Gotham City

September 24, 2014

Simply TV: Gotham (Pilot Episode)

BURN

Gotham – Burn

How can you go wrong with a show that takes in a universe in which Batman exists? There shouldn’t be anything wrong with that……right? Well, how about a universe in which Batman MIGHT exist one day, but in order to get to that one day you have to reside in a universe where you get to follow around a young Jim Gordon, his wise-cracking partner Harvey Bullock, and a bunch of villains who are either not yet the villains you know and love yet, and a female gangster named Fish Mooney. It will clearly be a slow burn for Fox’s “Gotham;” the newest take on the Gotham City and it’s residents. This opening is not meant to bash the show, it’s to clearly state what you are getting into when you prepare to dedicate multiple seasons to a show where you will follow around a young Jim Gordon who is likely not going to fight any “big” villains from Batman’s rogue’s gallery, but hey, I could be wrong.

So “Gotham” or at least the pilot episode, opens with that fateful night; the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents to a mugger’s bullet. The added wrinkle in this origin story is that the murder is witnessed by a young girl who has the slightest resemblance to a cat. Of course we know who she will become, but it’s never mentioned. Moving from Crime Alley, to the GCPD, we meet Jim Gordon and his new partner Bullock. The two couldn’t be less alike, classic case of good cop, bad cop. We also discover that Jim’s father was the former DA of Gotham City. Bullock and Gordon arrive at the scene of the Wayne family murder and while Gordon comforts Bruce, Bullock is trying to find a way to dump the case since he knows something is rotten in Denmark. As the show progresses we meet Renee Montoya, who works for the Major Crimes Unit, Jim’s girlfriend, Barbara Kean, and I might add those two have somewhat of a history, and it’s leaning on the lesbian side, which I can appreciate for obvious male-pig reasons. Along the way we also meet a young Oswald Cobblepot, Edward Nygma, and finally Carmine Falcone, played by “The Wire” alum, John Doman. In my haste we also meet the new Alfred Pennyworth, who delivers one of the funnier lines in the episode as well.

If it seems my synopsis is all over the place, well, that’s because the episode is all over the place. While it’s a slow burn, it’s also a pretty messy burn. There seem to be a few things that you are going to have to get over if you are going to enjoy “Gotham.” One, give up on seeing Batman anytime soon. Unless the show begins to rely on flash-forwards, or skips into the future after the first season, or two, there will be no Batman. And yes, I get it, the show is called “Gotham,” not “Batman” but when one thinks of Gotham City, there is really only one person you think of, but yeah, I get it.

Two, “Gotham” feels like something that could have been called “Gotham High.” Seeing villains like The Riddler, Penguin, and Catwoman as younger versions of their selves just seems odd, and wrong. Of course, this is all based on a pilot where things can change drastically and could improve, but I’m not into it as much as I feel like I should be. While I don’t agree with the direction of Penguin, I have to admit I like how he is being portrayed by Robin Lord Taylor. It’s quite a departure from what I’m used to in my Penguin character, from Danny DeVito’s take in “Batman Returns” to even the comic books, but building up Penguin as a big bad for the future is ballsy, albeit, a slow burn.

Three, I really hope they change how they use Harvey Bullock. Bullock was one of my favorite characters from “Batman: The Animated Series,” and the crooked-cop take on his character, at least to me, is a little too cliched. You’re always going to have one of this bad cop-types characters in a show, but why make Bullock that character? Donal Logue, who I think is vastly underrated in anything he acts in, gives Bullock a certain attitude that I appreciated, but I want the slovenly, fat, fast food eating Bullock, not this Bullock. Again, I like Logue, but I’m trying to figure out this take on the character. Of course, I’m sure there will be an arc where Bullock has to make a choice to do the right thing or the wrong thing, possibly during the season finale, where he will become the Bullock I’ve come to know and love.

To finish up the rants, some of the music and camera work and simply weird. I can’t help but think when I’m watching something in the Batman universe, I imagine listening to either Danny Elfman or Hans Zimmer; Graeme Revell isn’t who I would expect to score the “Gotham” TV show. And nothing again Revell, I loved his portion of the score for “Sin City” and if we got more of that in “Gotham” I would have no complaints, but alas. It just doesn’t seem like the score reflects what I would expect from a pseudo-gritty take on the history of Gotham City.

