Batman: City of Scars

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2010

Bat In The Sun

Written and Directed by Aaron Schoenke

Produced by Aaron and Sean Schoenke

Based on characters created by Bob Kane

Being a long time fan of “Star Trek” I’ve long thought that Paramount was really doing themselves a disservice in regards to the short films made by fans. There’s a tremendous amount of extraordinary talent that goes into making those fan films. I often wondered why Paramount never just established a small independent studio to hire fans and make their short films with Paramount’s blessing and approval. Wouldn’t that be an excellent way of grooming talent and giving them a way to hone their skills that could then be put to use on the official “Star Trek” movies?

I know, I know…you’re probably thinking you’ve stumbled into the wrong review. We’re getting to BATMAN: CITY OF SCARS in a minute, I promise. The reason I brought up the “Star Trek” fan films is because while watching this excellent Batman fan film I couldn’t help but think that if the people involved could do this with their extremely limited budget then what could they do with a bigger budget working with DC/Warner Bros? Based on what I saw in this movie they could easily make a Batman movie that would knock audiences out of their socks.

It begins with The Joker escaping from Arkham Asylum yet again and to be honest, I almost stopped watching as I have had quite enough of these Batman and Joker “final showdown” stories. The Joker is one of those characters whose menace and impact has become seriously diluted over the years for me because nobody will give the poor guy a rest. But what kept my interest was two things: the wonderful moody and atmospheric production values and Kevin Porter as Batman/Bruce Wayne. Imagine an Alex Ross illustration of Batman come to life with the voice of Kevin Conroy. That’s Kevin Porter. When he’s on screen you can’t take your eyes off him. It’s a true joy to watch him as he knows his Batman and he convinces you in the first five minutes of this short film that he is Batman.

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The Joker kidnaps a councilman and his son, killing the councilman’s wife for reasons that are never really explained and plans to set off a bomb at a carnival’s Ferris Wheel. Again, for reasons that are not explained. I mean, yeah, The Joker is batshit insane to the tenth power but even his insanity has a purpose. Such as in the classic Steve Englehart/Marshall Rogers story “The Laughing Fish” which for me is the definitive Joker story. here’s the thumbnail of the story;  Fish in Gotham City begin appearing, bearing The Joker’s smile. He attempts to legally trademark the fish, figuring he’ll make a fortune from”Joker Fish.” When he is told that fish are a natural resource and cannot be trademarked, he goes on a killing spree, murdering one bureaucrat of the trademark department one after another until somebody gives him a trademark for his Joker Fish. See what I mean? Batshit insane? Sure. But there is a kinda twisted logic in there as well that The Joker is this film doesn’t have.

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In fact, there’s something I found rather off about Paul Molnar’s performance as The Joker. There’s something rather on the sleazy, slimy side in his characterization of The Joker I didn’t care for. But thankfully we get to see other Batman villains such as Guy Grundy as Victor Szasz and Jay Caputo as Arnold Wesker/Scarface who takes the role, puts it in his back pocket and walks away with it. I’d love to see another short film with Batman going up against Jay Caputo’s Ventriloquist, that’s how good he is in the short amount of screen time he has as the running time of the film is only thirty minutes.

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For a long time now, comic book writers and filmmakers have forgotten that Batman is a detective and have him solve his cases by simply pounding the piss outta people and that’s the Batman we get here. Batman’s method of finding The Joker is to simply kick every ass in sight until somebody tells him what he wants to know. Fortunately the fight scene in the bar is well choreographed and while it reminded me of the fight scenes in Tim Burton’s Batman movies, Aaron Schoenke knows how to do fight/action scenes and Tim Burton doesn’t. And it helps that Kevin Porter has a Batsuit that allows him to move fluidly and smoothly.

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That’s not to say I love this short film unconditionally. There’s a voice over narration by Porter that really gets to be too much after awhile. While I realize that due to the short running time, a lot of what Batman is thinking and feeling has to be communicated by way of an internal monologue but a little of that goes a long way. Tess Kielhamer is billed as The Black Canary but she’s never referred to by that name. In fact, the character just seems to be another girl working in the bar. Oh, sure she displays a few martial arts moves but hey, she could have taken some taekwondo lessons down at the Y. Maybe she’s supposed to be working undercover at the bar?

But don’t let my minor nitpicking deter you. BATMAN: CITY OF SCARS is wonderful entertainment, made with obvious love for the character and done with a level of professionalism I really admire and respect. DC/Warner Bros could take some tips on how to do a Batman movie from these guys. They know what they’re doing. BATMAN: CITY OF SCARS is on YouTube and I’ve provided a link below. Enjoy.

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