Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Somewhere Between Tim Burton and Adam West, or Thoughts on Gotham

It was so hard for me to get into Gotham, and for the series to find a compelling tone and a pace.  There was some confusion when the series started, it wasn’t exactly an origin story and it was immediately compared with Christopher Nolan’s universe.  There’s a reason why all the Batman movies show the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, and then fast forward to the present; nobody’s interested in watching a sad 12-year-old kid mope about the mansion, except maybe other sad 12-year-old kids.
It took a season and a half to evolve into the gloriously operatic mess it has become, inhabiting a Gotham somewhere on the spectrum between Tim Burton and Adam West.  It’s not exactly funny, but it's not exactly dark either.  The strength of the show, besides the excellent casting and superior production values, lies in the attitude; Gotham is having fun and doesn't take itself seriously, and neither should you.  Gotham paints in broad strokes, with rain soaked streets and severed limbs and also the occasional plucked eyeball.
The weakest storyline is young Bruce Wayne’s, which was my initial resistance Gotham.  But once the series began to pull away and focus on the rise of Oswald Cobblepott and the gang war between the old generation of mobsters, Gotham began to get interesting.  Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney purred menacingly  across the screen like an updated Eartha Kitt, and Gotham was able to find its wings. 
The villains are always more compelling than the heroes, and Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepott and Cory Michael Smith as Edward Nygma steal every scene they’re in.  Jim Gordon’s character, as played by Ben McKenzie wasn’t able to command as much attention until he began his own moral descent.  The irony of casting Michael Chiklis aka Vic Mackey from The Shield as the new Captain Barnes was not lost, as Vic Mackey was yet another detective who was comfortable blurring the lines between cop and criminal.
Jim Gordon has been re-framed as a morally ambiguous anti-hero, which makes Oliver Queen’s struggle in Arrow with truth and killing seem self-centered and boring, though he does have way nicer abs.  Donal Logue shores up a bromantic partnership with Gordon as Harvey Bullock while Sean Pertwee as Alfred Pennyworth supplies some much needed grown-up time to the Bruce Wayne storyline. 
The scenes in Arkham Asylum (nobody ever mentions the Lovecraft reference, because you people don't read) act as a dark twin to the precinct, an actual madhouse and a club-footed metaphor as to where the city of Gotham is ultimately heading.  The introduction of BD Wong as Dr. Hugo Strange is optimistic and also worth mentioning.  It’s difficult to cast an Asian actor as a villain without referencing the old Yellow Peril stereotypes from WWII.   But in this new, contemporary Gotham, BD Wong’s just another mad genius with a criminal agenda and not defined by his race, which is refreshing to see.

I have to admit, I’m not really a comic books guy.  I mean, I read The Sandman in the 90’s, but I’ve always been more of a Superman guy, though my Superman begins with George Reeves and ends with Christopher Reeve.  After all, the name of the blog is SUPERANTONIO, not BAT-ANTONIO.


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.