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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Gotham: A Review of a Fantastic Idea

Gotham, Warner Bros, FOX Television

Gotham, a new crime drama on Fox, has a real chance to do something different.  And there were glimpses of it in the premiere.  This is an origins story that takes a really big step back into the future of Batman.  In fact, Bruce Wayne is just a child here, and his parents have only just been murdered.  but the show is not about Bruce Wayne.  It is about a rookie detective, Jim Gordon (Benjamin McKenzie).  The real promise of the show is not the origin of Batman.  Nor is it the evolution of Jim Gordon as he makes his perilous way up the ladder to Police Commissioner.  The real origin stories here that could captivate us are those of the Batman villains: Penguin, the Joker, Poison Ivy, the Riddler, and Cat Woman.  This is the what will make or break the show.

First impressions:

Jim Gordon is a solid base for the show.  A sort of LA Confidential Russell Crowe type who makes up for his lack of charm with his zeal for justice.  But he'll need to add something soon before he becomes a boor.  I'm confident he will.  I have a feeling they've made him a bit blunt at the beginning in order to allow him to evolve into a seasoned, street-wise white knight.

Oswald Cobblepotts: Our first look
at Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor)

Penguin is the first diamond in the rough here.  I really like Penguin--both the character and the actor. The character's name is Oswald Cobblepot, played exquisitely by Robin Lord Taylor.  There is so much promise here I'm both excited and ready to be disappointed.  If the writers screw this up I'm gonna be angry.  Penguin is immediately vicious and sympathetic.  That's not easy to do.  I've always enjoyed Penguin as a villain over the more over-the-top Joker, and Hollywood did not get it right back when Danny DeVito portrayed him in 1992's Batman Returns.  In fact, they ruined the character so thoroughly that we haven't really seen him until this new version of him, twenty-two years later.

Sean Pertwee caught my attention as Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred Pennyworth.  Here is an Alfred I don't think we've seen yet.  Not the old grandfather stand-in as he was played by Michael Gough, nor the wise counselor as played by Michael Caine.  And certainly not the bumbling old-timer as played by Alan Napier in the 1960's television show.  This new Alfred is going to be a bulldog.  Sure, he's still the proper Brit, but he's got some real grit, some real fight in him, and he's going to be the man to shape Bruce Wayne as he grows from a child into a super-man.  Pertwee's Alfred already seems cynical, wary, and capable of making sure the heir to the Wayne fortune does not grow up to be a fool.

The real concern I have is the low budget effects.  This looks like something done on straight-to-video movies from fifteen years ago.  I don't mind them, but they could turn off potential viewers.  And if Fox doesn't see enough viewers they'll never increase the budget, which means it might never be more than one season.  And that's too bad, because this could really evolve into a masterful story.  But they've chosen to start at such a young age for Bruce Wayne that this will take years to gain ground, and years to reach a fever-pitch level to the emergence of Batman.  And that's what should happen.  This story should take a long time to germinate properly.  But I have serious doubts that our want-it-now society could wait that long.  I have little faith that FOX would give the producers of Gotham the time needed to do this right.

Only time will tell.  In the meantime, I'll enjoy as much of it as I can and hope for the rest.

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