12 January 2022 1045 Views

2022 is Michael Keaton’s year

by James Murphy

He won a Golden Globe (again), this time for DOPESICK. But that’s just the beginning. 

Michael Douglas (his real name)..ok Keaton..brace yourself. 2022 is shaping up very well for you, sir. And rightly so.

Do I place him in the pantheon of Garrick, Olivier, Brando, Nicholson, Hackman, Duvall, Pacino and Downey? Maybe. Tough call. Michael is certainly deserving of the overused term ‘consummate actor’.

The man has a better imagination than most actors. He certainly has range. From hilarious comedy turns (Beetlejuice, Much Ado About Nothing) to menacing villainy (Pacific Heights): the guy can do anything.

But there is also a subtlety at work. A kind of Jack Lemmon everyman quality which means Keaton can personify blue and white collar ideals and capture the clashes of ethics in between.

Check out GUNG HO, MR MOM, MULTIPLICITY and THE FOUNDER. Differing genres and roles but a similar message. The American Dream must be seized. It can of course corrupt but even in those who exploit that, there must be redemption. Equally, the person who feels oppressed by the system can rise above it and make it work for them.

So: there is a politics to the Keaton method. He’s all about story. Confronting issues, without lecturing the audience. Let the writing, acting and cinema craft do the teaching and viewer draw conclusions. And it is for THAT reason he made such a great Batman.

Channelling Pacino from the end of GODFATHER 2, Michael’s Bruce Wayne conveys an inner torture of the soul via simple looks and poised pauses. All in the eyes and mouth! And all in the actor’s faith in the story being told.

Which is why, ultimately, BATMAN FOREVER was not a Keaton piece. He just did not buy into the story and its method. No biggie, though a $15 million fee would have been nice as would seeing Michael vs Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones. 

VAL KILMER was just as good in his way (better at playing the suave billionaire; more convincing in balletic action scenes). But even Val was reduced in places to doing a poor man’s Keaton impression, via awkward stammers and polo neck /spectacle play, none of which was very Kilmer but pure Keaton.

They tried the same with Clooney and it did not work, either, despite the irony that George is now a real life philanthropist action hero and could easily play Bruce Wayne in an HBO spin off.

Could Keaton have done a third Batman back in ’95? Sure. Should he: no. The break helped him earn some real estate cash, get more interesting work on his terms and wait for the right moment to make a comeback as a leading man and as BATMAN!

He abandoned any chip on the shoulder. Worked with some great directors. Made consistently interesting movies, across genres and platforms. And so it is that 2022 is HIS year. Back as BATMAN in THE FLASH and BATGIRL (though which iteration /take on the character remains to be seen?).

Renewed commercial clout is enabling him to do any project he wishes, on his terms, with the kind of artistic and moral purpose he always wanted.

A great place to be in a career and richly deserved, too.




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