‘Legends of the Knight’ Documentary Explores Batman’s Power as a Modern Myth

Published 1 year ago by

Legends of the Knight Documentary Brett Culp Legends of the Knight Documentary Explores Batmans Power as a Modern Myth

The dark knight; the caped crusader; Batman has gone by many names over the years, but remains a fictional character that has become a human touchstone. Several documentaries have taken a look at the origin of the character, his greatest stories, or adaptations to the big screen, but few turn away from the screen and page to examine just how profoundly Batman has, and continues, to change human lives in profound ways.

The impact of DC Comics’ masked hero is the subject of director Brett Culp’s Legends of the Knight, a passion project that makes one thing explicitly clear: Batman is no longer ‘just’ a work of fiction. We had the chance to sit down with Culp back at San Diego Comic-Con 2013, and hear firsthand of the stories he uncovered, and why it is that an orphaned boy who turned pain into action still hasn’t stopped changing lives.

Filming across 15 American cities, and conducting 64 interviews – including legendary comic writer Denny O’Neil, executive producer (of every Batman film since 1989) Michael Uslan, and Gotham Chopra (author of “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes”) - Legends of the Knight argues that the days of Batman being a comic book fan’s escape are over.

Legends of the Knight Batman at Hospital 570x320 Legends of the Knight Documentary Explores Batmans Power as a Modern Myth

Given the amount of money being generated off of the cape and cowl, it’s odd to think of Batman as anything but a marketable property. While that dimension of the character is very real (what Culp refers to as “Batman as brand”) it’s no exaggeration to say the world has witnessed the creation and acceptance of a new generation of myth; iconic heroes whose tale has been told, retold, and told again by any number of creative minds, and for widely different audiences:

“I think the beauty of Batman – and it’s one of the reasons why he was the perfect subject for this – is because there have been so many different versions of him… We’ve gone across the ages for this film. I have people in this film that talk about being inspired by the Batman TV show of the 1960s to be a hero.

“This gentleman we interviewed ultimately became a police officer because he watched that show every day when he came home from school. He wanted to go fight crime and be like Batman, and now he’s the captain of the gang unit in Las Vegas. That’s as Batman as you get for a real-life person: out there on the streets every day fighting crime. Then you have [executive producer] Michael Uslan, who hated that ’60s TV show so much that it drove the rest of his life to rid the world of that version of Batman.

“Legends of the Knight is less about the Batman that has been created by Tim Burton, or Adam West, or Scott Snyder, or Frank Miller, or anybody else. It’s more about the Batman that exists in our own minds when we walk away from that character.”

The lasting impact of Batman can be seen simply by asking a person on the street what the hero means to them: for some, the Tim Burton/Michael Keaton version seen in Batman (1989) remains the best incarnation, while others will claim that Christopher Nolan was the first director to get the character “right.”

So how can fans navigate those waters, protecting the legacy of their favorite character while Hollywood casts whoever they choose to don the cape and cowl, whether they fit the version held in their minds? Culp’s view of the matter after completing the film may not seem alien to comic book fans, but could be a new perspective for vocal movie fans:

“The way I see it, there is not one Batman. Batman is a mosaic of all the things he has ever been, all the things he is today, and all the things he will be. I think that’s the genius of a writer like Grant Morrison: he gets that. He understands that, and he has figured out – sometimes I don’t always like what he does – but he has synthesized Batman into that. So to me, all those Batmen are valid. But the Batman that a child draws on a piece of paper in crayon is just as valid as any other Batman too.

“There’s a brand of Batman that Warner Bros. and DC own… but after 75 years, the character is beyond that now: he’s now at the point of legend. He’s all those things at once. Which is weird, but I’m that kind of fanboy now.”

batman dark knight returns Legends of the Knight Documentary Explores Batmans Power as a Modern Myth

The documentary – following the stories of a dozen different adults and children – is testament to just how differently Batman can be understood, and put into action in very real terms. Whether the stories mentioned above – or a young boy suffering from leukemia who finds strength because “Batman wouldn’t let cancer beat him.” That’s just one reason why Legends of the Knight will leave even the most hardened Bat-fans misty-eyed, but the true heart of the film, according to Culp:

“This character is a symbol in our society; a symbol of a certain heroic value that we hold dear. And I think that Americans in particular hold dear; about independence, personal strength, can-do attitude that has been an American motif… it’s spread around the world, but Batman is an American superhero.

“I think what people are going to see when they watch these interviews about people who loved this character as a child, and how that affected the trajectory of their lives, is that loving this character is a wonderful, good thing.”

If you still have any doubts that the documentary will have you ready to take on social injustice, take a look at the official trailer for Legends of the Knight:

Of course, it’s difficult to bring up the topic of Batman these days without mentioning DC’s other juggernaut in the same breath. So what is the distinction between Batman and Superman for Culp?

“Batman is flawed. He is born of brokenness; he is born of pain. And in many ways, so am I. I look at the world and say it is dark, and it’s difficult, and it’s very easy for me to look at that and say I’m helpless to do anything about it… Batman shows us that’s not true.

“Obviously Batman has the money and the power and all that stuff, but at the end of the day the core of that story is that Batman is us. Batman is a guy who makes a commitment to make a difference in the world, and he will fight, and struggle, and claw, and commit himself to that.

superman batman man steel 2 filming location Legends of the Knight Documentary Explores Batmans Power as a Modern Myth

“Superman – for me – is a god-like symbol. He is a symbol of almost divinity. They’ve made him more flawed recently, but in general he was always right, always good, and even though I look at that and say ‘I wish I could be like that,’ there’s part of me that knows: I never will be, I’m never going to have those powers… Superman spent his life maybe figuring out who he was, but he already was it. It was just bestowed upon him.

