Academy Award nominated director Alejandro González Iñárritu takes on the superhero genre with his new film Birdman. While the film will not be released until October, its distributor Fox Searchlight Pictures is really pushing the art-house film with a new trailer. Iñárritu is mostly known for making films that are photographically beautiful, but emotionally painful and taxing and from the looks of the new trailer, Birdman looks deceptively similar to Iñárritu's past efforts, including Amores perros, 21 Grams, and Babel.
Birdman follows Riggan Thomson, a once-iconic actor who is trying to launch a new career on Broadway. Before his new show opens, Riggan struggles with his past career as the superhero Birdman and how that affected his family and friends. From the trailer, we get a glimpse of Riggan's mental state and how an eerie back-and-forth with his psyche might lead to down a dark path.
One of the more interesting things about Birdman, aside from being the new film from Alejandro González Iñárritu, is its casting. Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thomson and I don't think that's a coincidence. Of course, Keaton is best known for playing Batman in the original Tim Burton Batman movies from the late 80s and early 90s, so it seems fitting that he's playing a role where he has to struggle with his past identity as an iconic superhero. While the film Birdman already works as a commentary of the pitfalls of celebrity, it also seems like it's tackling the a movie genre where its characters are larger than its actors. You can see that Birdman's presence still looms deep in Riggan psyche, even after 20 years. There's no mistaking Birdman's other stars, namely Edward Norton, who at one time played The Hulk for Marvel and Emma Stone, who recently was killed off in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 for Sony.
Norton's battles with Marvel Studios back in 2008 were very public. The studio claimed that Norton was hard to work with, while the actor claimed that Marvel was unwilling to collaborate with him on the Bruce Banner character. As a result, Marvel fired Norton after the release of The Incredible Hulk and since replaced him with Mark Ruffalo, who appeared in The Avengers, Iron Man 3, and the upcoming The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Seeing a high caliber actor like Norton get the boot was really heartbreaking, but to Marvel Studios the characters are more important than the actors and its creative team.
Emma Stone plays Riggan's daughter and it's no surprise that another actor who appeared in superhero movies is in Birdman. Stone played Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man movies and recently got the axe in the latest movie. You can plainly see that Iñárritu is trying to say something about the superhero genre and major Hollywood movies in Birdman, but the question is what exactly is the Mexican director trying to get at with his commentary.
Overall, the new Birdman trailer gives its viewers a better sense of the film's story and characters, while at the same time, shedding a light on its tone and dark comedy. I have no doubt that Birdman will be a very ambitious film, but its unclear in Iñárritu will pull off the satire. His last film Biutiful didn't exactly break new ground, but rather dulled an audience with its unrelenting misery. We'll certainly see when Birdman's released in October. I'll be catching the North American premiere at the 52nd New York Film Festival in a few months and I look forward to sharing my thoughts with Movie Pilot's readers.
Birdman stars Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, and Naomi Watts. Written by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, and Armando Bo. Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Birdman hit theaters on October 17, 2014.
What do you think of Birdman?