Julien Neaves, Editor
If you notice my mini bio at the end of my articles you will see the phrase “dreams of being Batman”. The Dark Knight is my favourite superhero, and yes he’s a superhero even without super powers. Because he’s Batman!
I am also a fan of fan-made productions as I enjoy the passion and creativity despite the usually very limited budgets. So when I saw a new Batman fan film had racked up 3.5 million views in five days on ye olde YouTube I was most intrigued. Batman: Dying is Easy is from the folks at Bat in the Sun (I know them best from their Super Power Beat Down video series) and tells the story of Bats visiting a dying Joker in Arkham Asylum. And I can tell why the film has generated so much buzz as it has a very high production value, some cool action, solid performances, an intelligent plot, and a couple of surprising Hollywood cameos. Here’s my spoiler-free review.
The first thing that stands out here is the look of the film. There was clearly a lot of attention and effort paid to recreate the dark, grim look of Gotham City. The costuming is also on point for the most part. The Batman costume is a bulky one, reminiscent of Batfleck and the look from the iconic comic book miniseries The Dark Knight Returns, and it works for me. The Joker look is simple but effective, and the other comic characters (and there are multiple cameos here) are all well represented.
And speaking of cameos there are four notable ones here. There is a quick one from Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers) as Commissioner Gordon and a slightly longer one from the very talented Doug Jones (Pan’s Labyrinth, Star Trek: Discovery) as The Riddler. And yeah, I’m going to need a full film with Jones as The Riddler after this brief but compelling role. Veteran actor Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill Vol 1 and 2) gets the most screen time and he kills it as the ill-tempered Harvey Bullock. Singer Chris Daughtry also pops up as Dr Hugo Strange but his fake beard looks ridiculous and distracting. Thankfully he is not there for very long.
And what about the non-Hollywood actors? One of the biggest issues with fan productions is the quality of the acting, as it usually ranges from mediocre to terrible. But thankfully that is not the case here. Kevin Porter really impressed me with his grizzled version of Batman. The voice is resonant and he has the right blend of power, menace, physicality, and world-weariness that you need to pull off a good Dark Knight.
Bat in the Sun co-founder Aaron Schoenke gives us a snarling, wistful, and slightly manic version of The Clown Prince of Crime. I saw a couple of YouTube comments criticising his acting but I thought the performance was pretty decent. Schoenke also wrote and co-directed the film with his father (and Bat in the Sun co-founder) Sean Schoenke, so this is very much his baby.
The bulk of the film is the conversation between Batman and Joker in Joker’s cell and I didn’t mind this. I found the psychological cat-and-mouse game compelling and it was refreshing to see The Dark Knight using his intelligence and wits. But fans of fisticuffs don’t despair—there is an action scene early in the film and it is 12 flavours of awesome sauce. The wonderful brutality and visceral nature of it reminded me of the warehouse scene from Batman v Superman. Good stuff. I would have liked at least one more fight scene though, even a brief one.
So as far as fan films go Batman: Dying is Easy has to be one of the best I have ever seen. And like many other fans a need a sequel in my life, preferably with Jones’s Riddler as the main villain. There is also a petition for Aaron Schoenke to direct a DC film for Warner Bros. that has received more than 5,900 views at that time of this article. And I say “why not?” If he can deliver more quality content like this but with a Hollywood budget then it could truly be something special.
Editor Jules’s Score: 7.5 out of 10
You can view the film for yourself at this link here. And do hit me up in the comments about what you thought of it and what you would rate it out of 10. For my list of Five Comic Heroes Done Better in Fan Films you can click here. Or for Senior Writer Sommer’s review of animated film Batman: Soul of the Dragon you can click here.
Julien “Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman (see, here it is). I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. I can also be found posting about TV and movie memes, news and trailers on Facebook at Movieville. And to stay on top of all Redmangoreviews articles you can like and follow us on Facebook here.