Michael Keaton as Riggan in “Birdman.” (Photo courtesy of philly.com)

by Mike Reistetter

Michael Keaton plays a washed up actor, mostly known for his role as an iconic comic book super hero. He later abandoned the opportunity to play said superhero (the eponymous “Birdman”), in further sequels, as a part of his stubborn effort to demonstrate his versatility and identity independent of his character, which seemed to consume his life.

Sound familiar? Michael Keaton was born to play this role, and Alejandro González Iñárritu was born to direct this film.

Keaton owes much of his own celebrity to his performances as Batman in Tim Burton’s adaptations, “Batman (1989)” and “Batman Returns (1992).” Much like his new character, he sought more, and after initially signing on, he turned down a lucrative salary promise and refused to return as Batman in a third film. As his character, fictional actor Riggan Thompson, he comes full circle and attempts to prove his relevance in a world that has long forgotten about him. Keaton has given decent performances in his career following his Batman days, but nothing quite like this. Standout scenes include those involving his sharp, young adult daughter (played by Emma Stone). We see behind the mask of both Riggan and his former Birdman character, who serves as both his conscience and the devil upon his shoulder. Keaton showcases how Riggan is forced to put on a front as an alpha figure in the media, in order to convince the public (and himself) that he still matters. He must avoid his tendency towards self-pity and vulnerability, and prove that directing and starring in his own theatrical production will not result in disaster.

Director Alejandro González Iñárritu has done some interesting work in the past, and his first venture into the comedy genre featured a rare occurrence. Most of the traditional actors in the film had to adapt to the rigorous demands made by Iñárritu and his script, as the film for the most part takes place as one long take. Transitions were scarce, and the score and soundtrack was generally fast-paced in nature. The realistic timeline outlined the high stakes of Riggan’s quest and the tension present amongst many of the members of his play’s cast, both on and off the stage.

Edward Norton, along with Keaton and Stone, gives an award-worthy performance. Norton has been known to be a burden to work with within the film industry, as he too was involved in a money dispute that saw him leaving the Marvel Cinematic Universe before filming “The Avengers (2012)” after previously starring as Bruce Banner in “The Incredible Hulk (2008).” In this go-around, Norton ironically played a film actor that is a nuisance to everyone around him. And although he stirs up a lot of controversy, he does manage to bring public attention and clearly honed acting experience to help Riggan’s play.

The ending of “Birdman” cannot even be described with words. This film did wonders with the personification of emotion. It is silly how absurdly appropriate the film concluded, but made for some great entertainment. The more you talk about it, the more you realize just how unique of an experience seeing the film truly was.