It’s hard to believe that it’s been 25 years since Tim Burton skewed the landscape of all superhero films to follow. When he adopted a new gritty style to the titular ever popular Batman for the silver screen Burton launched the hero to a new generation that wanted edgier anti-heroes as their protagonists. An argument could be made that it was refreshing to the general populace, because he steered so far away from past incarnations of heroes. At the time heroes in film and television media conjure up images of classic sixties Batman portrayed by Adam West or the eternally iconic, old school man of steel, Christopher Reeves. These films were of a more jovial, vibrant nature. They were cheesy in their execution and lovable because of the care shown to their source material. Fondly remembered, heavily patriotic views of what a hero should be. As times change so do the general audiences interests.
Burton brought us a new serious Batman. Nowadays, serious and dark superhero films are not uncommon, because of this. The Nolan Batman series being the preferred benchmark of many cinema going comic book fans on what it truly is to make a grounded, realistic hero in this genre.
As mentioned before with the changing times comes new trends. The current growing trend that has started to emerge [from my perspective as a fan and an avid enthusiast of film-making] is a call back to the antics of 1960s Batman. .
The revelation of heroics with a dash of comedy is a returning market. This is potentially due to success of Marvel taking light-hearted approaches to their A-list roster of suped up titans from their vast comic book library. The first Iron Man movie could be given the firm nod in this department as the first one that did it well. These settings, these stories are ripe for comedy. Sometimes farcical ludicrous back-stories of old don’t translate the best to screen, that’s why an occasional wink to fans or an amusing quip on the absurdity of what is going on can be a lovely throwback and acknowledgment that not everything that was printed about this character was a perfectly crafted story.
Comedy is important. It can lend humanity to a story that may not come through in a brooding context. If we allow ourselves to laugh along with these characters, then it can transition well into relating to them in different ways. Feeling anger when a loved one is taken away from them and perhaps even crying when they are in anguish.
A factor that can be lost among certain fans is the need for parody that goes hand in hand with this. Good comedic, parody films should tell a story that invests you while coyly poking fun at its counterpart in a satirical way. The need for these is diminishing in recent years down to the inclusion of comedy already in the main hero films themselves. It’s difficult to parody something that is meant to be taken in jest to begin with. This may be a factor in the reason full on superhero parodies do not typically perform well. The varying degrees of success of these parodies make studios less likely to take a chance on them.
At one end of the spectrum you have the profitable Kick-Ass series and to the lower end you are left with the unfairly overlooked Scott Pilgrim Vs The World that barely drew two pennies to rub together. Both of these examples are great parodies in their own right. The risk factor of all or nothing makes heroic parody too risky for most studios to go for.
Two components that make a successful film of any variety are its marketing and its audience demand. Marketing your film worldwide clearly and concisely defining exactly what you are selling. Audience demand is down to what the people viewing this product want to see.
Now don’t get me wrong, I understand why parody isn’t considered a high form of wit in this day and age. From a personal standpoint, I have become jaded by years of catastrophically poor parody motion pictures under the guise of cleverly written satire, common examples including Superhero Movie and Disaster Movie. Effectively every comedy with the word “movie” at the end of its title.
Enter Birdman directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu.
Michael Keaton switches out his bat cape for a bird cape in this dark comedy. The director of this piece is most famous for 2006 movie Babel, which, while not of the comedy variety, was a technically stunning film and gives the director leeway to try any other genre he feels like in my estimation. It boasts an all-star cast featuring veteran funny man Zach Galifianakis of Hangover fame, impeccably charming and hilarious Emma Stone and underrated actress Naomi Watts. Keaton plays an egotistical washed up actor who used to play the role of a popular superhero. The film follows his progress as he desperately looks to mount a comeback for his career by producing a Broadway play about the hero. The conflict is centered on his struggle to gain recognition again, his family tribulations and the need to keep his ego in check from time to time.
Keaton has chops from the 1980s working in comedy and the juxtaposition of making him an out of style actor trying to be relevant again shows that Keaton doesn’t take himself to seriously when choosing his roles, as this could have easily been seen as a jibe at him. This film will live and die on public opinion. While at this point in time there is no trailer available. Stills can be found online.
It is truthfully one of the films I’m most hyped for in the future as I hope it will be a return to restoring the besmirched name of proper parody. I encourage everybody to give Birdman a chance and until then I withhold my full critique for its release.
Birdman comes out October 17th of this year in the United States and January 2nd in Ireland and the UK.
[Words, Danny Kelly]