I have a less than popular opinion when it comes to the Caped Crusader: Michael Keaton is my favorite Batman.
It’s not that I think the Christian Bale films were bad, but I have a soft spot for Keaton’s dark detective. The 1989 film, which pitted Keaton against Jack Nicholson’s The Joker, is arguably one of Keaton’s best known roles, although not his only claim to fame.
I couldn’t help but think of the path Keaton’s career has taken as I watched his latest film, “Birdman.” He stars as Riggan Thompson, an actor who once played the iconic superhero, Birdman, in not one, not two, but three blockbuster films. Twenty years later, Riggan is no longer a superstar. Instead, he’s an actor fighting to remain relevant in a world that’s left him behind.
In a risk-everything effort, Riggan adapts, produces, directs and stars in a play on Broadway. His pride, reputation and money are all on the line, and his prospects don’t look good. Add in the fact he hears voices and thinks he has telekinetic powers, and things get interesting really quickly.
Birdman was the height of Riggan’s career, but’s it’s a role he chose to abandon. And his life was forever changed. Fans still recognize him as the iconic hero. So, even without the Birdman conversations, Riggan can’t escape that claim to fame.
It’s hard not to draw parallels to Keaton’s own career. Batman isn’t his only iconic role, considering he also starred in 1988’s “Beetlejuice.” Both films are directed by the amazing Tim Burton, by the way. Of course, Keaton is also the man who can forever be known as “Mr. Mom.”
“Birdman” has been getting crazy good acclaim from critics nationwide. It’s landed on multiple “best of 2014” lists, although it’s not on mine. (For my own random list, check out page 16.) The storyline intrigued me, and with so many rave reviews, I had to see it.
It’s nice to see Keaton in a leading role again. I’ve been a fan since I was a little girl, and he’s still got it. Even if his “it” is more mature and gray. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu and company have put together an amazing supporting cast to back up Keaton.
Edward Norton and Naomi Watts always put out strong performances, and “Birdman” is no different. Both earned Golden Globe nominations for supporting roles. Keaton also earned a best actor nod, while the film garnered four more nominations, including best picture and best director. Chances are good the Oscar light will shine on the film as well.
But the good casting doesn’t stop there. Add in Emma Stone, Zach Galifinakis, Amy Ryan (“The Office”) and Andrea Riseborough (“Oblivion”), and it seems unsinkable. Isn’t that what they said about that ship in 1912? Hollywood should really make a movie about that one. It might do well at the box office.
Anyway, “Birdman” is a cleverly done film. The fluidity with which the camera moves is probably my favorite thing about it. “Birdman” doesn’t have many shooting locations. Instead, characters take us from location to location, scene to scene, moment to moment, all in one fluid motion. It feels like it was shot in one take, as if we’re watching everything unfold before our eyes in real time. Of course, that’s movie magic and also part of this movie’s magic. One that cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki has been getting a lot of praise for accomplishing.
“Birdman” is good. It really is. It showcases some strong talent, but it’s missing something important: heart. As I sit here, just four days removed from seeing the film, I’m struggling to remember what I saw at all. Technically, the film is good. The performances are good. The story is good. Everything IS good. But yet, I found no connection to the film.
Most of the characters are egotistical jerks. Almost every person seems more concerned with his or her own situation than seeming to truly care about what happens to anyone else.
Maybe all the hype made me expect too much from the film. I went in expecting a beautiful experience and instead left feeling like I must have missed something. “Birdman” proved to be a film worth seeing but one that is ultimately forgettable.
Amanda Greever is the assistant managing editor of The Daily Times. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Twitter @agreever_editor and “Like” Weekend on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dailytimesweekend.