'Batkid Begins' is a feel-good doc about the troubles of online life
The beyond heartwarming story of a sick boy who was allowed to be "Batkid" for a day becomes a doc that points to the trouble of remembering viral sensations.
Director: Dana Nachman
3 (out of 5) Globes
As a recreation of a genuinely life-affirming event that many observed as it occurred, “Batkid Begins” isn’t very useful. As a perhaps accidental commentary on the ephemerality of Internet life, with events — even big ones, like the one captured here — coming into being then passing into oblivion, lost in the ever-towering haystack that is Google, it’s fascinating. Granted, words like “ephemerality” were probably never bandied about by the makers of “Batkid Begins,” who first and foremost set out to make a feel-good doc about something that is 100 percent nice. And that, for those who want a tissue and a fuzzy feel, is all it wants to be. And yet it’s more than that anyway.
The story been retold tells of Miles Scott, a young cancer survivor currently in remission. He was asked to pick something for the Make-a-Wish Foundation; he said he wanted to be Batman, or at least Batkid, which is close enough. Amazingly, his wish was granted, and an army of plucky, resourceful, selfless do-gooders were tasked with materializing a grand (and expensive) scenario in which Miles, in full Christopher Nolan-era Batgear, ran around San Francisco, foiling people dressed as Adam West-era villains. It started out small and contained, but word soon spread over social media, to the extent that by the time Miles — who was unaware it was happening until it was happening — put on his gear, the whole world, or the chunk of it glued to online life (as well as Obama and various former Batmen), was watching.
All “Batkid Begins” does is reconstruct this. That may seem insufficient, and the film is padded-out even for what it is. But what’s interesting is less what’s on-screen — as mind-bogglingly heartwarming as it truly is — than the fact that it’s been put together at all. This film version of events was hatched after-the-fact, and yet an embarrassment of footage — of seemingly every second, from all possible angles — existed. What’s more, the event happened both live in San Fran and online, where every moment was tracked over Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and wherever else users can document life as it happens. (Also, credit where credit is due: filmmaker Dana Nachman goes pretty easy on the saccharine, ladling on the sad music early on but keeping peppy for the rest.)
But what happens next? How do you preserve what was very much of a moment? Historically an event like this would happen and then be covered by the news after the fact, perhaps live on as a puff piece on a Sunday night tabloid show. Right now, however, events of this size aren’t you-had-to-be-there affairs; one can follow them as they happen online, the entire global village participating together at once. Possibly without realizing it, “Batkid Begins” captures how humankind (or at least the first world kind) now exists on multiple planes of being. And it captures how there is no adequate way of archiving such affairs. The blogs and newspaper pieces covering this may be forgotten; those who lived it may forget too, their tweets being buried deep into their feed, to be forgotten like the memory balls that gets chucked in “Inside Out.” Indeed, a good way into the 21st century, the best way to preserve something as in-the-moment-thrilling as the Batkid tale is by way of that 120 year old medium known as a motion picture.