Why Watch? Batman has probably inspired more fan films than any other character, but I appreciate this short film from J.L. Topkis and Matt Landsman because it moves beyond the typical cosplay action sequence by channeling a Batman television show that channeled the Batman serials.
They take their inspiration from a 1992 episode of Batman: The Animated Series (aka the best Batman TV show ever) where young Bruce Wayne is shown watching a show called The Gray Ghost and, in the present-day as Batman, has to find a copy of the show in order to solve a copycat crime. As a bonus, Adam West voices the actor who plays the Gray Ghost in the Animated Series episode.
Here, Topkis and Landsman have imagined the show within a show as a real adventure series, crafting a live-action hero who leaps into young Bruce Wayne’s life at exactly the right moment (with some Sin City-style CGI to help).
To be fair, The Gray Ghost: The Lost Reel (or maybe it’s called Sweating Bullets?) is pure nostalgia and design with a blustery script that follows a formula blazed almost a century ago. That doesn’t stop it from being a lot of fun — an excellent distraction that makes me wish they’d made a longer short.
One warning, though. The acting and fighting in it is stiff like a 1930s serial would be. Not the look-how-accurate-we’re-being version of serial parody that we’re used to, but legitimately broad and direct. Get on board with the homage, and you’ll have a swell time.