Marvel films have become a lynchpin of our pop culture. By 2017, over 50 live-action theatrical movies will have been released based on Marvel properties. It’s incredible to think just how many films this company has spawned. However, the best Marvel film isn’t one that has come out in theaters. In fact, you may not have even seen it.
Fans have produced countless short films over the years. Though many of them have their hearts in the right place, very few capture something truly unique about the character or world they are adapting. Many are also poorly constructed on a technical level. It’s still fun to see this projects, but they rarely elevate themselves beyond being just a fan-made short film about something they love.
The Marvel “Bootleg” Universe
However, some fan films do exist that manage to work as well as, if not better than, most of the big budget Hollywood fare. The best example of this is the bootleg universe films produced by Adi Shankar. Shankar is no stranger to comic book films. He produced 2012’s Dredd, one of the best comic book adaptations in recent years. Shankar is an obvious fan of these properties, and that love extends to the Marvel universe. His first bootleg universe movie was a big deal because it featured Thomas Jane revisiting his role as the Punisher. It also scored Ron Perlman a supporting role. The short was called Dirty Laundry.
The internet went crazy for this. Would this signal Jane’s return to the role in a studio film? Could this actually signal the birth of a new shared universe for the Marvel brand? The success of Dirty Laundry empowered Shankar to produce another bootleg universe movie. And this time, it was going to be even better.
Truth in Journalism
Shankar got Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2, Everly, Holliston, and a great candidate for Deadpool 2) to direct this next entry, and Lynch did something truly special. His short was directly influenced by the classic horror/comedy Man Bites Dog. That film is a faux documentary that follows around a serial killer and documents his unique line of work. Lynch’s version — which faithfully recreates Man Bites Dog to a T — picked out one of Marvel’s most notorious journalists and looked at what his life was like. Who is the character? Watch and see…
Yes, Lynch and Shankar made a Venom fan film. And it is fantastic. Not only does the short have a special visual style that separates it from any other Marvel film, but the character study of Eddie Brock is pitch perfect. It’s also great that the film treats Venom as a horror movie monster. He’s not the alien goofball from Spider-Man 3. He’s legitimately terrifying and saved until the very end like a classic creature feature. And Ryan Kwanten (Jason from True Blood) is so on point as a self-righteous scumbag. It’s one of the best adaptations of a Marvel character ever put on the screen. They even threw in an appearance from Bullseye!
With R-rated comic book films now making a comeback thanks to Deadpool and the upcoming Logan, someone needs to give Lynch a call. It’s obvious that his tastes lean more towards R-rated fare, and a Venom feature film from him could be extraordinary. Of course, it couldn’t take the approach that Truth in Journalism does, but it’s clear that Lynch knows how to put a twisted and one-of-a-kind spin on comic book characters.
Regardless, Truth in Journalism stands as the best movie to come out of the Marvel universe. Sadly, it was the last of the bootleg universe films as Shankar turned his attention to an animated web series based on Judge Dredd. It’s unfortunate that this didn’t take off the way it should have. This harder edged and more adult take on these darker characters is definitely appreciated. We could use more Marvel movies like Truth in Journalism.