THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
In November 2013, a five-year-old boy named Miles Scott captured the world's attention. Having survived leukemia, he was granted a wish by the Make-a-Wish Foundation, the charity dedicated to giving critically ill children magical experiences that help restore some of the childhood they lost while dealing with their health issues. Miles wanted to be Batman for a day. He succeeded. The story of how that took place and became a worldwide phenomenon is told in the documentary Batkid Begins, on DVD October 6, and also available on Digital HD platforms.
The movie, directed by Dana Nachman, begins with an introduction, cleverly presented via comic book animation, in which Miles' parents talk about learning that their little boy had cancer. He endured a lot of unpleasant treatments in the hospital, eventually managing to get the disease to go into remission. During this time, the Make-a-Wish Foundation offered to grant him his wish. Upon hearing it, the director of the San Francisco office – a saintly woman named Patricia Wilson – came up with the idea of staging several fake “crimes” around the city, then allowing a batsuit-wearing Miles to bust the villains behind them. As she put the event together, it escalated far beyond what anyone could ever have imagined.
Batkid Begins is a really heartwarming film, as it shows how this story inspired people to get involved. In addition to getting acrobat Eric Johnston to play Batman and guide Miles through his citywide adventures, Wilson was able to draw from a variety of people and organizations who wanted to assist when they heard about the plan. A local opera company helped with costumes. Hans Zimmer, the composer for Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, wrote a special piece of music for the event. A social media company provided outreach efforts. Locations, items, and services were donated, free of charge. And, perhaps most importantly, thousands of people turned out to cheer Miles during his day, some even flying in to San Francisco just to be a part of it.
The movie deftly conveys how Miles' wish spurred the imagination of so many, allowing it to become a massive public event, rather than just the simple little activity it was originally intended to be. Perhaps every bit as interesting is that the documentary cameras catch some of the minor hiccups that occurred, including a few late arrivals and Miles' short-lived desire to cut the day short due to being tired. All of it underscores what a massive undertaking this wish was, and how so many people worked collaboratively to make one young boy overflow with happiness. You can see the sheer joy on his face as he learns about each new adventure he's about to embark upon.
Batkid Begins presents the chain of events directly and in a straightforward manner, which is the exact right way to go. There is no need for embellishment here. In the end, you come away with a very important message, which is that, no matter what you hear on the nightly news, there are still lots of good people in the world, willing to sacrifice and donate to bring a tiny bit of light into someone else's life. If you don't have a huge smile on your face at the end of Batkid Begins, there may be something clinically wrong with you. This might not be the deepest or most important documentary ever made, but who cares? With great cheer and good spirit, it tells a true story that will restore your faith in humanity.
( 1/2 out of four)
Batkid Begins is rated PG for some mild thematic material. The running time is 1 hour and 27 minutes.
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