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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Filmmaking > Shorts > Fans > Superheroes > Industry > Behind The Mask: The Batman Dead End Story (2015/Candy Factory DVD)

Behind The Mask: The Batman Dead End Story (2015/Candy Factory DVD)

Picture: B- Sound: B- Extras: D Documentary: B

The start of the fan film craze leads back to filmmaker Sandy Collora's groundbreaking short Batman Dead End in 2003. If you're unaware of it, this fan film was the first time that a filmmaker tackles a big property on a minimal budget whilst actually creating and designing the costumes and world himself. In the short, Batman and the Joker both encounter a clan of Predators and Aliens, which culminates in an ultimate (and fun) battle to the death! Be sure to seek this short film out and check it out before seeing this documentary Behind The Mask: The Batman Dead End Story (2015) for maximum enjoyment.

This insightful documentary highlights Collora's interesting film career as both a director, writer, & sculptor and his years working with Stan Winston, Rick Baker, Neil Adams, and many other big Hollywood heavyweights on some huge projects in the '90s, including Jurassic Park and Men In Black to name a few. What's inspiring about this documentary is that it proves that if you have the ambition to do it, that anything is possible. Here at the top of his game in the Special Effects world, Collora decided to abandon these dreams for the one that he ultimately has always had - to be a film director. Unlike many others, he actually made this dream a reality.

Here we have a filmmaker whose love for Batman, Aliens, and Predator helped his career more than he could have ever thought by putting all three characters (and worlds) in a blender and making his own project outside of the studio system. While some people questioned this logic (and that you can't necessarily make money off copyrighted characters), Collora trudged forward and wowed at the San Diego Comic-con to sold out screenings, magazine publications, and soon found even more reach in the digital realm years later. One of the Predators in the film, the ''Big Red'' Predator, was even produced by NECA into an incredible (and bestselling) action figure - something unheard of for a fan film to pull off.

Using his favorite filmmaker, James Cameron, as an inspiration, Collora is first and foremost an unbelievable visual artist (in terms of costuming, maquette making, and conceptual art) with highly detailed work that is up there with the best of them. This doc features insightful interviews from both Collora's peers, himself, and others in the industry that are quick to point out both his strengths and his flaws and how he learned from past mistakes, which is one thing I liked about this. This doc isn't purely trying to feed the filmmaker's ego by saying how great he is every five seconds, but is more or less painting an actual picture of how hard it is for someone with talent to break into the modern Hollywood studio system as a genre filmmaker in this day and age. It also shows the Director's other passion in exploring the ocean and various other underwater adventures that he has had off land, which adds to the piece.

Not settling for making just another sequel, you have to hand it to Collora for passing on several projects presented to him over the years and sticking to his guns, making films that he himself wants to see one and that are of his own creative vision. Two of which, his sci-fi feature Hunter Prey (2010) and new short film project Shallow Water (2017), both got finished and widely released to the masses. (Be sure to seek out Shallow Water online and give the twenty some odd minute short a watch!)

Presented in standard definition DVD with a 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio and a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track, there isn't anything terribly wrong with the transfer, nor particularly impressive. The editing and digital animation within the piece is strong and the audio is consistent throughout with a nice score to go along.

No extras, which is a shame as you would think that the Batman: Dead End short would be an obvious choice or at least a trailer for Shallow Water. Nothing. Not even a menu. Missed opportunity, though another edition may surface.

Being an independent filmmaker (especially in the Sci-Fi and Horror genre) myself, I found a lot of inspiration in this documentary and spent equal time in awe of the work that Mr. Collora has done. I will definitely look back at Batman: Dead End with more fondness after seeing this doc and would highly recommend it if you're a filmmaker or genre film fan.

- James Lockhart



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