Hello, all! McEric here with some thoughts on a film I’ve been given the joy of viewing recently, Jozef K Richards’s BATMAN & JESUS. The film is a documentary showcasing two concurrent examinations, intercut with comedic bits of originality and even a brief examination of the canon of ZELDA games for added measure. The chief examinations of the film are, as you’ve probably guessed, Batman and Jesus (of Nazareth, for clarification).
As the filmmaker himself clumsily explains in the films’ final moments, the purpose of the picture is to cast a light on the arbitrary acceptance of Jesus’s exploits as liturgical truth by comparing it to the fierce protection that passionate fans will place on select stories of one of pop culture’s greatest fictional creations, The Dark Knight. To be fair, it does just that. What struck me as odd, however, was the film’s eagerness to draw that conclusion for the viewer directly and definitively. Even though the narration presented by Paul Provenza (if you don’t know who he is, watch the movie and he’ll tell you who he is) is worded to be objective at first, the film goes out of its way in the third act to firmly establish its position that Christianity is a fraud. Super-Jesus is a laughable hero to place any factual belief in and only a fool would be convinced to give any of their hard-earned money to an institution devoted to His praise.
Don’t misunderstand; I agree with this conclusion, I’ve just rarely seen a documentary as blatantly spell out the conclusion as this one has. Even Michael Moore, arguably the king of the biased documentary, refrains from outright declarations of truth; rather he presents the “facts” through a filtered lense that colors the viewer’s interpretation of those facts. In true filmmaking fashion, “Show; don’t Tell”.
I know this seems like a criticism and it is, but ultimately I enjoyed my viewing of BATMAN & JESUS. The film is well-researched and informative, as well as entertaining. The format is unconventional, as well. It begins with a segment in a Church of the Batman, then leads into an introductory narration on Batman and his place in history. To divine the liturgy of Batman, a fictional superhero named Introspective Man (whom, so far as I can tell, never looks within himself) corrals a Council of the Bat to cull through the character’s 78-year history in pages and on screens to discern what is canon. Then the narration leads into an introduction on Jesus, gathering that the teachings bear striking similarities to deities in recorded history long before Him, and those that have been collected in the Bible often show shocking shifts in character. The Jesus portions of the film have no superhero spearheading them and that’s probably for the best.
The Council of the Bat provides some of the film’s most relatable moments in that it is unscripted, and the council seems to have been gathered from people on the nearby street attending the Wonder-Con. Their differing views and well-argued passions play genuinely and uncensored onscreen; I found myself incensed alongside them when one council-member suggested that The Long Halloween be stricken from canon. Blasphemer!
The theologians gathered for the Jesus portion were articulate and knowledgeable, as well, and brought up many valid points. One in particular points out “the words of Jesus sound just like the words of John the Baptist in the Gospel of John and just like the narrator in the Gospel of John and just like the writer of the Epistles of John so what does that tell ya? It’s like a Woody Allen film where everyone sounds like Woody ‘cause he wrote all their parts.” As I laughed about that later in the shower I wondered how many minds in the church this film might change and the answer came immediately: none.
This is a film for a particular audience, and if you are of that audience you will enjoy it, as I did. The research is exhaustive and the narration is well-written, both for Batman and for Jesus. If, however, you find the prospect of your Lord and Savior being compared to Batman insulting, you’ll most likely skip this picture. And that’s fine; it’s not for you. If you, like me, want to shove every conceivable superhero documentary into your face (I’m looking at you, THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN LIVES), then this film is definitely worth a viewing.
Until next time, I’ll see you at the movies!