BATKID BEGINS Is An Awesome Display of Human Decency – DIFF 2015 Movie Review
Batkid Begins, a documentary directed by Dana Nachman (Witch Hunt, Love Hate Love, The Human Experiment) chronicles the story of 5 year old cancer patient Miles Scott’s wish to be Batman for a day and the unexpected outpouring of support that met that wish. This incredibly emotional and impactful film goes behind the scenes of the insanity that was the Batkid moment in 2013 and takes the viewer on a journey with Miles, his family, and an incredible team of wish granters. This documentary is sure to make a big splash with audiences when it opens later this year. Future plans are also in the works to adapt the documentary into a narrative feature produced by and starring Julia Roberts.
Batkid opens with a quick preview of Miles as Batkid and the craziness of what would happen on his wish day. For viewers unfamiliar with his story, this is a good primer to set up what will follow. For me, someone who only partially followed the story on social media as it was happening, I was immediately overcome with emotion by the sight of THOUSANDS of people, all gathered together to support Miles. I knew it was crazy, but this? I had no idea, and just a few brief images sent me over the edge for reasons I didn’t fully understand until I got to the end of the film.
After the opening, the film dives back in time to the beginning of Miles’s story. Miles Scott was diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukemia when he was 18 months old. As a child with a life threatening illness, he qualified for a wish from the Make-a-Wish Foundation. His parents decided to wait until he was finished with treatments to begin the Make-a-Wish process. Over the next few years Miles became increasingly fascinated with super heroes and the idea of fighting for justice. The documentary briskly moves through this part of Miles’s life, touching on his love of super heroes and his understandable empathy for those who must fight against adversity, all packaged within the pages of an animated comic book, a device that is used sparingly and works really well in the film.
Once Miles has made his wish the film kicks into high gear and really takes off with great momentum. This section of the film feels a lot like a “gettin’ the team together” type film, perhaps one with a fearless leader bringing together people with disparate powers talents. Patricia Wilson, CEO of the San Francisco office of the Make-A-Wish Foundation is the Nick Fury of this effort and she assembles a really great team of people. The list is too long to include here, but some highlights are Mike Jutan, an animator at LucasFilm who will play The Penguin, Mike De Jesus, an executive at Twitter who takes on the role of live tweeter for the day, Greg Suhr, the Chief of Police of San Francisco and Mile’s version of Commissioner Gordon, and Ed Lee, the Mayor of San Francisco. They all come together to do what they can to make Miles’s wish a reality. The real star of the team though is Eric Johnston who plays the Batman to Miles’s Batkid. Miles and Jonston’s relationship is one that the film explores in-depth and is truly heartwarming.
That this day would be special for Miles was a surprise to no one. This is what Make-A-Wish does and, as the film acknowledges, this is not the first time they’ve pulled off a “superhero for the day” wish. What made Batkid such a phenomenon and such a big moment in 2013 was the completely unexpected amount of support that would flood in via social media, traditional media, and in the form of thousands of people descending upon downtown San Francisco, all for Miles. A quick call for volunteers to attend a ceremony somehow snowballed into thousands upon thousands of tweets and Facebook posts, not to mention stories from media outlets all over the world.
As the film begins to mine this tremendous outpouring of support it takes on an air of poignancy I wasn’t expecting. Why did this strike a chord with so many people? What about this wish brought so many people together? More importantly, what meaning does this day have for those that participated in it? For Miles, a five year old kid, the insane amount of people that were there cheering him on is not likely to register with him until he is older. So what does it mean for the adults that were there? For Miles’s parents? For any of the random strangers who showed up to cheer or watched it all unfold on social media? It’s as if for a moment we, as adults, remembered what it was like to be a kid and believe you can be anything, to believe you can be Batman. We remembered what it was like to play and use our imaginations and have fun. And we remembered that, basically any time we want, we can get together and do something amazingly positive. Batkid Begins reminded me that in a world with awful things, sometimes people can be good and decent and kind.
It was this sentiment and the awesome display of human decency that really got to me as I watched the film. That powerful, singular feeling ended up adding layers to the other emotional aspects of this story and left me a bit of an emotional wreck by the time the film was over. Batkid is a profound, moving, and thrilling documentary that is at once buckets of fun and a real exploration of the good side of humanity. The films opens June 26th of this year.