Someone is trying to kill the kingpins of crime in Gotham City! Can Batman and Robin solve the mystery, even when the clues point to one of their own?
That’s the premise of “Death Wish,” a 12-minute independent production set during the 1990s runs of Batman titles from DC Comics.
The story begins with Batman (who’s mysteriously not identified in the credits) as he and Robin (played by Christopher L. Robinson) enter a crime scene.
Once inside, the Dynamic Duo finds several unconscious henchmen on the floor as Batman uses his imagination to deduce how each person was taken out.
“These are the Riddler’s (Michael T. Coleman) men, all of them,” Robin tells his partner. “So what are you thinking?”
“This is the work of a single assailant,” the Caped Crusader responds, “and whoever it was didn’t escape injury” he says as he points to a blood stain and imagines the black-clad assassin being shot by one of the Riddler’s men.
After finding an empty safe, Batman and Robin look out the window and spot a sack of money that was left behind.
“So this hit on the Riddler’s men wasn’t about the payload?” Robin asks.
“Not entirely,” Batman answers before stating that the attacker didn’t need to hide the money. The Darknight Detective walks over to a closet with the light on inside.
When the heroes open the door, the Riddler crumples to the floor, his mouth overflowing with foam and a needle in his arm.
After analyzing the needle’s contents in the Batcave, Batman states that it was a fast-acting botanical neurotoxin available only on the Far Eastern black market.
The Dark Knight then remarks that an antidote must be found before the pain drives the villain mad.
“You mean more mad?” Robin asks.
Instead of responding, Batman contacts Oracle (Barbara Gordon, whose identity is protected by a computerized head and whose voice is provided by Bonnie Gordon) to ask how Batgirl (then a young Asian woman named Cassandra Crain and played here by Jennifer Zhang, who also wrote the script for “Death Wish”) is doing on an assignment in Hong Kong.
“She’s on track, last I checked,” Oracle replies while working on an antidote to the deadly neurotoxin.
Just then, Oracle receives information from Selina (Kyle, also known as Catwoman and played here by Whitney Moore) and provides the Dynamic Duo with coordinates to the crime scene.
“He’s not gonna say it,” Robin states, “so I will. Thanks, Oracle.”
When the crime-fighters arrive, the situation is eerily familiar to what they encountered earlier that evening. The Scarecrow’s gang has been taken out, and the villain has a needle in his arm that’s affecting him just as the toxin did to the Riddler.
“Somebody’s having a bad night,” Catwoman says dryly.
“You know, Batman, when you said that the Riddler was hit by a neurotoxin, all of my bets were on the Scarecrow,” Robin states.
“So this isn’t your first go-round at the rodeo tonight, I take it?” Selina asks.
“No,” the Dark Knight replies.
“So, handsome,” Catwoman says, “you going to tell me why someone would go through all this trouble and not collect their prize?”
Instead of responding, the Dark Knight again uses his imagination to determine what the black-clothed assassin did to the Scarecrow and his men.
When the villain’s henchmen have been knocked out, one of their guns slid toward the Scarecrow and he picked it up to use defending himself.
But he faced “someone who moved with enough speed and skill to dispense of this many would be able to advance and evade gun shots,” Batman deduces. “Whoever was doing this was being reckless. I was reminded of—.”
In Batman’s imagination, the assassin transforms into … Batgirl!
The Caped Crusader calls Oracle, who has lost contact with her youthful partner.
At that point, Batman is contacted by Nightwing (Matthew Hiscox, director of the fan film), who tells him that Batgirl is back in Gotham and—.
“This ain’t a way to treat a lady, Little Boy Blue,” Harley Quinn (Rayne Bidder) interrupts. “Didn’t Bat Daddy teach you to treat a girl to dinner before you rough her up?”
“We’ll be there soon,” Batman responds, and when they reach the Joker’s lair, Quinn is restrained with a rope.
“Batgirl was here,” Nightwing says. “She came for the Joker, and from the sounds of it, Harley was affected when standing between her and her ‘puddin.’ He escaped.”
“Hey!” Quinn shouts. “I’m the only one who’s allowed to call him by his nickname!”
The Dark Knight asks why Batgirl wanted to kill the Joker but left Harley Quinn alive.
“That’s the part that confuses me,” Nightwing responds. “And Batman, Batgirl’s injured. We have to—.”
Once again, Quinn interrupts Nightwing before telling him to “eat glove” as she hits him in the head with one of her gloves. That causes Harley to break out into laughter and even Robin smiles.
With that, Batman and Robin leave to track down Batgirl and head for the hideout of Poison Ivy (Ali Williams).
“This has Pamela written all over it,” the Dark Knight explains.
“She would have any number of ways of chemically manipulating Cassandra to serve as an agent,” Robin states. “We’ve seen it before.”
“No, we haven’t, not like this,” Batman responds. “Cassandra’s mind is wired differently” since her father trained her to be a ruthless assassin before she joined the Bat family.
“My fault,” the detective says. “I never broke her of her death wish.”
When they reach the hideout, Batman and Robin hear blood dripping onto the floor. They turn and see Batgirl, whose body is bandaged in many places.
As the heroes approach her, she mounts an attack that keeps them both busy until Robin finally knocks Batgirl to the floor, where she picks up a sharp rod and points it at her throat.
“Don’t!” Batman exclaims.
“Yes, darling, don’t,” Poison Ivy says as she slithers into the scene. “You’re far too useful to me alive.”
Spoiler Alert: If you’d rather watch the fan film’s ending yourself, skip down to the link at the end of this article. If not, just continue reading.
But when Batman attempts to approach the villain, Batgirl steps between them.
“I am wondering how you found out it was me,” Ivy says. “Really, I’m dying to know, or should I say she is,” and Batgirl again points the weapon at her neck.
“You let Batgirl spare Harley, and this is the only facility in Gotham that can process the very specific botanical neurotoxin you had her use earlier tonight,” the detective states.
“Encountering an agent of the Bat in Hong Kong was certainly unexpected,” Poison Ivy states as she picks up a crossbow with an arrow tipped with the deadly mixture, “but when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.”
But when the villain shoots at the Dark Knight, Batgirl steps in front of him and takes the hit before collapsing to the floor.
While Poison Ivy uses Batgirl’s plight to escape, Batman asks his female partner if she can hear him.
“Stay,” he continues. “We still have work to do.”
At that moment, Nightwing arrives with the antidote, and the Dark Knight adds: “a lot of work to do.”
Time to put on my 1990s Clint Eastwood hat and get reviewing.
The Good: “Death Wish” is an excellent production on many levels. All the costumes, props, sets and acting are first rate, but what I really enjoyed about this fan film was its take on Batman as the world’s greatest detective.
This concept is often lost these days since the Caped Crusader is usually portrayed as an adventurer who never has to solve a mystery or use something from his utility belt. I like duking it out as much as (if not more than) the next person, but Gotham City’s hero wasn’t called the “Darknight Detective” for nothing.
The Bad: My only quibble is that things occasionally got a bit too dark. I realize that Batman’s world usually takes place at night, but another light bulb or two could have made a difference in the film’s visual aspect.
The Ugly: Judging from the excellent portrayals of many of Batman’s villains, I’d have loved to see how the producers would have handled the Joker. Still, Harley Quinn’s portrayal alone was worth the price of admission.
If you want to know more about the producers of this independent production, turn your Web browser to this site. And if you want to watch this fan film, just click on the link below.