Friday, 17 October 2014

Gotham: Dissecting a Prequel

Warning: Some gentle spoilers 

Once again we find ourselves faced with another comic book reboot, but this time it is without it's original namesake. Do we love this idea, or is it bananas to create a project without it's leader? Right now, it seems to be working as it's considered to be one of the breakout seasons of the Autumn. Instead of giving us the older Batman, what Gotham offers us is a history. It shadows the journey of  a young Commissioner James Gordon, and a ten year old Bruce Wayne (Baby Batman) while it births the stories of iconic villains that include The Riddler, and Penguin. Gotham also stars a hoard of familiar names such as Benjamin McKenzie, Donal Logue and  Jada Pinkett Smith. 

gotham tv show image, gif image
First things first, this isn't a story about Batman. At least it's not trying to be. Although it couldn't exist without the shy presence of a young Bruce, the series is less invested in him and his future as a vigilante in a cape. At this point in the game, we're not talking about Batman. Careful not to abandon him altogether, the show gives us an inside look into Bruce's life in the aftermath of his parent's death and his eager grasp on justice. What we are given is more police procedural than comic book hero, as the show concentrates on Commissioner Gordon and his battle with corrupt law enforcement (or as I like to refer to him, my good buddy Jim).

So far, I've watched 4 episodes and I have to admit that it's gotten better every week. So far it has received mixed reviews and it seems to be one of those TV shows that you either really love or really hate. It's certainly not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but if you want some seriously gritty escapism with an injection of silliness then it's definitely for you. Gotham is a unapologetic hybrid of cop show, mob drama and comic book exaggeration. It boasts consistently strong acting and establishes powerful character dynamics very early on.

The show is visually rich with portraits of a mean city, and it's creation of Gotham City as a landscape is as masterful as you would hope. Gotham exists in it's own era, in what we can assume to be between the 1970's and 1980's, yet it exists outside of the conventional idea of time. Take for instance, the use of technology such as mobile phones, yet the clothing blurs the line between dated and contemporary. Gotham exists to be whatever it needs to be for the viewer, it's a fantasy world that lives in the dark. 

The city itself feels very old New York with new New York grittiness, yet it isn't. It's a jigsaw of the grandeur skyscrapers and harshness of New York, with broken pieces of old London. The visuals of the city are dominated by doomed colours and muddy, dirty filters and we experience the seedy significance of a sombre world in which the influence of film noir is inescapable.
Source: Tumblr/GothamGifs
As I've mentioned, Gotham is concerned with history. The history of what made a villain, and what provoked a vigilante. It's re-invention of iconic characters looks sure to draw in an emerging demographic, while remaining faithful to it's existing one. In terms of violence, this show has a fair share of blood on it's hands. I often find that TV shows are far less constricted than movies, but the show has a time slot which enables the (sometimes gentle, occasionally unnerving) gore that it enjoys. 

Gotham offers us some time out on the streets, and leads us on a guided tour of a criminal fortress. I honestly think I spend half my time studying the surroundings and the set, and estimating production values. That said, the city itself is the most interesting primary character, with it's manipulations and galore of complicated anti heroes and bossy femme fatales.

This particular reboot is not about glorifying Bruce Wayne's revenge, or upgrading his Batmobile. It is the story of corruption in a brutal metropolis, where men and women do whatever it takes to have it all. Gotham is the story of a man who believes it can be saved, and why it needed saving in the first place. 

If you find it lacking in vibrant colour, a particular memorable scene occurs in the fourth episode with a cotton candy coloured box filled with poison cannoli (if there's any way I want to leave this world, it's with a toxic custard pastry, got it?)
I was unsure of the show at first, yet the teasers drew me in and I was adamant I would give it a fair chance. How many more movies or TV shows can be rooted within the superhero origins can one person stand? Apparently one more, and it's the only one I'm interested in following through.