NEW YORK – The penultimate panel on the Empire Stage here at New York Comic-Con on Friday put together two of the world's biggest superheroes, one from DC and one from Marvel. That's right, Batman and the Hulk together, not so much again as for the first time.
OK, they weren't dressed in spandex (nor were they there via CGI), and they weren't promoting a comic book property. But having Michael Keaton and Edward Norton together in this setting certainly prompted recollection of their comic book histories. That feeling was only further accentuated by the fact that they were here promoting Alejandro González Iñárritu's “Birdman,” which is about a former comic book movie star.
Keaton, who stars in that role as Riggan Thomson, already has awards season buzz surrounding his performance. The role is a demanding one, asking the actor to quickly turn from comedy to drama. It asks as much of much of the cast and requires that the audience go along for the ride. During the panel, Keaton described the movie as being really funny and hard to watch at the same time.
If that all sounds rather cryptic, it could be that explaining the movie isn't easy. Or, rather, offering a couple sentences about the plot is (former Hollywood star has difficulties staging a play in New York), but getting to what makes it as good as it is, is something differently entirely.
Keaton said that before signing on, when he was talking to people about the movie, they couldn't really explain it to him, but he was interested simply knowing that Iñárritu was doing something new. Norton read the script and absolutely loved it, and he also wanted greatly to be a part of something Iñárritu was doing; he insisted over coffee with the director that he be involved.
The movie is shot, for the most part, in what appears to be one long take, but isn't. It is a device that keeps the audience invested, was hard on the actors, and which requires far more tricks than anyone sees while watching.
“I'm sure film schools will be deconstructing how a lot of it was done for a long time to come,” Norton said. He also offered the thought that Emmanuel Lubezki's work as cinematographer here may be better than what he did on “Gravity,” a movie for which Lubezki won an Academy Award.
In reference to superheroes in this movie specifically, the actors both cautioned against reading into their real lives too much. “I think everyone in this film is Alejandro,” Norton offered.
Of course, even so, people at Comic-Con also wanted to hear a little bit about the two actors' former superhero exploits. While they didn't spend a lot of time on that area, they definitely indulged the audience.
Keaton had two outings as the Caped Crusader and hasn't been Batman since 1992's “Batman Returns.” Even so, he made sure everyone knew that while he doesn't really think about that time all that much anymore, he's “really proud of having played Batman.”
Whether it was simply playing to the Comic-Con crowd or the truth, both actors did not rule out playing another comic book role in the future. Norton explained, and Keaton echoed the sentiment, that opting to do such a film shouldn't be any different than choosing to do any other movie. It is about the script and the people involved.
In the case of “Birdman,” the people involved have made something special. Watching the first 10 minutes of the movie a second time during today's panel definitely offered up several new things to see, and assuredly the rest of the film will as well.
Be sure to keep checking back to HitFix for more coverage of New York Comic-Con and next week we'll have interviews with the cast of “Birdman.” You can also check out our review of the movie from Venice.