I recently caught wind of an upcoming movie called “Birdman”, starring Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, and a plethora of other recognizable faces. It even has a Academy Award nominated director attached (Alejandro González Iñárritu), which sure surprised me.
Now, I was a fan of the solar-powered Hanna-Barbera hero long before he famously became a Juris Doctor. I can guarantee you that there are embarrassing pictures of me as a child in a homemade Birdman costume for Halloween. So, of course, my first question when I heard about this movie was “…is it ‘that’ Birdman?”
When I asked that question of my friend who informed me about the film, he told me that he had absolutely no idea, but that I had to watch the trailer. Watch the trailer I did, and I can now understand his confusion.
This…is a strange trailer. First off, it feels like there is an odd attempt at comedy in there, particularly with that last shot between Norton and Keaton. What that most came to mind there was the dark, twisted humorous moments in 2010’s “Super” (the most experimental hero movie, until now?), but this even seems more dry and dark than the content found in that film. I’m certainly not anticipating gut laughs or guffaws from the director who gave us “Babel” and “21 Grams”, but it sure seems to be playing at an uncomfortable style of humor with the tone. And, like my friend, I have no idea if Keaton is supposed to be ‘that’ Birdman. Obviously, the story is not about the character itself, but about an actor who portrays him (a meta-statement about Keaton’s career?). Still, are we going to see Michael Keaton deal with a crippling addiction to tanning cream? Or perhaps get a Stephen Colbert cameo as Falcon Seven? Almost certainly not. But I can dream.
I am definitely curious to see how this movie plays out. There is clearly some money in it given some of the teased effects and the cast, but the tone is definitely off-the-wall and experimental. Can a movie like this be financially successful? It seems to me like the big comic book movie players don’t think so, given the recent Edgar Wright / Ant Man kerfuffle. However, I’m glad to see that Fox Searchlight is taking a risk on this (along with a number of other production companies, notably). If this kind of interesting take on the hero movie concept proves financially viable, it could mean good news for the future of blockbusters. Who wouldn’t like to see more interesting takes on superhero movies at this point?
Honestly, and I hate to say this, but I am anticipating this movie to be a financial failure. The tone is just too strange, and it is going to be impossible to market to the general audiences who are accustomed to feeding from the trough of Marvel features. Nothing about this film strikes me as easily digestible so far.
That said, I will be shocked if this film is not a critical success. I’m hoping this gets Keaton more heavily back onto people’s radars, and gives Galifianakis an opportunity to impress in a more dramatic role at the very least. That is a lot to draw from just a trailer, but Iñárritu has a solid reputation, and this looks to be a loaded cast on top of an interesting concept.
The current release date is set for October 17 of this year. I know I will be eagerly awaiting it.