Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Review - Gotham


One of the new TV season's most anticipated new shows premiered last night, adding another comic book-focused program to the popular trend (see Arrow, The Flash, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)  FOX's Gotham is different in that it's not telling the story of one of the legendary city's characters (you know who) so much as the origin of a different urban hero - Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie, Southland, The OC). 

Gotham follows Gordon's rise from rookie detective to Police Commissioner and how he navigated the multiple layers of corruption that secretly ruled the infamous Gotham City, birthplace of not only Batman but also DC Comic's most iconic villains, including Catwoman, The Penguin, The Riddler, Two-Face and The Joker.  The series will follow how Gordon walks the tumultuous line between good and evil as he fights to restore his beloved city back to the idealized home he remembers as a child.

Also in the cast are Erin Richards (Breaking In) as Gordon's fiancee Barbara Kean; Donal Logue (Sons of Anarchy) as his partner Harvey Bullock; David Mazouz (Touch) as a young Bruce Wayne; Sean Pertwee (Elementary) as Bruce's loyal butler Alfred; Jada Pinkett Smith (HawthoRNe) as Fish Mooney, and local gang boss; John Doman (The Wire) as mob kingpin Carmine Falcone;  Playing soon-to-be-super villains are Camren Bicondova as Selina Kyle/Catwoman; Robin Lord Taylor (The Walking Dead) as Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin; and Cory Michael Smith as Edward Nygma/The Riddler. 

Of course, you can't do series about Gotham City without greatly incorporating Bruce Wayne's story and his eventually rise to become the Dark Knight.  The pilot did feature the infamous murder of his parents, and just like in Batman Begins, we see Gordon comforting the young orphan.  The new twist here is that Gotham promises to develop a growing friendship between Gordon and Wayne, incorporating the older man into the younger's life more than he has been in past re-tellings of the story, and may even play a great part in Wayne fulfilling his cowled destiny.  

Gotham looks great - the cinematographer definitely captures the look of Gotham City with its rich darkness and many shadows.  They've created the grittiness and weight we've come to know it to carry throughout its rooftops, back alleys and shady hangouts.  There are a few curious filming choices (in chase scenes, we have a camera angle that looks like the actor is holding the camera on them - action-selfie, if you will) that's a little weird, but I appreciate the world they've created.  McKenzie greatly reminds me of Russell Crowe in his role as Detective Bud White in L.A. Confidential (a must-see movie, BTW).  It's interesting to know we'll be following someone who has no superpowers, so gadgets, just their own strength and gumption to take down the worst of the worst.  I'm guessing we won't actually be seeing any of the typical Batman villain antics since these are their origin stories as well, but if the show goes for several seasons, that may change.  But until then, will this series fly as is?  In the meantime, the actors seem to be relishing their bad guy roles, particularly the Smiths (Jada and Cory Michael).

I'll admit while I liked the pilot a lot, I wasn't blown away.  I see the potential here and I think it's well cast (with the exception of Richards, whose acting I think is a little thin), but I think many viewers are gonna want more than this slow-burn of character development.  For them - the ones that want more comic book than gritty drama - I can highly recommend Arrow, S.H.I.E.L.D and The Flash, which I'm greatly anticipating.  But for those willing to taper the desire to see Batman and his larger-than-life foes and get into what made them tick and what turned each of them, I think they could enjoy this.

 BOTTOM LINE:  Worth taking up residence in for at least a couple more episodes.

Gotham airs Mondays at 8pm on FOX.

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