did that help you as a director?
SC: That's way too complex, but let's just say all those years I worked in FX, art direction, production design, etc... There was a director DYING to emerge...
SHH: Now that BDE is completed, what's next for Sandy Collora?
SC: Honestly, I don't know. My agents at ICM are currently figuring that out as we speak.
SHH: Any words of advice for young would-be filmmakers?
SC: Be passionate, and believe in yourself and what you're doing. You've got to believe...
Thanks to Sandy Collora and his great crew for giving us Bat-fans a real treat. His film, never really intended to be seen by the general public, has taken on a CULT life of it's own far beyond that of the director's intent.
For those wanting more information about Batman: Dead End or would like autographs from of the film's stars please click here with your email request. TheForce.net was cool enough to host the film for us and you can now download it in QuickTime format here!
BATMAN: DEAD END: Starring - Clark Bartham - Andrew Koeing - Kurt Carley and Jake McKinnon Produced by Simon Tams & Daren Hicks Executive Producers Sandy Collora & Jo Vogelbacher - Ron Brinkmann - Larry Serraino - Chris Van Howten Director of Photgoragphy Vince Toto Editor Toby Divine FX Ron Brinkmann Written & Directed by Sandy Collora
If you have a FAN FILM or know of one please contact SHH, we would love to see it!
SuperheroHype.com would like to stress that SHH had no part in the making of this film, we feature it as a matter of fan interest. Sandy Collora and his production staff wish to stress the film (Batman: Dead End) is strictly a non-profit venture and should be viewed as a piece of fan fiction strictly to showcase the director's directing ability. Batman, Predator & Alien are copyright Warner Bros. Communications Co. - Twentieth Century Fox Films.
Source: Superhero Hype!