Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour min. Our content ratings (1-10);
Violence 1; Language 0; Sex /Nudity 1.
Our star rating (1-5): 4
Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
Aging Hippies might look back to the Woodstock Festival on August 15 to 18, 1969 as the greatest Love-in of all time, but the thousands who thronged the streets of San Francisco on November 15, 2013 will argue that the day that Batkid and Batman saved Gotham, there was far more altruistic love on display—and probably far more drug free. Thanks to social media, as well as the normal media outlets, the local event was shared around the world, some estimating that well over a billion people watched the carefully planned “rescues” by the dynamic duo.
Indeed, when Patricia Wilson, executive director of the Make-a-Wish Foundation of the Greater Bay Area, learned of the more than three year long battle of five year-old Miles Scott against leukemia and learned that his wish was to become his TV hero Batman, she set into motion a chain reaction that grew into a huge phenomenon totally unexpected. The Mayor and the Police Chief agreed to participate from the very beginning to welcome the little out of towner—Miles lived with his little brother and parents, Nick and Natalie, farmers in a small California town near the Oregon border.
Director Dana Nachman and her co-writer Kurt Kuenne were on hand to shoot behind the scenes footage—of Miles and his family; of the actors who portrayed super heroes, villains, and a damsel in distress; and many others who helped make this such a worldwide event. (This included the man in charge of costuming for the San Francisco Opera, along with his staff, as well as the Batman composer Hans Zimmer! Oh yes, I should mention that President Obama contributed a short video response, “Way to go, Miles!”)
It turned out that the, along with Patricia Wilson, stuntman Eric Johnston became crucial in pulling off the event. This stuntman/inventor donated months of his time to planning the various rescues and playing Batman. He came up with a gadget worn on his wrist that projected pre-taped images of the Police Chief sending out various appeals for Batman and Batkid’s help. He accompanied Miles to the circus performer training gym where he led the boy through the various stunts involved in the rescues. The two bonded closely, Eric even engaging the boy in a Batman handshake that he often used during the day.
The result was that the fear shared by Miles parents that their very shy boy would freeze up was quickly put aside when Miles appeared before the various crowds that had flocked to the announced locations. Dressed in a costume that was donated by another boy whose father had made it for him, Miles is the picture of self-confidence and bravado as he strides forth to combat the Riddler and the Penguin. At lunchtime, when Miles, so recently having endured chemotherapy, is understandably tired and says he wants to quit—his five year-old mind not fully grasping the magnitude of the day—it is Eric who inspires him to continue. Apparently regaining his energy, Miles sets forth again to ride in the borrowed Lamborghini Bat-car to the AT&T Ball Park where the Penguin is holding hostage the San Francisco Giants mascot Lou Seal.
Cynics might scoff at this as one long plug for the Make-a-Wish Foundation and those seeking publicity for themselves. At one point I was wondering, why couldn’t all those people become as enthusiastic in helping the hundreds of Bay area children who were homeless or victims of child abuse. Then I thought of the disciples criticizing the fallen woman for “wasting” so much money on the expensive ointment she was pouring on Jesus’ feet. Such doubts were soon dissolved by the undeniably waves of good will emanating from all the participants—and from the crowds, some members of which flew in from around this and other countries so they could be part of this outpouring of good will.
The filmmakers might have taken us a little deeper into the motivations of the chief participants or explored a little more how Miles was dealing with his pretend fantasy rescues and what was actually happening in the larger world—though we do hear him ask Eric what are so many people doing out there when the two of them look down on the street from the restaurant in which they are eating lunch.
On the same day that I saw this film celebrating human goodness that could be tapped and unleashed for a small boy, I also watched The Stanford Prison Experiment, a docudrama that reveals the darker side of humanity and its abuse of power. Each film does a good job of revealing the heights and the depths to which the human spirit can rise and fall. You are a hard case if your eyes are not a bit moist by th end of this remarkable documentary.
This review with a set of discussion questions will be in the September issue of Visual Parables.