Batkid Begins 2015
It seems like forever ago when the news of Batkid’s Make-a-Wish in San Francisco hit it big, but it’s actually only been two years. This documentary essentially follows the wish from it’s first inception to the massive media coverage all the way through to the event itself. It doesn’t really go for any bigger picture, it stays with the family and the main players who made the event happen. When all is said and done, it’s a simple story and it’s told very simply. But that doesn’t make it any less touching, inspiring, and amazing to see how it all came together one day in November, 2013.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Batkid Begins follows what ended up becoming the largest single Make-A-Wish event in history. It started when Miles was very young and was diagnosed with Leukemia, the family was contacted by Make-A-Wish but declined the offer at that time because they thought he was too young and hadn’t really found anything specific at that age to be passionate about. It wasn’t until a couple years later when he developed a love of superheroes and especially Batman that they contacted Make-A-Wish for his interview where they discovered that his wish was to “be the real Batman”. The film shows through a series of interviews and footage taken by the family & Make-A-Wish how the organization took that wish and turned it into a special day for Miles that took the world by storm.
The narrative of the film is pretty straightforward as is follows what happened chronologically without very many detours. There’s a lot with the family as well as the main point of contact at Make-A-Wish and Eric Johnston who played Batman for the event. It goes along at a bit of a slow build right until they get to the point where it started to become a viral news story. There was just something about the event and the wish that hit the right people at the right moment and it just expanded exponentially the way things tend to do on the internet. There’s not a lot of examination as to why it went viral in the first place, it’s just taken as it is. It likely just happened to be a perfect mixture of superheroes, a feel good story, a child who defeated cancer, and a wish that many of us would love to have ourselves. There are other elements of the story that also seemed to be glossed over in favor of focusing specifically on Miles’s story. For one thing, this wasn’t the first of these superhero events that Make-A-Wish has done. But most of those were how they originally pitched the wish: a small group of actors, a handful of friends who get together at the local park to act out a scene.
One of the most interesting things to see about how this played out isn’t so much that it was a single person with an ambitious project. It was a combination of the right people in the right roles. Each time someone new was brought into the project, they would know the right person to not only help with a specific aspect of this wish, but they would elevate it to the n-th degree. It wasn’t just about finding a good Batman costume on the internet, it was that they knew a theatrical costume company who could take that Batman costume and make it look as good as they possibly could. And on top of that, they would go on to make the Riddler and Penguin costumes look just as great. It wasn’t just about finding the right guy to play Batman, but it was about finding EJ, an acrobat instructor and part-time inventor who not only could do Batman style stunts that a kid would enjoy, but could really interact with Miles on the right level and go the extra step so that instead of just watching videos on a phone or tablet, that he would make it work with a mini digital projector that he turned into a wrist-projector. He basically made his own Bat-gadget on his own time for this kid. And not only that, but when it broke, the company itself fronted the costs to send him a replacement to help make Miles’ day as special as possible.
But when it finally gets to the day itself and you can see firsthand the way that Miles takes to his new role as Batkid that it really starts to feel like something special. The last half of the film that basically just follows him through his Make-A-Wish day is the best part of it and it does the right thing to mainly just let it play out as it happened, along with a few interviews about what was going on behind the scenes during those moments. One of the best moments and really the best images from the film was during their lunch break. According to Miles’s parents, they could tell that he was getting pretty tired at that point since he would usually be taking a nap around that time. But out the window they show him the message to lead them to the next part of the event where Penguin has kidnapped the San Francisco mascot Lou Seal and you see a close up of his face. And in that moment you can see the struggle in his face. You can see how tired he is and how part of him really wants to call it a day, but he also has this obligation to himself to uphold what Batman stands for. He can’t just let the Penguin win. And that’s what is most powerful about this documentary. It shows this little piece of the inner strength of a child, and how that strength spreads to everyone around him. It definitely has moments where the music swells and tries to tell you that this is a touching moment. But for the most part, it just is touching. Touching, amazing, inspiring, all the feel-good words. No, it’s not a life-changing documentary, it’s really just about a single day in a child’s life that he will remember forever. But that’s enough. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.