Birdman NYCC Preview: It's Not Like Anything You've Ever Seen Before
At this weekend's Birdman panel at New York Comic Con, featuring stars Michael Keaton and Ed Norton, we saw an exclusive preview of this weird, genre-bending anti-superhero movie. Here's a brief rundown of the first ten minutes of the film:
Michael Keaton levitates in his underwear (apparently both he and Norton are in their tighty whities for a large portion of the movie)
Emma Stone is hostile towards flowers, hates all living things
Birdman is directing a god-awful play with an even worse leading actor
The press is obnoxious about his faltering career following a super successful superhero franchise ("Is it true that you inject yourself with baby pig semen as a method of facial rejuvenation?" is a particular highlight)
Said terrible actor is promptly (and hilariously) knocked out by a falling light, in a sequence that (embarrassingly enough) immediately reminds me of the underrated Drop Dead Gorgeous
Birdman just kind of walks away without checking to see if the actor is dead, which tells us that he's a fairly unsympathetic protagonist
He thinks that he made the light fall
He's getting ready to Single White Female Robert Downey Jr.
He turns off the television with a flick of his hand, is ambiguously crazy
Keaton was positively gushing about this movie, calling it "uncompromisingly bold" and telling fans that he has already seen the movie "two and a half times." "I tell people that it's not like anything you've ever seen before. But then I have to say, 'No it's literally not like anything you've ever seen before, that's not just a glib expression I'm throwing out.'" Although I believe him, as the first ten minutes were absurd, bizarre, surreal, and every other similar adjective you can think of, it reminded me a little of Black Swan, and not just because they both go crazy and turn into birds. At its heart, it seems to be a meditation on the transience of both art and artists, and the struggle against obsolescence.
Ed Norton claimed to have had a similar reaction to seeing Birdman for the first time as he did Fight Club: "What... did I just watch?" He added that there were other similarities to Fight Club, including "so much meta humor," and that they were both "one of those things that just bends your mind through this maze of experience." It's possible that that last sentence doesn't actually mean anything, but it's Ed Norton, so we'll just accept that.
And indeed, the entire movie seems like one long meta joke (in a good way). It's a movie about a washed-up actor who became famous for playing a superhero. Michael Keaton, of course, was Batman, Ed Norton was the Hulk, and even Emma Stone was in The Amazing Spider-Man series. None of their careers are washed up, of course, but the point is still taken.
The movie is also extremely Freudian, according to the stars. Keaton said, "The movie has a lot to do with ego, how it propels you but can also really hamstring you. Every character in the film is revealed to be struggling with their better self versus their ego." Norton said, only half-joking, "The entire movie is all Alejandro. Like when Freud said that when people show up in a dream, everyone is you? That's like this movie. Everyone in it is [director] Alejandro [González Iñárritu]: my character is Alejandro, Michael's character, the two girls making out in a mirror is Alejandro."
Birdman also stars Naomi Watts, Amy Ryan, and Zach Galifianakis. First screened at the Venice International Film Festival, it received universal acclaim, with both the film and Keaton's performance considered to be shoe-ins for Oscar nominations, and Norton and Stone's performances in the conversation for their respective races as well. It will be released in theaters on October 17.