On November 15, 2013, the city of San Francisco came together to grant a Make-A-Wish for five year old boy named Miles Scott battling leukemia. The name Miles Scott probably doesn't ring a bell, but I'd be hard pressed to find someone who hasn't heard of his alter ego, Batkid. "Batkid Begins" comes two years after Batkid saved the town of Gotham (San Francisco coming together in an event that garnered global coverage, even gathering a video shout out from Barack Obama) from the Riddler and the Penguin, while winning over the hearts even the biggest cynic, and puts an even more human perspective on Miles' back story while treating viewers to a first hand account of the big day.
To be perfectly honest, "Batkid Begins" is a bit of a critic proof movie. It's a documentary focused on the generosity of strangers coming together to make the life of a very sick boy better for at least one day. While one could argue the film is incredibly pedestrian from start to finish in its presentation, it's easy to overlook it's ambitious shortcomings when such overwhelming kindness is documented for nearly 90-minutes straight. At the forefront of this kindness is Miles' own Batman, Eric Johnston a former stuntman turned engineer who enlists the help of his wife and friend Mike Jutan to get the ball rolling playing a damsel in distress and The Penguin respectively. Eric's commitment to the project provides a stable focal point for Miles who as the big day goes on appears entirely overwhelmed by the citywide support. It's here that the feature shines in not taking a turn for the exploitative, letting a near early wrap on the day's events by Miles' choosing playout authentically and earnestly. There's no sense of the production prodding a very tired (and still sick) boy into seeing the day's events to their completion; the camera exists to document everything as it happens, showing everything from Miles' disinterest at a key to the city (he thought he was getting chocolate) to scenes of a family getting a "win" during a very trying time.
Technically, "Batkid Begins" is a serviceable piece of filmmaking, it breaks no new ground or dares to do anything but document a story; apart from some clever animated comic panels to bring to life flashbacks of Miles' story, "Batkid Begins" really must rely on the viewer's investment in Miles' story to get from start to finish. Luckily, Miles' courage and the sheer good feelings captured within the runtime make "Batkid Begins" worth watching at least once. It's a story of a day completely devoid of cynicism and a family who believed 100% in the spirit of a truly brave young man who wanted nothing more in the world to be his hero, Batman. It's required viewing for anyone with a heart.
"Batkid Begins" is presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Colors and details are natural and above average respectively. The entire presentation has a lower-budget documentary feel to it.
The Dolby Digital English 5.1 audio track is a bit underwhelming, although 95% of the feature is dialogue driven, either via interview segments or on the streets of a very noisy busy day. The score punctuates transitions occasionally with a bit of life, but is otherwise unobtrusive and unnoticed.
While "Batkid Begins" is a serviceable documentary worth watching, it does seem to mark a bit of exploitation of Miles' story, serving as the focal point for an upcoming dramatization starring Julia Roberts. For those interested in Miles' story, although the feature film hasn't even begun production, I encourage you to see Miles' story as it took place with the people who were there via "Batkid Begins." Rent It.