Batman and Me is an engrossing story of Melbourne man Darren Dags Maxwell who became addicted to collecting Batman merchandise in the late 1980s at the height of Batman fever after the 1989 film directed by Tim Burton. It starred Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger and Jack Nicholson no less and the music was composed by greats like Danny Elfman and Prince.
Currently screening at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival (30 Jun-15 Jul 2020), the documentary was released on 30 June and is categorised as selling fast. This is the first Australian documentary festival to go online and only 300 views will be allowed. Batman and Me will head to the US in August for the Cinequest Film Festival and hit the big screen in Melbourne in December, with further details yet to be released.
Australian filmmaker Michael Wayne (not related to Bruce Wayne aka The Dark Knight) found Dags when he visited a Batman-merchandise collector's simple website. This led him to the quiet suburbs of Melbourne to discover what goes on behind closed doors in suburbia; a fandom rarely seen in Australia in its time. Interesting fact, Melbourne was founded by explorer John Batman in 1835. This feature-length documentary delves into more than just the life of a collector or his collections. It tries to solve the puzzle and questions and reveals some of the psychological attachment that comes at a cost to any serious collector. The fact that Dags is very aware of his obsessive journey means that he is able to share what it's like with the audience in its complete and truthful entirety.
While the music score gently plays in the background without interrupting the flow of the tempo, which was cleverly edited, this doco will draw you into understanding the depth and scope of an addiction. From Dags' animated, rapid sea of fire storytelling in the beginning, to it slowly taking a breather towards the end, you can feel his raw obsession play out - one minute acknowledging that he's sick of it, but still, the contained excitement within him remains when he touches and laments about his obsession.
Like he said, it made him feel a part of a family. His storytelling was almost as if he'd memorised the words and was quoting his website. It was as if this script was the only thing holding his identity together. The filmmaker digs deeper to discover what lies beneath to give the audience a fuller image, to come full circle. It follows Dags as his path takes what he felt was a more respectful turn and has him creating something more satisfying than collecting. However, can he get away from it with a new generation of collectors no longer hiding in the closet; blatantly displaying their obsessions at Comic-Con and Pop Culture Expos? Not just collecting, but becoming the character itself with costumes?
The marketing drive is so strong out there, it has seen to it that all obsessions are fed and it's difficult to escape when it's all readily available online. It's now become cool to be a part of the collector's world. Does the key to shedding Dag's identity lie in putting a price on it? He still gets a kick out of finding memorabilia relating to the 1989 film. Can this create a relapse? What does it take to destroy an identity that is a dead weight, yet cannot be shaken? This is storytelling of the highs and the lows and the price of fandom with no end in sight; personal and told through interviews and inventive stop motion toy figure animations to reenact important life events, you will be engaged.