See this fan-made film now, before DC’s lawyers stop it.

And before Hollywood (hopefully) puts the Shoenkes to work with a real budget.

Title: “City of Scars”

Cast and Crew

Directed by Aaron Shoenke
Written and produced by Aaron and Sean Shoenke
Music by Sean Shoenke

Kevin Porter as Batman/Bruce Wayne
Paul Molnar as the Joker
Madelynn Rae as Harley Quinn
Jay Caputo as Arnold Wesker/Scarface
Dylan Vorhees and Hunter Gordon as boy
Katie Joy Horwitch as Renee Motoya
Christopher Parker as Crispus Allen
Guy Grundy as Victor Zsasz
Joe Allen Price as Councilman Johnson
David Chan as Drug Hustler
Tess Kielhamer as Black Canary
Nicole Klepper as Arkham Nurse
Carlos Baca as Arkham Guard
Jason Koesema as Arkham Doctor
A.C. Carter as Henchman

Synopsis

The Joker kidnaps a ten-year-old boy and murders his parents. Batman finds the case cutting a little too close, and begins to question his methods.

High Point

The film represents an astounding achievement, especially considering its budget. Hollywood has to get away from needlessly bloated budgets in superhero and action movies, and return to telling engaging stories that have effects that serve the story. With $26,000.00, the Shoenke Brothers have given us a credible recreation of a comic-book with a visually stunning mise-en-scène created by carefully framing appropriate, suitably dressed real-world environments.

Also, have we seen life-action Harley Quinn (not as the psychiatrist, but as Harley Quinn) and Scarface before?

Low Point

The derivative noir narration has been done to death, and here it verges on parody. While some of it serves an important purpose in this pop-psychologically-heavy film, it just as frequently distracts. We don’t need to be told that Batman put a tracking device on the Joker when we see it a moment later.

The Scores

Originality: 3/6 Clever the film may be, but it isn’t a very original story or depiction, however. City of Scars borrows heavily from the Dark Knight’s long history, and most especially, The Killing Joke.

Of course, since about 1970, every gritty criminal investigation in a motion picture requires that the detective visit a strip bar.

Effects: 6/6. What think you see remains as important as what you see.

Story: 4/6. I enjoyed the story, though I found it somewhat predictable. Despite the cast list, “City of Scars” emphasizes protagonist, antagonist– and one very young victim. It hasn’t been as crammed with villains as it may appear.

Acting: 5/6. The acting varies. There’s an artificiality here that can be hard to avoid in faithful comic-book adaptations, and does not consistently work. Madelynn Rae sings the theme song and turns in an excellent depiction of Harley Quinn. Jay Caputo gives (so far as I can determine) the first live-action depiction of Arnold Wesker/Scarface, DC’s turn on the disturbed ventriloquist. His interaction with Batman proves memorable, darkly humorous, and disturbingly touching. Batman gets Wesker to talk by threatening to decapitate his dummy, Scarface.

Production: 6/6 You don’t need to build an overpriced, overdesigned set to create Gotham City; you just need to find the right locations in the modern places that inspired it. Even the soundtrack matches Hollywood. Why do people with access to licenses and millions of dollars so often fall short of the efforts of dedicated fans? The film, for better and worse, captures the feel of the darker Batman comics.

Emotional response: 4/6.

Overall: 5/6. You have to give the filmmakers points for accomplishing so much for so little.

“City of Scars” receives 33/42