Here we have a fan documentary about Batman, but it’s not what you’d expect. Most fan documentaries will interview the comic artists, go over the character’s fictional and/or publishing history, and include footage of folks who have shelves full of comics and collectibles. Legends of the Knight eschews most of the geeky stuff, and instead goes for the inspirational. The whole movie is short vignettes about people who have been inspired by Batman or have used Batman to inspire others.
There are basically two types of these stories. One is people who have overcome great personal hardships by using Batman as a role model of sorts. The other is people who have used Batman’s symbolism to help others.
The latter category is when the doc is at its most fun. We meet the Petaluna Batman, a college student who roams his hometown of Petaluna, CA, on a regular basis in a ragtag Batman costume, for no reason other than to make his town a happier place. There’s also a wealthy businessman who visits children’s hospitals in his much cooler movie-style Batman costume. The ongoing theme for these segments is how these people start doing this for fun, only to discover how much joy and happiness the cape and cowl brings to others just by the sight of it.
The documentary’s other stories are more tear-jerky. Note that I use “tear-jerky” not in a cynical way—this is some genuinely heartrending stuff. A man born with one leg enters a DDR contest and totally rocks it, his Batman T-shirts a way to tell the contest organizers and competitors to take him seriously. A little kid with leukemia gets to spend a day as a “Batkid,” running around his hometown and thwarting evil with the charitable help of local police and businesses.
At times, though, the movie’s connection to its message gets a little tenuous. Film producer Michael Uslan discusses ten years of getting doors slammed in his face in Hollywood while trying to get a Batman movie made, only to find great success eventually with the big 1989 Batman blockbuster, and sticking with the franchise from Burton to Schumacher to Nolan. That’s a nice success story, but it doesn’t have the same emotional impact as others. Twitter superstar Jill Pantozzi (a.k.a. “The Nerdy Bird”) discusses the everyday challenges of living in Manhattan with muscular dystrophy, yet the connection to Batman is a loose, ill-defined one. The cynic in me wonders if she is only here so her billions upon billions of Twitter followers can seek out the movie. Similarly, comics legend Denny O’Neil is interviewed, talking about how the death of Robin in Death in the Family resonated with readers. The problem is that we only get a shortened version of the story, so casual viewers not steeped in comics lore will be all, “There were two Robins” What??
Crowdfunded on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, there’s no hiding the movie’s indie roots, so visuals have that flat, shot-on-video quality, but its 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer otherwise defect free on the DVD. The 2.0 stereo sound is clean but not booming. We get fourteen minutes of deleted scenes—mostly with Denny O’Neil—followed by a short featurette about charity screenings, and a trailer.
My criticisms are only minor ones. Legends of the Knight‘s goal is to be inspirational and heartwarming, and on that note is succeeds in a big way. Here we have stories of people who have been dealt a tough hand in life, only to rise above it and become something greater—you know, just like Batman.
It’s a bright new dawn in Gotham. Not guilty.