Having portrayed Batman in two films, Michael Keaton would know something about this. Mostly avoiding the fate befallen the likes of TV Batman Adam West, Keaton has maintained a career across all genres. Birdman finds him confronting his heroic past as a man refusing to become trapped in his former character’s cape and cowl.
Riggan Thomas (Michael Keaton) is on a mission. Forever known for starring in a trilogy of Birdman superhero films, he is determined to start afresh. Middle-aged and hungry for new adventures, he launches a self-created Broadway show. Aiming to break the superhero hoodoo in the public’s eyes, Thomas’ plans are continually interrupted by well-meaning friends and endless familial problems. With much at stake, a heroic effort is needed to forge a new path for Thomas’ dwindling career.
Although billed as a comedy-drama, Birdman could also be seen as a horror movie. Forever raging against the fictional character he portrayed, Thomas longs to escape Birdman’s shackles. He also desires a new form of adulation for a talent initially hidden behind a mask. Forced to function as himself, Thomas has to basically re-start his career. Grasping at the hope his latest show brings, his desperation in willing it to succeed is at once pathetic but hopeful.
Birdman is very much Keaton’s movie and he delivers an excellent performance. Backed by strong co-stars including Edward Norton as a rival actor, Keaton embodies his fractured character well. The use of long-shots instead of quick edits between scenes convey the endless cycle of personal inertia in which Thomas resides. Although the occasionally muddled narrative is prone to self-indulgence, the directorial flourishes ensure Birdman lingers in the memory.
Emerging from a creative wilderness, Michael Keaton makes a fine return with Birdman. One of his strongest roles, the range he displays should see him unleash the shadow of former characters and invent new ones.
Reviewed by Patrick Moore
Rating out of 10: 8