Directed by: #AndrewButcher
Written by: #AndrewButcher
If anything has defined the cinematic landscape in the last decade – it’s superhero films. They’re filled to the brim with glamour, awesomeness, and badass characters. Supers are most definitely in vogue – and they’re going to stay around for a while. Last year’s record-smashing Joker has become incredibly influential, and it’s the basis of director Andrew Butcher’s Jack & Bruce; a retelling of the relationship between the manic villain and the biggest superhero in Gotham.
Jack & Bruce takes place in a universe where Bruce Wayne (Ryan Nicholson) has a brother, Jack Wayne (Andrew Butcher). They are like chalk and cheese. Bruce is incredibly successful; while Jack sits at home plagued by his bad mental health. Bruce decides to kick Jack out of the family business, which only enables Jack to fester in his anger and his jealousy. Jack plots his revenge, but these men are no ordinary brothers. Bruce is crime-fighting Batman, while Jack slowly morphs into his alter ego: the maniacal Joker.
There’s a level of finesse in modern superhero movies that an indie short film on a small budget would struggle to achieve, and this is all down to big blockbusters’ extortionate budgets. It’s ambitious to make a film based on an action blockbuster, and it’s not the director’s fault that Jack & Bruce can’t possibly look as polished as a DC film. However, the result is still rather amateurish. This is Butcher’s debut as a director, but the whole movie never seems to take itself seriously. The camera movements are disjointed and unfocused, and it was hard to tell whether the shots were artistic choices or if the camera had just fallen over. The cinematography isn’t particularly inspiring, but neither is the central relationship between the two brothers. In its thirty-minute runtime, no attention is given to the brother’s relationship and, as a result, the falling out between them seems rather meaningless. Bad American accents obscure Nicholson and Butcher’s acting, and between these brothers, there's a relationship lacking in substance.
Butcher’s film is fanfiction. As a medium, fanfiction can be incredibly useful for writers and directors to develop their voices, but there are many limitations posed by them. For the audience, they can be frustratingly inaccessible if they aren’t part of the fandom. Although Batman and the Joker are cultural icons, Jack & Bruce doesn’t establish them as characters and the audience relies on a fact sheet they’ve complied from other Batman adaptations. The film is so strongly influenced by these films, that several of Butcher's scenes are copied directly from Joker. Like Joaquin Phoenix, Butcher dances down the stairs, pulls his mouth into a frown and comically applies clown make-up. The voiceover at the end seems to be directly lifted from Joker’s ending. This short film doesn’t add new dimensions to these characters, but it just reminds you of Phoenix’s stellar performance. Rather than telling an engrossing superhero story, Jack & Bruce is a weak homage to the Joker.
Jack & Bruce lacks the swagger and cool which dominates modern superhero films. Instead, it focusses on trying to be a homage to Todd Phillip’s Joker, and unfortunately, it doesn’t add anything to the superhero conversation. It seemed as though the crew had a blast while on the set, but I only wish that their audience enjoyed this film as much as they did making it.