The Unexpected Virtue of a Crazy Idea: Part 1


Family and those who know me well would best characterize me as a film critic or film buff. I’m known to be hyper critical and attempt to be extremely aware of what I watch. 


Now some may say that I´m in fact too critical. So critical to the point where one could reasonably come to say that I take the fun out of watching movies. This of which is an identity that I’ve come to somewhat embrace. So it’s considered rare when I actually like a movie, and extra rare when I actually love a movie. Birdman is one such movie.


However historical context is needed to properly set the stage for this four part series. 


Back in the 1980s, Michael Keaton was one of the most popular comedic actors in the world. 


In 1983 the film Mr.Mom was released, the film put Michael Keaton’s character in a position he wasn’t used to. After he gets laid off from his job his wife becomes the sole breadwinner leaving him in charge of taking care of their three children. Like all theatrical fathers of the 80s he doesn’t know how to properly feed his children, change their diapers and so on. This of course leads to hijinks that only the 80s could supply, helping cement his position as a comedic actor and a great talent to boot.


Five years later, the megahit Beetlejuice was released, with Keaton playing the title character. The fast talking, wise cracking personality of Beetlejuice fit perfectly with Keaton’s comedic stylings. 


The year directly after, Keaton played a role that at the time was unprecedented. Not only for the role itself but the turn Keaton took to play it. Most audiences only knew Michael Keaton as a slapstick-esque comic. But for the role he had to not only embrace the dark and menacing Batman but the cool and suave Bruce Wayne as well. 


At the time the only live action superhero film was Ritchard Donner’s Superman starring Chritoper Reeve over a decade earlier. Superheroes were not in the zeitgeist in the 1970-80s as they are today. The only live action version of Batman was played by the late Adam West.

The tone of Adam West’s show was very goofy and perfectly reflected the 60s; now, however, with director Tim Burton at the helm things were going to be different. The tone was going to be much more reflective of the comics, dark, gritty, but still child friendly. 


To help supply this tone Burton cast the three time Oscar winning crazy man, Jack Nicholson, to play the Joker. Casting Nicholson as the Joker made sense because he made his name playing crazy in the 1975 Oscar winning film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and more famously as Jack Torrence in Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation of The Shining.


The film was a smashing success, audiences, especially kids loved it. Putting Keaton on the pop culture throne for a couple years. Then the sequel Batman Returns was released in 1992 to less success: parents thought Danny Devito’s portrayal of The Penguin was too scary, and Michelle Pfeiffer’s portrayal of Catwoman too provocative for children. 


After the release of Batman Returns Keaton was more or less silent for nearly two decades. He appeared here and there like his villainous turn in the film Pacific Heights but never found the same level of success. That was until Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu came to him with a ¨crazy idea.”


Now for the non supporting, supporting actor Edward Norton.


Edward Norton was a well known actor in the mid to late nineties. He starred in films like Primal Fear alongside Richard Gere and American History X both of which garnered him Oscar nominations. 


The Hulk has been played theatrically by three actors, Eric Bana in Ang Lee´s 2003 trainwreck, Mark Ruffalo who has portrayed the Hulk in the MCU for over a decade, and Edward Norton. 


Edward Norton was actually meant to be the one in Mark Ruffalo’s position right now. He got his own film the same year that the original Iron Man came out. It even ended with a scene where Tony Stark tells one of the characters about a ¨Avengers Initiative¨ blatantly telling the audience to expect to see Norton again. 


However in the end he was replaced by Mark Ruffalo. 


Edward Norton has kind of built the stigma for being difficult to work with, but when the film comes out he almost never misses with his performances. So much so to the point where he is considered to be one of the greatest actors of our time despite the reputation that precedes him.


We now have two actors. One washed up and past his prime. As well as one who is infamously problematic to work with on set. Both of them played super heroes at some point. In addition to Emma Stone who at the time was best known for playing Gwen Stacy opposite her then real life boyfriend Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider Man films. Alejandro Gonzales Innaritu decided to specifically curate all these actors for a script that was not only genius on a conceptual level, but it also mirrors real life on a scale that most films wouldn’t dare.


Micheal Keaton plays Riggen, a washed up ex-comic book actor, who is trying to rejuvenate his career through theater. He wishes to move on from playing Birdman, but there is a voice in his head coaxing him back into the role. This voice is personified as the Birdman character itself, which speaks in a tone eerily similar to the one Keaton used while portraying Batman. 


Edward Norton plays Mike Shiner, a successful stage actor who is known for his talent and simulations lack of professionalism. Despite this when the production is made It almost always turns out fantastic.


Due to the sheer amount there is to say about this film. This review is going to have to be broken into several parts. Part two will be released a week from today. There we will take a deeper dive into Riggen Tompson. Until next week… 

¨In reel time¨

Tristan Good