Batman: Dead End (2003) Movie Review

A reader sent me a copy of “Batman: Dead End”, which has been making the rounds of comic book conventions and the online fanboy community for the last month or so. Harry Knowles at Ain’t It Cool News even reported on it, giving it quite a glowing review. But if you think “Dead End” is a low budget work by a Batman fan, you would be wrong. The filmmakers may be fans of the Caped Crusader, but there’s definitely nothing cheap about “Dead End”.

“Batman: Dead End” is a 7-minute short by Sandy Collora, who was probably just as sick and tired with the “Batman” franchise as envisioned by the hellhounds at Warner Brothers as the rest of us. Which may explain why he made “Dead End”, a mini-movie that is, surprisingly, more truthful and close to the Batman comic books than any of the movies have ever come, or tried to be.

Not surprisingly, with less than 10 minutes to work with (plus credits), “Dead End” has little room for storyline. In a nutshell, the Joker has escaped from Arkham Asylum yet again and the Dark Knight suits up to chase the nutcase. He locates the Joker in a dark alley with a dead end and proceeds to beat the crap out of him. But before Batman can finish off the laughing idiot, a Predator kills him. Then an Alien creature from “Alien” (it of the acid-spewing kind) shows up to do battle. They fight. More shows up. Fade out to end credits.

I don’t want to shortchange “Dead End’s” story, but really, there isn’t one to shortchange. What amounts to “plot” is nothing more than co-writers Collora and Nicolas Alvarez lifting lines from the Batman comic book and some from Burton’s “Batman”. Obviously dialogue isn’t the point of “Dead End”. Collora throws in what could be stock footage from a more expensive movie to replace the skyline of Gotham City, although it could be Iowa and I wouldn’t know the difference. There’s also a series of shots as Batman suits up in his Batcave (at least I’m assuming that’s where Batman would be), with the rest of the short taking place in a rain-soaked alleyway at night.

Collora achieves an excellent look for the Dark Knight. Batman has shed the rubber suit with plastic muscles in favor of an actor who has actual muscles. Batman’s costume is once again tights, and guess what? These tights look good! And I’m not talking about “good” in the homoerotic way, but in such a way that it’s believable. Most filmmakers have shied away from faithfully translating costumes used in the comic book onto the movie screen. The one exception has been Superman. Here, Batman is wearing tights, and his cape is actually a cape. I.e. Batman doesn’t look like he’s wearing about 50 pounds of rubber.

The above is the good news. The bad news is that Batman, although he appears very mysterious for about 30 seconds, ends up being a back alley bruiser for the rest of the short. At one point even the Joker gets the drop on Batman. Clark Bartram, the actor playing Batman, doesn’t look like he knows martial arts. Remember now — the comic book Batman spent decades traveling the world learning all manners of martial arts; the guy was as lethal with his gadgets as he was without them. As Batman, Bartram looks like he should be in a boxing ring slugging away, not delivering fatal strikes with precision and grace.

“Batman: Dead End” isn’t the best Batman as I’ve heard it being called, but it’s close. It certainly has the look and feel down, although tossing in the Predators and Aliens was a bit superfluous.

Sandy Collora (director) / Sandy Collora (screenplay)
CAST: Clark Bartram …. Batman
Andrew Koenig …. The Joker