Discovering: Fan Films

If you’re a filmmaker and you have $280m at your disposal, then you production values will be quite high. Avengers: Age of Ultron, whatever it’s criticisms, put most of it’s budget up on screen, with a Hulkbuster fight, wrecking half of South Africa, ploughing a train through South Korea and then dropping an Eastern European country back down to earth after throwing it a few miles up in the air.

But not every director is lucky enough to have vast riches to spend on special effects, costumes and shooting in luxurious locations. That doesn’t stop them though. There’s a plethora of fan films out there, some good, some bad, some with big budgets, some with no more than a creative mind and a few pennies. Here’s a selection of a few, along with their creators and directors, with links to the videos so you can check them out yourself.

The Green Goblin’s Last Stand

Director: Dan Poole – IMDB profile
Writer: Dan Poole
Released: 1992

At the time, a project that not many people could have imagined. A fully fledged fan film in the days when even the big budget superhero movies needed you to suspend your disbelief (Superman’s “You’ll Believe a Man Can Fly” slogan being an example), or had to adapt its source material to attain credibility, like The Joker killing Batman’s parents. So to try and faithfully adapt a comic book storyline, in this case the Spider-Man tale “The Night Gwen Stacy Died”, was a big ask for director Dan Poole. While it looks dated now – it’s still worth a watch for the die hard Spider-Man fan.


Director: John Fiorella – IMDB profile
Writer: John Fiorella
Released: 2004

Essentially a trailer for a full movie, it poses an intriguing question years before Christopher Nolan had Christian Bale retire to evenings of staring at the canals of Florence instead of holding criminals heads under them. John Fiorella’s short films posits the death of Batman, and what those left behind would do. Fiorella himself plays Dick Grayson, who tries to find Batman’s killer in, costumes aside, a remarkably modern looking effort. Featuring a disturbing looknig Joker, played by the late Brian C. Bethel, and a Catwoman played by wrestling bombshell Kimberly Page, it also creates a morally ambiguous Superman, who probably had something to do with Batman’s death. Get past the comical Police Chief O’Hara, and it’s a good effort.

Mortal Kombat: Rebirth/Mortal Kombat: Legacy

Director: Kevin Tancharoen – IMDB profile
Writer: Kevin Tancharoen
Released: Rebirth – 2010, Legacy – 2011

Taking the outlandish and bloody Mortal Kombat game series, and doing away with the interdimensional setting, creator Kevin Tancharoen made something that had long suffering MK fans salivating for more after his short film Rebirth appeared in 2010. Redesigning it as an underground fighting tournament, and changing the magical elements of characters into genetic or psychological conditions, he also weighed in with a heavyweight cast. Star Trek’s Jeri Ryan and Spawn’s Michael Jai White pop up as Sonya Blade and Jaxx, and reprised their roles for the miniseries Legacy that started a year later. If you like a gritty reboot and some gaming nostalgia, this is for you.

Deathstroke: Arkham Assassin

Directors: Chris White, Larry White – IMDB profiles
Writers: Alex Teston, Chris White
Released: 2014

With comic and gaming connections, Chris and Larry White’s prequel to Batman: Arkham Origins is viscerally cool and puts the spotlight on an excellent interpretation of both Black Mask and Deathstroke. Exploring how Slade Wilson fits into the plot of the game, it gets his lethal nature and dry sense of humour spot on. The costumes replicate those in game faithfully, and Black Mask’s outfit is done in an almost Nolan-esque fashion. A fitting prequel, to the Arkham prequel.

Marvel Zombies v Army of Darkness

Director: Brian Rosenthal – IMDB profile
Writers: Eli David, Brian Rosenthal
Released: 2013

More than a little kitsch, this takes it’s name from a 2007 Marvel Zombies storyline, but doesn’t really have anything to do with it, apart from introducing Ash from Evil Dead movies into the Marvel Universe. An undead Wolverine is arguably the pick of the bunch, but it takes the more humorous tone of the zombie pictures than the grim, brooding nature of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine films. It’s a good laugh, but don’t expect it to be as dark as some of the others on this list.

Batman: Dead End

Director: Sandy Collora – IMDB profile
Writer: Sandy Collora
Released: 2003

One of the first fan films that reached widespread acclaim within the comic book writers and artists community, comic book writer Kevin Smith called it “possibly the truest, best Batman movie ever made”, while renowned artist Alex Ross praised it as “Batman the way I’ve always wanted to see him”. Dead End has a remarkably simple plot that I won’t spoil here, because the surprises within it are what makes it good. You will though, wonder how Batman makes it out of there at the end.

Batman: Puppet Master

Director: Brian Nest – IMDB profile
Writer: Chris Wiltz
Released: 2012

If you didn’t like The Dark Knight Rises, then this is for you. It’s set in the same continuity,but doesn’t feature Bane, the League of Shadows or a divisive ending.Instead, it Nolan-ises both The Riddler and Scarface, and features a Batman played by actor Michael Connolly who looks and sounds like Christian Bale. It’s primarily an exhibition in psychology, with nods to the Arkham games, Batman: The Animated Series, and the Knightfall comic book storyline. Definitely worth a watch if you weren’t satisfied with how The Dark Knight Trilogy ends.

Year of Spies

Director: Chris Stone – IMDB profile
Writers: Chris Stone, Stephanie Stone
Released: 2015

A homage to James Bond and spy movies in general, Year of Spies is an ongoing project throughout 2015. Each episode takes on that month’s theme, so January – New Year, February – Valentines Day etc. Made on a small budget but with high production values, it makes the most of claustrophobic settings and twist endings. There’s more than a few influences from both comic books and the spy genre bleeding through, There’s more to come later this year.

City of Scars

Director: Aaron Schoenke – IMDB profile
Writer: Aaron Schoenke
Released: 2010

A grim original Batman story, created by the team from batinthesun, this tale from the rain drenched streets of Gotham features the age old rivalry between The Dark Knight and The Joker. Not for the faint hearted, it features an incredibly cruel Clown Prince of Crime, and a wonderfully realised comic book Batman, played by the physically imposing Kevin Porter. The look of the film is as if it’s leapt right out of a comic panel. The ending is both disturbing and unsettling, tapping into the insanity of The Joker, but also asks if violence does indeed beget violence.

Punisher: Dirty Laundry

Director: Phil Joanau (produced by Adi Shankar) – IMDB profile
Writer: Chad St. John
Released: 2012

It’s The Punisher film that Marvel would never dare make. However good Jon Bernthal is in Season 2 of Daredevil, it’s a sure bet that his Frank Castle won’t be as jaded or visceral as Thomas Jane. Reprising his role from the 2004 Punisher movie, and featuring a grim turn from Ron Perlman, Jane’s performance embodies a one shot comic, doling out the protagonist’s unique brand of justice. Crucially not tipping it’s hat until the final scene, it’s Jane’s love letter to a character he played so well, and a shame he won’t get to do so again…


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