By Jess Fenton
5th July 2020

Documentaries are spotlights - magnifying glasses and gold-tasselled cords that pull back curtains to expose the wizard as a fraud or the magical land of Oz, whichever way you look at it. These films teach, enlighten and inspire. Well, at least that's what I've always thought they were supposed to do. Sometimes a film comes along that, to quote my boyfriend's favourite film to which he has many collectables, they "were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should".

Meet Darren Maxwell, or "Dags" to his friends and followers both in real life and online. Between 1989 and 1997, he collected Batman merchandise thanks to the Tim Burton film and its subsequent sequels. Darren himself admits that his collection was the result of compulsion instead of obsession with the franchise itself. His real passion lies in 'Star Wars'. Back in the day, he started collecting 'Star Wars' posters, but when he realised he couldn't compete with the hardcore collectors, he moved on to movie soundtrack LPs. But when Batmania hit in 1989, the lid to Pandora's box was opened, only to be shut almost nine years later when Joel Schumacher fucked it all up. Nipples don't belong on a Batsuit!!

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Darren isn't a particularly intriguing person. His story isn't compelling, nor is it unique. Yet here we are, watching 84 minutes of nothing. 'Batman and Me' tries desperately to fit Darren - or Dags as the film insists on calling him - into its narrative, but the irony is that even the film doesn't know what it's about. For its majority, it harps on the idea of identity - with Dags being Darren's alter ego, much like our caped crusader, completely ignoring that fact that while the name does have real-life connotations, in this situation it's simply a nickname. We all have them. We don't all have alternative personalities to go with them. We're not bloody Beyoncé!

In the final act, 'Batman and Me' even throws in the ideas of pop culture fandom, childhood nostalgia, the rise in popularity of modern superhero film franchises, the collectables industry and simple corporate greed - basically everything except the painfully obvious conclusion that Darren Maxwell is a man with an obsessive-compulsive personality - but instead of channelling it towards drugs, alcohol and sex like a normal person, he collects Batman stuff! 'Batman and Me' tries to manipulate every angle, including Darren's "well-rehearsed" stories, as some sort of mask to hide behind - the film itself filming him tell the same story three times in three different circumstances. Of course the yarn repeats itself. It's fact, told by the same voice. What do you expect? It's not a personality glitch, it's the truth. And Darren turns out to be somewhat of a filmmaker; meaning he's a storyteller by trade. Argh! My god, this movie was frustrating to watch. For documentary filmmakers, they seem to not know how human beings work. Odd.

The painfully obvious conclusion that Darren Maxwell is a man with an obsessive-compulsive personality, but instead of channeling it towards drugs, alcohol and sex like a normal person, he collects Batman stuff!

Honestly, this film commits every documentary faux pas in the book, and what we get is a boring, manipulated tale of a man who once collected stuff for a short period of time and has since stopped... 23 years ago! You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, and 'Batman and Me' is a losing hand. At best, if well made, it could have been a documentary short. Instead, it's an hour too long and a waste of your time regardless.

Looking for more Melbourne Documentary Film Festival reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights.
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