This year has been filled with some amazing superhero movies so far. We’ve seen ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’, ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’, and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ all reach box office success and I’m fairly certain that ‘Big Hero 6’ will do the same. However, none of these can compare to Alejandro González Iñárritu’s ‘Birdman’ (or ‘BiRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED ViRTUE OF iGNORANCE)’), which opened up this year’s Philadelphia Film Festival last week.
From the Academy Award nominated filmmaker of ’21 Grams’ and ‘Babel’ comes this story of a washed up actor that once played an iconic superhero in a number of highly successful film franchise, but is now looking to reclaim his past glory by writing, directing, and starring in a Broadway play. Starring former superhero movie staples Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, and Emma Stone, we get a chaotic and comedic look at our culture that craves more superhero movies and to be generally liked. Unfortunately, I cannot expand on what that last sentence means without giving things away. I’d love to talk in detail about the themes and commentary that are present in the film s, but like Norton and Keaton said at their New York Comic Con panel, it would do the viewers a disservice if I talk further about the plot.
Although, I can talk about how incredible the cinematography was. Though some may say that having nearly the entire movie look like one shot was a tiring gimmick, but I really liked what the technique contributed to the story. These long takes, which must have involved an insane amount of planning and precision from cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and his camera operators, were the perfect way to keep the audience engulfed in the craziness happening to all of these characters. At times it was uncomfortable when shots were so up close and then wouldn’t cut away, but it worked so well in the confines of the story. Technically speaking, it was like master class of the idea that less is more. The lack of editing and the camerawork were extremely bold risks that paid off in a big way.
Another thing that I’ll mention is that while Stone, Norton, and Zach Galifianakis all shined brightly with their brilliant performances, this might be one of Michael Keaton’s best roles in decades. He stands out as both Riggan Thomson and Birdman because the performance really lets the actor show his range by playing comedic one moment and serious the next. Plus, it was pretty cool to see him don a cowl again, even if it wasn’t that of the Dark Knight. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he got some buzz around award season.
Overall, while the comic book fan in me would probably mention something from the Marvel Cinematic Universe as his favorite superhero film of the year, the film student in me would without a doubt pick ‘Birdman’. The movie is a success on every creative level from the layered satirical script to the superb acting to the insane camerawork. As I said before, it’s unlike any superhero movie you’ve ever seen, or will probably ever see again. And while this isn’t exactly ‘Iron Man’ or ‘The Dark Knight’, avid moviegoers should enjoy this movie exponentially, but especially those who are involved or interested in the filmmaking process.