Fan Films@24 Panels: DARK KNIGHT LEGACY

Dark Knight Legacy is a 7-minute fan film set one year after Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. It’s directed by Brett Register, produced by Denise Pantoja and TJ Rotell and written by Woody Tondorf and Chris Landa.

Here’s the premise:

The film following “Robin” John Blake’s heroic journey to protect the symbol of Batman from the lethal, relentless attacks of a masked vigilante known only as the Red Hood.

Here’s a fan film that set itself up as a teaser for what could’ve been a possible web series — all it would’ve needed was fan support and crowd funding to help it along. Alas, the Indigogo campaign page returns a dead link, and it’s confirmed that the whole idea came crumbling down after a legal notice from Warner Bros. pulled the plug on the operation.

Co-creator Woody Tondorf isn’t against WB’s cease-and-desist letter at all, saying “It’s nothing against the short itself – that’s self-funded and the video doesn’t run ads so no money is made, it’s just the fundraising we can’t do.” So, the good news is that WB isn’t looking to prevent fans from creating fan films, unlike Marvel Studio’s recent cease-and-desist against Mike Pecci’s Punisher: The Dead Can’t Be Distracted which was utterly buried before it was released.

The time of free-flowing fan films may be at an end, folks. Ultimately, no Big Studio is in the wrong for needing to protect its properties. But, that said, I strongly believe that growing the value of a brand is more successful when corporations find ways to accommodate the willingness of the fan community to contribute efforts to supporting the brands they love. Alas, time will tell what this means for the fan film enthusiasts!

Dark Knight Legacy opens up with a warning that it has scenes that could potentially trigger epileptic seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy. This warning should be heeded even for those who aren’t sensitive to epileptic seizures. The main combat scene is well executed–at least what can be seen–because the majority of the action takes place in strobe lighting after a flash-bang grenade goes off.

This never-to-be web series opens up with the heads of a different mob families gathering to talk business. We’re presented with a version of Oswald Cobblepot, a.k.a. Penguin, that isn’t the typical short, rotund, wobbling caricature of a man. Here, Oswald is tall and stands straight, and proud; he conveys a strong presence amongst the other mobsters. The only identifiers giving him his villain alias being a beak-like nose, a “flipper” hand deformity, and his taste in expensive suits and flamboyant silk cravat. In any case, none of this is really important by the time we’re a quarter of the way into the short film.

Enter the strobe-grenade mentioned earlier. If I could actually see the combat choreography, I may have found this short film more enjoyable. The unfortunate truth is that, for 30-seconds, you’re pretty much squinting to make out limited details that aren’t quite enough to “fill in the blanks.” What is apparent is that the Red Hood is a badass bastard who shows no leniency against villainy in a world post-Batman. He’s a competent combatant, he’s relentless, he’s thorough in his message against crime. He’s everything Batman was… well, except he’s an insane cold-blooded murderer.

Red Hood, Jason Todd, the “second Robin” murdered by Joker, resurrected in Ra’s al Ghul’s Lazarus Pits, this is the Red Hood of the comics. Seeing as the comic version of Red Hood couldn’t exist in the world of the Dark Knight films, as an audience, we’re given the seeds of what this Red Hood could be in a world where “Robin” Drake takes up his role as Nightwing to continue the legacy of Batman.

This short goes a step further to introduce a different Bat-Family member into the fold–Stephanie Brown, a.k.a the “fourth Robin,” aka the “second Batgirl” (I know the Bat-Family is fun, ain’t it!), except here we see her as a Gotham Police Department law enforcement agent. After a quick interaction with Nightwing, the stage is set for what could have proven to be a pretty remarkable crowd-funded web series.

The production as a whole could hold its own as a web series, and it makes me wonder why, nowadays, this direction isn’t a viable option for the Big Studios? Netflix original programming is already a thing, so why not have some of these lower budget concepts launch on these web-centric platforms? These are perfect environments to test comic property viability, gather intel on fan reception and listen to community feedback.

If it becomes a standard practice for the Big Studios to crush and bury fan films it’s my sincere hope that these indie studios continue to create new works–create original works–make them “inspired by” works, even… but continue to create new works. It’s important that the small guys keep demonstrating to the corporate titans what’s possible in this genre, and recently fan films are doing a damn fine job of making the Big Studios look like schmucks.

NunoXEI

Nuno XEI is a programmer and designer by day; artist and writer by night. Always entertained by his overtly energetic pug, Mogwai, and forever distracted by ideas and projects, it’s a wonder anything productive actually gets done at all. Currently, the biggest project being worked on is a 272-page comic project called “Raven Nevermore” and an 88-page graphic novel called “Koroo, the Black Lion” for his small press, XEI.IO.

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