Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, aside from their overwhelming popularity and box-office success, are also known for their bleakness. The director is credited with giving an air of seriousness to the superhero genre, tackling darker themes and turning Gotham into a bit of a dystopia. The Dark Knight himself has become an intimidating, conflicted hero. The increasing length of the films, the technical excellence, and the aura of importance have inspired clamor for Oscar nominations and a horde of feverish fanboys. The Dark Knight Rises may get the biggest reaction yet, and it’s already thrown the Internet into a bit of a tizzy.
However, Batman need not be so serious. True, Bruce Wayne has never had the infectious sense of fun that we’re used to with Spider-Man or Iron Man. It wasn’t that much of a stretch when Nolan first took him into the harsh night. Yet that hasn’t stopped many a fan from finding laughter and joy with the character. The best example of this might be the classic live-action TV series from the 1960s, but nerds have kept the love going even in the height of Nolan’s doom and gloom. To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, here are five recent shorts from Batman fans that keep on smiling.
Robin’s Big Date, by James Duffy
Most of the comedy in these shorts comes from the awkwardness of putting superheroes in real life situations, a clever strategy, if hardly new. Yet it still works, particularly in this odd little short from James Duffy. Justin Long plays Robin as a shy, easily intimidated sidekick to Sam Rockwell’s abrasive and abusive Batman. The banter is delightfully embarrassing, especially once Robin’s date shows up to the swanky wine bar and finds herself in Rockwell’s obnoxious gaze. There’s something kind of great about the notion of a deeply irritating superhero.
Batman’s Gonna Get Shot in the Face, by Jacob Drake
As both comic books and comedies continue to evolve, filmmakers can pull together influences from surprisingly disparate places. This animated short combines the deadpan interview style of a single-camera sitcom with the characters of the Justice League, focusing on the awkwardness caused by Batman’s humanity. His complete lack of super abilities irritates the rest of the crew, as they fly him around on their backs and rescue him from various bad guys. Their derision comes in the form of a relaxed profanity, not unlike the best Adult Swim cartoons. Will Batman survive the short, and remain in the League? Not if The Flash has anything to do with it.
The Death and Return of Superman, by Max Landis
Max Landis is, without a doubt, a pretty intense comic book fan. That single fact is why this short works so well. Sure, the cameos from Elijah Wood, Mandy Moore and others make it pretty fun. The quick pace keeps your attention, especially when coupled with Landis’ profane sense of storytelling. Yet at its core, The Death and Return of Superman is one nerd talking from a place of real dorky passion. The topic? DC’s killing off and subsequent revival of Superman, and why it sucked. It takes 17 minutes to tell, but it feels about eight. Sure, Batman is only in it for about 15 seconds but it’s worth it anyway. Oh, and Elijah Wood is hilarious.
Gotham Pizza, by Yes, Hello!
Where would Internet comedy be without the many, many improv troupes that have moved into video? This group, which hails from Ambler, PA, has about 25 shorts on the web including this three-minute riff on the Batman-as-real-dude motif. The Dark Knight, with the Christian Bale voice, tries to order a pizza. Momentary hilarity ensues.
The Knight Waltz, by Chris R. Notarile
Like Gotham Pizza, this short takes a single idea and entertains for a short few minutes. A stylistic twist on the Batman/Catwoman sexual tension, Chris Notarile places a Shostakovich waltz over a rooftop encounter. The music follows their banter, adding an element of dance to the otherwise contentious fight. It’s a simple short built from a clever idea, and a small testament to the dedication of fan filmmakers.