I am a child of the late eighties and early nineties. One of my happiest childhood memories was going to the movies with a few friends and my brother on my birthday to see the newest Batman movie. I loved that movie, and as almost any kid of the time, I loved Batman as well. As more movies were released I went to the theatre to see them as well. This love of mine had pretty much died however by the time I went to college and the disaster that was Batman & Robin was released in 1997. I was never really into comics so I didn’t know the true story of Batman, or the lore and background behind the other characters. I just thought that Batman was Bruce Wayne and Robin was Dick Grayson, boy was I wrong. Fan films have really helped me right this and many other wrongs, and fill in a lot of missing information. This is a rather nice segway into this week’s fan film review.
Just this last month a new fan film (or a DC Comics Web Series as they call it) was released on YouTube. Created by an ambitious group of young filmmakers called HiTop Films who want to ‘bring the abstract to life’. The film is called Robin: The Bird and the Brain and is inspired by the Batman animated series, and focuses on Robin and the Riddler. This is where I myself needed some schooling because of my lack of Batman knowledge. This film follows the Jason Todd Robin, not the Dick Grayson Robin, so before I get too far into my review let me take a moment to explain a little Robin lineage for you.
The Robin character was created by the comic book artists Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson and was first introduced in ‘Detective Comics #38’ of April 1940. The first Boy Wonder was Dick Grayson, an orphaned acrobat who Bruce Wayne adopted. Grayson eventually left Batman and became the standalone superhero Nightwing. Grayson left Batman in the 1980’s and he was replaced with Jason Todd. Todd was Robin for a while until he was brutally murdered by The Joker in 1989’s ‘A Death in the Family’. Jason however did not stay dead for long and after a ‘reality changing incident’ (Wikipedia’s words) he was brought back to life and became the Red Hood. Following Todd, Robin became almost a revolving door character. Next there was Tim Drake, then Stephanie Brown, Drake returned again for a small stint until Robin.5, Bruce Wayne’s son Damian took up the cowl. One has to think, why so many sidekicks?
Robin: The Bird and The Brain is visually a very well done film, from all of the outside shots to the inside shots, the transitions and the cutscenes it was all editing very well together. What lets this film down is the story, the acting and the costumes. Let’s start with Robin, he is the lead character, and he is also the most disappointing character and this affects the entire film. The story is that Jason Todd is going up alone against the Riddler (Edward Mygma) while Batman is away from Gotham. This seems like a simple and somewhat enjoyable film, however, it very quickly gets convoluted, and it is easy to lose track of where the story is going from one shot to the next. The two main points that I will focus on that lost it for me with this film (and I will warn you that there will be spoilers coming up) are Robin wearing nice new and very bright Timberland Boots, and his teenage obsession with his cell phone. Let me address each issue, first the Tim’s.
The boots themselves do not bother me, I have a pair myself for when I work around the house. It’s that I don’t see them as part of the Robin costume and throughout the film they really stand out, particularly during the fight scene in the alley. Of the entire film this was the most disappointing part, the fight looked and felt staged and fake, unlike some of the other films I have reviewed (Shadows: An Overwatch Film and The Grey) it was not convincing or believable, and this really hurts a fan film. Second the cell phone. Apart from the fight scene that I just talked about, Robin’s main weapon throughout the film is a cell phone. Robin uses it to talk with the Oracle who is another obscure character from the comics. Barbara Gordon, daughter of Commissioner Gordon and one time Batgirl was shot by The Joker through the spine and was confined to a wheelchair. Barbara turned herself into a computer genius and information broker called Oracle. I feel that this could have been done better, I am not a script writer by any means, I write and Podcast about them, but there is so much that could have been done here such as pretending that there is a wireless headset and earpiece system instead of a cell phone. It like the boots took something away from the character, like he was not really prepared to go out alone. I don’t mind the Riddler using the cell to taunt Robin, but I feel he is a little too attached to it, it just could have been done better.
There is a lot more that I could say about this film from the annoying Christmas music playing in the background to the confusion of the Riddler characters motivation, was he a villain or a Punisher like character guiding Robin as a sort of moral compass of the film. At the very end of the film it does say that the film was made for about $300, so maybe that is a reason for a lot of the issues I discussed. Overall I enjoyed this film (despite the faults I pointed out), and I will wait and watch for the next episode when it is released, hopefully in the future episodes some of the issues will be address. This film gets Fan Film Boy Rob’s half thumbs up.
Robert is one of the hosts of the Fan Film Boyz Podcast, a podcast that discusses, reviews and helps promote fan films! For more in-depth discussion and interviews with directors, writers, actors and actresses, give the podcast a listen. Keep your eyes peeled for future columns by Robert.