There are some other nit-picks through the pilot, but as a hopeful viewer, I think some of these things should get addressed. I still don’t buy Ben McKenzie, or Detective O.C., as Jim Gordon, but he has shown he’s got the chops, see “Southland” as a good example. I really hope the show doesn’t push a Selina Kyle/Bruce Wayne teen romance angle, that would just come off as needlessly cheesy. Finally, don’t create and add characters just to create and add characters. If the show is really going to push the “Rise of the Penguin” and Carmine Falcone/Fish Mooney angle, let those angles flesh out and concentrate on making that the best plot line you can make.

Overall, like “Arrow” and I’m sure “The Flash,” “Gotham” will go through it’s growing pains, similar to Bruce Wayne. The biggest thing for “Gotham” is that when you hear Gotham, you think Batman. But how long will that last with audiences who want to see the Dark Knight, not the Adventures of Jim Gordon vs. Fish Mooney. Name recognition is the biggest thing the show has going for it right now, and the fact it’s on Fox, a network notorious for axing shows if they don’t perform up to snuff, it will be interesting to see how long of a leash “Gotham” will have.

Fun Fact: Before he was hitting the street as Gordon, McKenzie was behind the cowl, voicing the Dark Knight in the animated feature, “Batman: Year One.”

July 24, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (Matt’s Take)

The Dark Knight Rises – Scope

Growing up, I could give a damn about DC Comics.  I couldn’t relate to Superman, Wonder Woman was a chick, and I didn’t have any jewelery, so screw the Green Lantern.  Hell, I’ll say it, I didn’t even care about Batman.  It took me a long time to really develop a relationship with The Dark Knight being that I was way more of a Marvel Man anyway.  I don’t remember going to the theaters in 1989 to see the second “Batman” movie (yes, I’m still counting the Adam West “Batman” movie as the first one) but I distinctly remember going to the movies in 1992 with my parents to see “Batman Returns.”  It wasn’t like anything that I had seen before: Dark, moody, Gothic, and the music (don’t get me started, I’ve been a Danny Elfman mark since “Beetlejuice“)  But even while being impressed by “Batman Returns,” I never got into the comics, I still cared way too much about X-Men and even Image Comics’ “Spawn.”

This brings me to Chris Nolan, the man who took over the Batman franchise after it had been thoroughly fisted by Joel Schumacher and his bat-nipples.  Nolan, who had already made a name for himself with “Memento,” was the last person you would have thought could helm a Batman re-boot, but people thought the same thing about Tim Burton after he did “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” and the aforementioned, “Beetlejuice.”

Within Nolan’s Gotham City, the Scope increased movie by movie, moving away from one man’s fight against crime to a city finally banning together to fight against a force so big that it even overwhelmed Batman.  “The Dark Knight Rises” takes many of its cues from three books in my opinion:  “The Dark Knight Returns” “Knightfall” and “Vengeance of Bane II.”  Moving away from the fantastic elements of these books, Batman, and Bruce Wayne, face real world problems such as lost friendship, hopelessness, and bankruptcy, and it is just enough to wear him down to the point of Bane being able to “break him.”  With Batman out of the picture, the movie points the focus directly on Gotham, its police force, and average citizens, and this is my biggest problem with the movie.  The point of the Batman is to inspire average citizens to step up and take on an enemy greater then them and fight.  The movie really only comes down to a few characters, mostly cops, who fight, while the citizens are huddled in their home, hiding.  I have a problem with this, and while Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) tries to inspire the citizens drawing Batman insignias on walls, it seems like a forced act from Nolan.

But this is a small gripe, and takes nothing away from what Nolan has created;  a living, breathing city that you actually care about and don’t want to see destroyed.  There are points in the movie where you completely forget that this is a Batman movie, which is amazing, and tells you something about the filmmaker, who has crafted a story that could, unfortunately, happen.

As far as acting and characters go, I enjoyed Tom Hardy as Bane, even if he did sound a lot like an out of breath Sean Connery.  I thought his eyes told his story, and despite the fact that he was a ruthless terrorist, you still saw a human being looking for his place in the world, very much like Batman in the counterpoint.  Anne Hathaway was fine as Selina Kyle, and you did see some sassy Michelle Pfeiffer in her acting and mannerisms, and the more I think about it the addition of an extra “hero” in Gotham did lighten the load for Batman.  But the standout for me was Michael Caine.  He has brought more to the Alfred character then any other actor and his portrayal in “Rises” was heartbreaking and got me choked up a few times.  You finally see how much he cares about the Wayne family and their legacy to the city of Gotham.  Overall, the acting was as strong as you’re going to get from a comic book movie.

As far as Easter eggs go, there were quite a few that I thought worked very well.  The inclusion of Lazarus Pits were told in an interesting way with Bruce Wayne giving Selina Kyle the “Clean Slate” program, a practical way of explaining exactly what the Pits do.  Also, the little mention of “Killer Croc” by Blake was awesome and shows that the writers love to throw little bones to the comic fans.

