"You're Birdman, let's go back one more time and show them what we're capable of."
I wonder how long it will take for the phrase ‘I’m Birdman’ to replace ‘I’m Batman’. Let’s face it that will probably never happen, but then again it just might for Michael Keaton.
Riggan Thomson, the former and fading superstar of the popular Birdman franchise, fights to reclaim any artistic respect by staging a Raymond Carver adaptation on Broadway. But it will be a challenging fight, filled with dangers like the battling cast, his sceptical family and his own crumbling sanity.
Keaton is probably paying a role that is much closer to himself than he would like to admit, the Birdman franchise failed in 1992, the same year Batman Returns came out. So a deliberate casting choice it would seem, but my god is it the right one. But first, well, I don’t know. I like to start with the standout feature but it is very difficult to choose between everything in Birdman, it’s all so good.
Okay, remember how you love that scene in Goodfellas where Henry Hill walks through the club and we follow him right through until he sits down. Birdman uses a similar technique for the entire film. It isn’t actually one shot but it’s directed and edited to look that way. It’s something that you can’t quite grasp until you actually see the film, so how Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu envisioned it I cannot imagine. He took what was already an impressive story, something that did not need any fancy tricks to make it stand out, and made it spectacular from a director’s point of view. Watch out Linklater, Alejandro’s (it takes too long to remember how to spell his last name) coming for that director Oscar.
Birdman is visually stunning in almost every way. It defies formula and reduces the highest concept special effects to noting with the use of innovation. Keaton’s inner crisis seems to take place on an epic level and continually astonishes us. It manages to succeed in going against movie law through pure cinematic imagination.
Michael Keaton, no wait there’s supporting characters as well. Half of them also seem to have had some experience in the superhero genre but the lesser side of it take Emma Stone, part of the less popular Spiderman franchise and Edward Norton the lesser Hulk. But they all do such a fantastic job, thanks to their portrayal there was not a single character is disliked, they all interact with our main character so well that it would have been all too easy for him to be reduced to merely an onlooker but he’s still the main character and still the one we empathise with.
Where The Dark Knight is a dissection of the superhero, Birdman is a dissection of films and acting in general. It keeps the story grounded in reality by throwing in references to Robert Downey Jr and Jeremy Renner but uses the more surreal moments to peep into the mind of Keaton. It’s an internal battle between doing what he wants and what is easy. Should Keaton just go back to the Birdman franchise and sell out, but then again would that reduce his acting credibility. Birdman raises a lot of themes over the conflict of today’s Hollywood. If you star in a blockbuster does that make you a person who’s only after money, but if you are in an indie film does it automatically make you an actor, or are you a sell-out purely for being in a blockbuster? It deals with a lot of things.
Finally to the man himself, Michael Keaton. Though casting him in the role may be deliberate, it is far from a cheap stunt or just to give a wink to the audience. No, Keaton can draw from personal experience here to play this character, as I said it’s probably closer to himself than he would admit. But that doesn’t matter, he was cast because, believe it or not highbrow critics, Michael Keaton can act, and I mean really, really act. This is an incredible performance playing both a hideous alter-ego and a damaged human. But you care and connect with both of them. Welcome back, you have been missed very much.