Superhero Shorts: Arkham Rising
Superhero Shorts: Arkham Rising
Welcome to another edition of Superhero Shorts where I take a look at a superhero themed fan-film and talk a little bit with its creators. This time I was clued into a new Batman short film by the director himself, Tito Guillen. It’s called Arkham Rising and it fills in what Christopher Nolan left out when it comes to some of the inmates within Arkham Asylum. You can watch it at ArkhamRising.com or right below.
This was another great looking Batman short. I thought it fit in quite well with the Dark Knight Rises, and was interesting to try and figure out who some of the inmates were. It was a little jarring to see the Joker without his warpaint on, though it does make sense to have him that way. In this version of the Batman universe it was just paint and hair coloring that the Joker would put on, rather than some chemical accident that made him look that way permanently that I’m used to from all the other Batman works I’m familiar with. Even so, it’s an unusual vision of the character that I think works in this context, especially since it’s almost something of a surprise reveal at the end. I also liked the inclusion of the lesser known villains like the Mad Hatter and Calendar Man, who I had never even heard of until talking with the creators. It’s a nice, quick look at the inside of Arkham Asylum during the Dark Knight Rises, and the writing of Bane’s speech was very fitting with the rest of Nolan’s movie. I would have liked to have seen a few more touches, maybe give the other one or two random inmates some other touch of Batman lore, but otherwise I thought it was a pretty decent shot. Bonus points for including Harleen Quinzel at the beginning. But enough from me, let’s hear from the writer/director of the short Tito Guillen as well as the producer, Todd Hillier.
Bubbawheat: First off, what was it about Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight rises that inspired you to create your own version of a deleted scene in his movie?
Tito Guillen: It was more Todd’s idea than mine. A group of friends and us went to see The Dark Knight Rises when it premiered. We spoke about what we enjoyed in the movie and Todd felt very strongly that that Joker’s whereabouts should have been at least mentioned. I felt the Joker was not relevant to the plot and understood why Nolan left mention out of the film due to Ledger’s death. After a long conversation regarding “what if’s” we, as a group, came up with a general spec story of how the Joker would have canonically fit into TDKR and I wrote the script shortly there after.
Todd “Toddske” Hillier: When I watch films, I really get into the universe and follow the characters. The Joker was such a integral character in The Dark Knight and he left such a huge impact on Gotham City, I felt the character deserves to be at least mentioned in the continuation of the story. I completely understand why he was left out of TDKR (in respect for Heath Ledger) but Nolan has developed such an amazing world with his Batman saga, a character as big as The Joker could not be left out of it once he was established.
BW: I totally agree that it’s hard to keep the Joker out of something once he pops into it, at least without killing him like Tim Burton did. Can you talk a little bit about the decision to keep Bane and his men mostly obscured?
TG: The idea was to keep the audience’s association to the characters as close to the original actors who played them as possible. It’s why we chose to focus more on the other inmates from the Batman Mythos that Nolan had not touched on.
TH: Exactly. When people think Bane in Christopher Nolan’s universe, they think Tom Hardy. We want the viewer to know we are set within the Nolan films so it was best to not really reveal the characters that are already established in the films. The audience already knows what they look like.
BW: What was your fundraising process like, did you use a crowdsourcing site, or did you come up with the funds through more traditional means?
TG: We used a lot of “favor-dollars” and we funded the whole thing ourselves. The final budget came out to be just under $3,000 CAN
TH: This was referred to as a passion project by most of us. A lot of our cast and crew enjoyed working on the project for the simple fact that we were having fun. We all enjoyed working on a project that gives a nod to a series of films that we loved so much.
BW: I hate to admit, but I wasn’t quite as familiar with all of the villains you referenced inside of Arkham prison aside from the Mad Hatter. Where did you come up with the cast of characters to use, and how did you decide what kind of look to give them?
TG: Calendar Man, Riddler, and The Mad Hatter. Our Calendar Man is a cross between the Long Halloween and the Arkham Asylum/City video games. Our Riddler is more akin to some of the movie rumors that were on the internet after The Dark Knight came out regarding a Riddler that works with the law to catch The Batman, to that end, he is not far from The Riddler in a great fan film “Batman: Puppet Master” directed by Bryan Nest. Our Mad Hatter is actually a more original interpretation. We actually have ‘profiles’ of each of them planned. The first one came out this week for The Mad Hatter.
TH: When we were creating the scene, we wanted to place different characters in our film that fans of the comics would recognize. The characters of Batman are so vast, it was fun to pick a few of our favorites from different Batman source material and give them a look that would fit into our interpretation of the Christopher Nolan universe.
BW: I completely forgot about the Riddler in there. Do you agree with Nolan’s decision to completely excise the Joker from even being mentioned in the Dark Knight Rises, or do you think it’s more appropriate for it to be handled in non-canon avenues like your film?
TG: IMHO Nolan did an amazing job with his entire Dark Knight Trilogy. I understand why he excised the character but had it not been for Ledger’s death, I would have really been keen on seeing him in the role of the Judge instead of Jonathan Crane. There’s an episode of Bruce Timm’s Batman TAS that has a mock-trial that parallels that concept and given the brilliant way that Nolan and Goyer have incorporated the Batman Mythos into the trilogy, I feel it would have fit well. Our concept was done based on the resources available to us, it’s a fan effort to expand on the great world Nolan created.
TH: I think everyone understands why The Joker was excluded from TDKR. I always thought that if Heath Ledger was still alive we would have a completely different 3rd Batman movie. With that said, the final film and entire trilogy Nolan created is absolutely amazing. TDKR gave an excellent ending to the characters that were established and I believe it gave a good finale feel to the saga. The benefits of living in this day and age is that you can create what you imagine. I believe a lot of people were discussing the whereabouts of The Joker during the events of TDKR the same as we were. With technology the way it is, fans can now film their own interpretations and put them on the internet for others to see and discuss.
BW:Is there anything else that you would like to add?
TG: As I mentioned, there’s still a few special features to release for Arkham Rising in the coming weeks. Aside from that, my next project will be set in the style of Raimi’s campy horror. Hoping to have it out early January.
TH: Tito has an amazing library of short films on his website at Hyperphotonic.com. Aside of some Arkham Rising extras, he has a few original ideas that I want to help him develop over the next year!
BW: And finally, as I ask everyone I talk to, what’s your favorite superhero movie?
TG: Well, my favorite super-hero is Spider-Man; but to this day, the super-hero movie that still brings out the kid in me is the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie. It’s by no mean the best, but it has a warm place in my heart.
TH: one of my favorite Super-Hero movies for modern day is The Incredible Hulk, but like Tito said a movie that will consistently bring a smile to my face is one I seen as a child, and one that I cannot wait to show my son, The Rocketeer!
I haven’t watched the Rocketeer in forever, there’s still so many great superhero movies I have left to see. Thanks so much for talking with me and I look forward to seeing the rest of the villain profiles, especially so I can learn more about Calendar Man, and I hope you do one on Harleen as well, I liked the little harlequin nod you did in the first profile. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.