“Batman had to work for it, and so do I.”

So how does the filmmaker think the two will coexist given the dark knight’s starring role in the Man of Steel sequel, Batman vs. Superman?

“I think it’s definite that they will be adversaries. But at the end, I think they’ll strike a tentative friendship. Jim Lee mentioned it [during the Superman 75th Anniversary panel] – and then David [S. Goyer] mentioned it – “The Dark Knight Returns,” and how these two characters were pitted against eachother; they represent different ideals. I think they’ll start the movie with the world being afraid that Superman is too powerful. And Batman will be the guy that will say ‘he is too powerful, and we’ve got to do something about it.’”

Culp is still arranging a distribution for the documentary, with interest ranging from traditional channels to school classrooms, somewhat hampered by his commitment (in typical Bruce Wayne fashion) to keeping the project a non-profit, charitable one.

To keep up to date with Legends of the Knight, be sure to follow Brett Culp on Twitter @BatmanFilm, and check out the film’s official website here.

_____

Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.

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TAGS: batman

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  1. This seems like it will be an intriguing piece to watch (and, maybe, later to…own?) and confirms, for me, why I found the ending (and build-up to it) so compelling and brilliant in “The Dark Knight Rises”, both for the film and for the trilogy.

  2. I’m not really a documentary person, but this looks right up my alley.

  3. Damn ninjas are cutting onions around here again.

  4. Jesus that looks sooooo bad

    • Why?

      • It’s like an X-Factor sob story threw up on me

        • Odd…I didn’t get that. It just strikes me as someone who truly loves Batman and the character’s place in the world…

          • That’s ok, it’s my opinion and your not me so you wouldn’t? I understand why people get so excited by certain Characters it’s just far too Cheesy for my taste however I’m sure lot’s of people will enjoy and good for them.

            • I have far fewer issues with this last comment than the first one..

            • Jaded much? Kinda rude the way you make your opinion noted

              • ^^^ This comment is for EddieFelson

                • It’s rude to call someone jaded when you don’t know the person at all, it’s not rude of me to say I don’t like the look of this documentary.

                  In regards to the way I phrased it, the website is called screenrant clues in the title.

                  • *snip snap*

                    “it’s like an X Factor sob story threw up on me”

                    HA!

                    Taking EddieFelson’s back here… God forbid someone bad-mouth something Batman related!

                    • HURAWL!?!?!?

  5. I’m more excited for this than I was for the Dark Knight Rises.

    • this will be BETTER than TDKR, imo.

  6. We need a Batman that can kick Sups’ a$$. It’s very possible to pull off.

  7. This is a freaking nerds paradise right here! Sorry, Batman is escapism a comic book character that’a all. If he inspires you to be a better person cool but lets not turn him in to a Deity!

    • Haha nobody is saying start a cult. In Culp’s own words, his hope was that people would just try to be a bit more like Batman in their own families, communities, anything. Giving, not cracking skulls haha.

    • …and “X-Men” is escapism, and “JLA” is escapism, and “Hulk” is escapism, and “Watchmen” is escapism, and “Marvels” is escapism. Sure, KK, at its heart, every comic book or graphic novel offers a portal into another, usually MUCH more fantastic world…a story that, indeed, allows its reader to escape the confines of a too often rather mundane world.

      It’s what happens to the reader (whether through perception or comprehension or hope) once he enters the realm of the comic that makes the story/character/series/whatever more than mere words and pictures on paper or in a film or on a show. People who love these things and care about them (aspects and/or whole things) feel a connection, and that connection is important…to them.

      Your comment makes me wonder if you understand that; if not, WHY ARE YOU HERE?

      I hope you do comprehend this concept, given your screen name. Nobody said (nor implied) any deification of Batman.

  8. Screw this, I want a Joker inspired documentary with people being interviewed about how the Clown Prince of Crime gave them the confidence to annihilate entire cities and murder innocent teen sidekicks gleefully.

    Yeah, looks interesting. I just hope it doesn’t turn out like the Street Fighter 2 documentary I saw last month that turned into a hero worship film about a couple of pro gamers than the legacy of the games and what they helped inspire.

  9. Jeez…if i get this weepy off the trailer, then the movie’s just gonna have me…good Lord.

  10. Looks like a great documentary. I would like to own it.

  11. I would like to own it on a DVD I should say.

  12. Batman is the best superhero ever to me, sorry. As a 17 year old kid who went through hell and back (mostly due to the economy) and somehow managed to complete high school in 3 years,and just barely made into into business school, I can honestly say I looked to batman comic books and movies for inspiration. Especially Nolan’s trilogy- “why do we fall? So we can pick ourselves back up again.” And of course, “You can make yourself more than just a man.” I honestly believe that. I’m hoping to change this world, and Batman gives me some great inspiration to do so. The fact that he took his pain (had a whole lot of that and made himself into something more…I think that’s what makes him so iconic. Because he’s a superhero who isn’t super at all. He’s just a dedicated, driven man dedicated to a principle.

    • whoops said dedicated twice. Still waking up ladies and gents.

  13. How about The Man of Steel Documentary ?