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Michael Keaton is no stranger to donning a superhero’s cape and tights and serving up justice. But the former Batman isn’t exactly joining the ranks of Marvel and DC’s long list of superhero features in the coming months and years with his new film, Birdman. (The poster includes a subtitle, or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, but don’t expect to be seeing that in any other marketing.)

Once a prominent actor who portrayed everyone’s favorite fictional hero, the man at the center of this fascinating little story (Keaton) must deal with his current status as a struggling, dull shell of the star he once was, as he attempts to take on a role in a Broadway play and maybe face reality. While he’ll always have his past life as Birdman, it’s been too long since he’s strapped on his wings and slipped on his mask, and the cracks are beginning to show in his persona. What about the public that still views him as Birdman, even when he’s clearly coming apart at the seams?

Take a leap of faith with the first trailer for Birdman below.

The trailer for the film, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, Amores Perros, 21 Grams), shows a man under duress, trapped somewhere in his head when the stress from taking on one very memorable role makes it too difficult to gain success elsewhere. He’s got to prove to himself and the public that he’s more than just his bird wings and some catchphrases; he was a movie star, and he can be one again — a versatile one, at that. But in the meantime, someone’s got a few issues to work out it seems.

The trailer almost looks like a sinister The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, but our “hero” is not living out fantasies when he daydreams the images conjured up all around him; we’re not even quite sure yet if they’re daydreams, depending on his mental state, he could be crazy enough to be hallucinating explosions and fire breathing monsters and levitating flower vases. Like Walter Mitty, Keaton’s depressed actor is attempting to escape his reality and find something so much better. But it leaves you wondering — what exactly was so awful about being Birdman that’s making today so miserable?

Maybe Birdman is a cautionary tale for those who get caught up in the Marvel/DC machines film after film. Playing a superhero is all right and well in the present, but look what awaits you — fantastical hallucinations and fist fighting a naked Edward Norton when your Broadway debut isn’t going that great.

Birdman lands in theaters October 17th.

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