The Latest Masterpiece From The Genius of Michael Keaton!
The third installment in Michael Keaton’s epic and decades-spanning trilogy of something-that-flies-man titles has recently been released…and, I must say, it is the cleverest and most innovative of these supermeta social commentaries yet.
To recap: in Keaton’s Batman two-parter (“Batman”, “Batman Returns”), he portrays the skeptic’s worst conception of the classic comic book hero in our society as a rich anti-social who only ventures into town to beat up poor people, control the media optics of his Batman persona, and impress attractive women. Those films are were so craftily directed by Tim Burton to depict unselfconscious characters acting in an unselfaware society that viewing audiences were, themselves, usually drafted into the skewed world-view of Gotham in which Keaton’s Batman was a real hero. Stronger-minded movie watchers observed a man dressed like a flying animal threaten to drop drug addicts from rooftops, release toxic gas into the atmosphere (behind cloud cover and out of sight of spectators), strafe the streets of Gotham (packed with a thoroughly mixed crowd of criminals and innocent bystanders) with an aerial bombardment of rockets and machine gun fire (with doubtful permission of the controlling government authorities to either have or fly combat aircraft), mostly destroy a cathedral, and direct (by way of redirection) a missile fusillade and thereby destroy a municipal zoo, all the while wreaking havoc on street side Gotham by destroying as many lampposts, fire hydrants, and storefronts as he felt necessitated by his war on SOME crime (Catwoman gets off with a kiss). It was truly one the most mean-spirited Wall Street vs. Main Street sadofests ever brought to the big screen.
In “Birdman”, Keaton reflects on a society in which an actor like him has made movies like “Batman”. He also champions the plight of working talent in their continuing struggle against the greatest threat to the enjoyment of the arts: the professional critic. He executes a layered performance in which he plays himself, the actor, portraying himself, the careerist, to depict the life of the man he is beyond the frame of the camera. In bringing “Birdman” to life, Keaton delivers poignant commentary on the craft and the business of performance acting but, more importantly, he flips the script by criticizing the criticism racket. He reveals that professional critics of performers and entertainers are really entertainers themselves, overpaid pests parasitizing on another host’s body of work who contribute nothing to the whole but empty suggestions of their own profundity. Bastards!
In this third and final part, Keaton (who revitalized the superhero genre and initiated the Warner Brothers/DC dominance of the ’90s) now comments on the current state of the industry under Marvel’s influence. He squares off against his one true counterpart in this whole affair, Robert Downey Jr., who, himself, kicked-off the MCU’s Phase One with “Iron Man”. As Adrian Toomes, Keaton plays a working class underdog who loses the prior rightful claims of his business to a newer, more popular, wealthy and well-connected corporatist, Tony Stark. Look…it really is just Micheal Keaton vs Robert Downey. Forget Godzilla vs King Kong (for now), THESE TWO had to fight…sorta. Well, they don’t actually meet. Or fight. Okay, they compete…for influence…over Peter Parker. Minor acting credit is due to Tom Holland for bringing his supporting character, Spider-Man, to the table only to have him served back and forth like a ping-pong ball between two paddles named Keaton and Downey. Vulture(man) wants Peter to stop interfering with his criminal operations while Iron Man wants Peter to also stop interfering with Toomes’ criminal operations. (wait…I have to reread what I just wrote…okay) It is because of this struggle between these two titans to make Peter Parker do the same thing that this Vulture(man) movie is ironically titled “Spider-Man Homecoming”. Welcome home, Michael!
I wrote this to spite Wayne Camp. He knows why.
(You are riding a very fine line, Phantom. Better watch yourself. — Editor-In-Chief)