The weight of expectation on the Dark Knight has always been huge. Ever since Tim Burton saddled up in the late 80’s to reboot if you like, the image of BATMAN from the days of Camp under the likes of Adam West, fans have been waiting to see and explode with rage into how their favourite Superhero would become.
When Michael Keaton was cast in the 1988 film, there were howls of despair. Even more when he and Burton departed after the sequel to be replaced by Val Kilmer and Joel Schumacher. By the time Clooney took over the cape and the film franchise transcended into a huge toy advert of disaster, every Bat Fan were crying in their Caves and wondering what actually went wrong with the Caped Crusader.
It weren’t until Chris Nolan took the premise of Frank Miller’s comic book classic The Dark Knight Returns and cast the likes of Christen Bale and Gary Oldman, that the respect started to return to the franchise. So far removed was Nolan’s vision from the silly antics of the 60’s show and Burton’s grand noire pop style, that Batman Begins surely was a fitting title. A new era had swoon in and what ended up as one of the best trilogy of films has virtually started and ended a franchise for this generation.
The expectations level are so high now it will take a brave man to even contemplate doing a new take on Batman and already you feel the knifes are sharpening for Snyder and Affleck even before a single scene is shown. Unfair? Of course, but such was and still is the impact on Nolan’s universe that it will take something special to excite fans once more.
Which takes us to GOTHAM, a new TV show from FOX that threatens to do what Smallville done to the Man Of Steel……minus the teen angst. Bruce Heller the creator of such delight like ROME and THE MENTALIST, as a huge amount of pressure on his shoulders to appease everyone and so far with the show, he has done more good than bad.
Is GOTHAM an idea worth pursuing? judging by the opening episodes, yes indeed, even though it does try at time to please the fan base more than it should.
The Show replicates Smallville by showing us a world without its hero and how within GOTHAM a small young boy became a man who dressed as a Bat. It may yet be another origin tale that doesn’t need telling but the twist of this is that the focus is not on the young Bruce Wayne himself, but that of the young Jim Gordon, who will rise through the ranks to become Commissoner and eventual ally of our Superhero. By moving the attention away from our young hero is a smart move, even though David Mazouz steals each scene he is in as the young Wayne, its good so far just to see how the impact of his parents death (which this show begins with) impacts on his personality.
Which means that Ben McKenzie needs to be convincing as Gordon to make GOTHAM work and luckily he is. A sort of shadow vibe of Mills from Se7en, his Gordon is a former War solider who just wants to do the right thing. When he tells Bruce that he will find the killer responsible for the deaths of his parents, you believe him. But in GOTHAM, that is not going to be easy.
The stench of decay is beginning already in the vast city and its a scary thought knowing that its going to be a at least a decade maybe before Batman turns up to sort it. Coppers that are on the take, high officials involved in crime, there is no one there that really stands out from the crowd apart from Jim himself, which is the story arc that will carry GOTHAM through to the many seasons hopefully it will get. Even on the streets, residents steal from each other and you just wonder why people want to live in such a sour place.
Jim though came here because that is where the action is and being married to the beautiful Barbara played by Erin Richards does help, even though with the vibe you get you do expect her pretty head to end up in a box. He is saddled with though a dirty cop in the shape of Harvey Bullock (Donal Louge), well dirty or lazy its up to you too decide.
The opening episode does too much to appease the fans and sometimes its so in your face that you wish that the writers would have just taken a breather and slowly just let the show develop. In the Pilot, everything is just spelt out for you which there is no need to do. You have a guy called Edward who speaks in riddles……a young girl called Ivy watering a plant…..a young female street thief nicknamed Cat……and of course a man who walks funny and the henchmen call him Penguin……..its way too much to soon when in reality fans would have been happy just to see the main focus on Jim and the young Bruce, which is the main plot of the entire story arc.
Despite the need to impress, there are some stand outs….
The young Catwoman who looks remarkably like a young Michelle Pfeiffer
Carmen Bicondova channels a young Pfeiffer with great effect and will no doubt become a fan favourite when she has the chance to grow. But the star so far is Robert Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot, who will quite possibly make the Penguin role his own. One minute nervous to then full of rage, Taylor is a revelation and maybe just be the sole reason to watch this show. With the Penguin not seen on screen since the performance of Danny Devito, Taylor has a chance to to do something here and you can tell that he is loving the challenge. In fact the episodes dip when he is not around…..
It does seem that GOTHAM will provide the same structure as Smallville and the likes of X Files and Fringe by having a “Monster of the week”, in this case bad people…….the likes of Ballonman providing the filler which if you are enjoying this concept, you will have no problem with.
With Jada Pinkett Smith providing the eye candy as the evil crime boss Fish Mooney, and Sean Pertwee providing a different harder take on the butler Alfred, there are plenty of story arcs developing and it helps that there is a fast pace to the proceedings. But what makes GOTHAM work so far is that not once do you remind yourself of Nolan’s world which is no hard feat. Giving chance to grow and GOTHAM may just be a story worth telling………………..