Big budget blockbusters, in certain areas, have really stepped up in quality. We expect so much more from our entertainment, and I think we have plenty to be happy about. What you may not know is that fan made films have also stepped up in quality. Whether from self-imposed competition with the Major Studios or easier means of funding, there are some impressive efforts from fans in making comic adaptations.
As much as I enjoy the big screen efforts at adapting my favorite characters, there is something about these fan films. For one, they have fewer restrictions since they’re not “officially” licensed or approved by the copy-right holders. In fact, certain films have been taken down or ordered not to be released because they deviate too much from the Source Material (one because it was “too good”). Secondly, because the films are literally made by fans, they tend to be more creative than origin story, dance number, or a three-villain slugfest. Take, if you will, Thomas Jane’s short film about the Punisher, “Dirty Laundry.” Jane having played the Punisher in the self-titled 2004 film, financed and starred in “Dirty Laundry” because of the unlikelihood of him playing the character again.
(WARNING: THESE FILMS ARE NSFW!!!)
The film acts as day-in-the-life for Jane’s version of Frank Castle, sadly the closest we’ll get to seeing him again in the role. The potential to use fan films as a bridge or replacement for official sequels is endless. Many fans were hoping for a Venom stand-alone movie after Spider-Man 3, if for no other reason than “Hope Springs Eternal.” Unsurprisingly, it never happened because Sony was deciding to reboot the franchise. It left the door open for Joe Lynch to create a movie that stands on its own legs as well as a fan film.
While those two examples were extensions of other films, some filmmakers have sought to bring a character to life on their own terms with their own continuity. An example is “Grayson: Earth One,” a take on DC’s current line of reader-friendly Graphic Novels based on popular characters.
It presupposes a lot of things, like that Bruce Wayne hadn’t adopted Dick Grayson after his parents’ murder, or that without his intervention he still would’ve become a crimefighter. That is the point of fan-made works though, a unique perspective on a property that they love. They have the chance to put their own spin on the Source Material, which other fans may or may not enjoy. One such film was the gritty Power Rangers reboot that retools the Might Morphing Power Rangers TV show continuity, and also includes both James Van Der Beek and Katie Sackoff in the cast.
To be honest, I don’t care for this. The CGI is impressive, the cast is somewhat high-profile, and the fighting is blood-rushing, but it strikes me as missing what endeared Power Rangers to several generations in favor of making it realistic or “Adult.” It could be telling that the director wants to do a Captain Planet film for his next project. However, he did make his vision a reality and the effort shows.
I chose these four films because of their unique methods in adapting popular characters. All of them rely on suspense and tell a simple story of the main character going from A to B, almost like comic books used to do. While they make a splash when they are first released, people seem to forget they exist (not surprising with the steady stream of new media we get almost every day), and I thought fan-made films should be celebrated as their own thing. They’re pretty much Cosplay and Fan-Fiction taken to the ultimate extreme, and are done with little reward or return of investment.
In spite of that, I’m curious as to why we haven’t seen more of them. Has the trend died down? Are the “real movies” too good right now? Or is this just a slow down while new creators grab investments to produce their work? The possibilities just excite me with their potential. Barring the more outlandish characters, there’s no reason why we couldn’t have a quality short film starring characters that won’t get a major role ANYTIME soon.