Batman & Me is a meandering and mildly entertaining documentary about one man’s obsession with collecting. You might assume that the movie is about what drives someone to become obsessed with a particular brand of pop culture to an all-encompassing degree. The reality is sadly more mundane and mildly amusing. Though the documentary seems to promise a greater insight into the mind of collectors, what we ultimately get in Batman & Me is that sometimes people become obsessed and it’s only a notable aspect of their life.
Batman & Me is the story of Darren ‘Dags’ Maxwell, a filmmaker from Australia who grew up obsessed with Batman. After the release of the 1989 Batman movie starring Michael Keaton, Dags got into collecting Batman memorabilia to the point of obsession. It started innocently with a Batman board game that he opened and played with friends and grew into obsessively trying to get every piece of Batman memorabilia available.
Did his collecting ruin his life? Was his obsession with Batman some kind of toxic, all-consuming, addiction that must be documented in a documentary film? No, not really. Dags built a very large collection, traveled all over Australia and made trips to America to indulge in his love of Batman, but mostly it just grew for a while into something he displayed until he become less interested in Batman in the late 90s when Joel Schumacher’s movies left Dags disenchanted with the franchise.
And that’s pretty much it. Batman & Me may be rather notable among people in Australia perhaps where this type of obsessive collecting is not typical. Here in America, however, Dags seems very normal. I imagine there is a guy like Dags in just about every town in America, someone who has a collection of some sort that dominates a portion of their living space. Whether its NASCAR, Coca Cola, or Marvel Movies, this kind of obsessive collecting is no longer all that notable among Americans.
Thus I watched Batman & Me with a quizzical eye. Why was the story of Dags, the obsessive collector of Batman memorabilia, worthy of a documentary? The answer never seemed to arrive. Director Michael Wayne claims to have a higher purpose to Batman & Me asking questions about why we collect, what drives such obsessions, and, on the film’s website he claims that the documentary is a hard look at Dags and the wider pop culture obsession he’s part of.
I really didn’t see any of that in Batman & Me. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the documentary. Batman & Me is amiable and Dags himself is a charming enough guy. But the notion that this is somehow drilling down on the obsession with collecting is rather odd. It’s one room in this guy’s house. I know people in my own life who have larger rooms that are far more stuffed with collections larger and more comprehensive than Dags’ collection.
Dags himself doesn’t give any indication that he’s all that abnormal. He’s happily married, he’s become a filmmaker and has mostly stopped collecting Batman memorabilia. Dags does say that he rarely looks at the collection though he happily shows it off if someone asks. He also says he doesn’t know why he can’t let it go, sell it and move on, but why should he? It’s not taking up a big space, the room is relatively tiny, and it’s not hurting his life in any way.
The movie attempts to force some drama late in the documentary when Director Michael Wayne tracks down a piece that Dags had once been obsessed with getting but the gift doesn’t appear to send Dags spiraling back to his obsession. It’s very much a benign scene of a friend giving another friend a meaningful gift. Dags appears touched by the gift but the framing and context of the scene indicates a concern that this might spark a downward spiral back into Batman collecting, as if that might do damage to Dags’ life.
Can collecting obsessively harm someone’s life? Sure, I’ve seen reality TV shows dedicated to people who have foregone paying bills and presents for their children because they need to buy some ludicrous item for their collection but those stories are seemingly rare. Mostly our culture seems to celebrate people with plenty of disposable income engaging in obsessive collecting. Batman & Me posits an idea that collecting can be detrimental to someone’s life but they seemed to have picked the wrong guy to make their thesis statement. Dags may be a little quirky but he has a loving wife and a job and has mostly stopped collecting anyway.
Batman & Me will be available on March 8th, 2022 on streaming rental platforms.