Overall, the first true Batman trilogy was a complete success.  All three movies exuded different emotions, “Begins” with hope, “The Dark Knight” with apprehension, and “Rises” with dread, but the Scope of the movies grew and grew until Nolan had created a series of movies that will be held up as a litmus test for not just comic book films, but film in general.

Fun Fact:  “The Dark Knight Rises” has the biggest ensemble of Batman’s rogues gallery (not counting the Adam West “Batman”)  Bane, Catwoman, Killer Croc, Ra’s al Ghul, Scarecrow, Talia al Ghul are all seen or mentioned in the movie.  And I’d like to believe that Bane’s right-hand man who was an expert sniper is a nod to “Deadshot.”  Just saying.

July 23, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (JP’s Take)

The Dark Knight Rises: Marvelous

—Caution Spoilers ahead—
2012 has been such a damn good year for films…and we have more to go…I’m looking at you Skyfall!
But-

The Dark Knight Rises is a fantastic film.

and my favorite this year…(Here is a small write up of what I liked and didn’t like. When TDKR comes out on Blu-ray, I will do a detail review on all three, the likes and non-likes).

Listen I have read many reviews saying how many people thought it was just fine and not that great, well I believe they’re wrong. The biggest problem really is the structure of the story. It seems they tried to jam in what could of been two films, especially the first half. On my second viewing I notice it works a little better then the first showing. I’m gonna guess and say the story structure was a bit jarring probably for some people at first but it didn’t get to me too much after a few showings. There are a few other issues including Blake knowing Bruce was Batman and a few plot holes but thats fine, shit happens.

Okay thats really it. Now on to the good stuff! This film is made for a Batman Fan! If you don’t know much about Batman I’m gonna guess its a bit tougher (Talia, Bruce and Selina’s romance, the alluded to Killer Croc and so on). All the great call backs to Begins and Dark Knight work. The story is great. The acting is fantastic. The Cinematography is perfection. That IMAX was mind blowing awesome! Action was top notch and the best of the three films. Music is and like always, kickass. This is the best acting of Bale’s Batman. Catwoman is wonderful and sexy. Bane in my mind works excellent. He looks and sounds great too. We finally see Batman meet his match physically, which I love. In my mind its on the same level as The Dark Knight, if not a bit better. Because The Dark Knight is a great movie for all to love. The Dark Knight Rises really is more of a great Batman film for Batman fans to love (and also non-fans too). With all that you also have the parallels of whats going on in our real world and the film strike me emotionally and work beautifully by doing that. Sadly I have a feeling this film will be a time capsule of the darkness this world we live in has become. But more importantly this film completely finishes a modern classic trilogy.

Sure it may not be a perfect film but how many perfect films are there? Honestly I can count them all on one hand. But its a great film and a fantastic Batman film. We finally got to see Bane done great and it was in a realistic way on the big screen. Talia finally pops up in a film (I wish she was in it longer thou) which I’m happy to see and like her father says in BB, stabs Bruce in the heart (emotional) and Batman (psychically) and a ending that I feel was the perfect ending to complete a perfect trilogy…and NO I don’t think this new “Robin” will go on and do films in the future but it just all seems to work for me.

I really love this film, I find it simply amazing and if you don’t like it thats fine I don’t care, because I loved it. To me it brings back that classic feeling of going to the movies, which many films don’t have anymore. But you can’t say this film isn’t emotional. Especially Alfred’s scene at Bruce’s grave, I’ve never been moved that much in all my years with anything Batman. It’s tough not to be bias when it comes to Batman. It’s really the only thing I ever loved, It’s really the only reason I live. I grew up on Batman (especially The Animated Series which is the only reason my parents bought a VHS recorder) it means so much to me, so this film puts a smile on my face, a very big one. Us Batman fans have been to hell once, lets hope Warner Brothers take a few year off and focus on something else other then rebooting Batman because we now have our perfect trilogy and I want to enjoy it for years to come because these films are and will always be legendary.


July 22, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (DJ’s Take)

GRAND

You’re either a Beatles man or an Elvis man.  You’re either a Marvel man or a DC man.  Full disclosure, I am a Marvel man.  That doesn’t mean I hate DC.  It means I was raised on Spider-Man and The Punisher and The Fantastic Four.  So, my sensibilities make me root more for Marvel to succeed than DC.  However, there are certain heroes in each company that supersede bias.  For Marvel it would be Spider-Man.  For DC it is The Dark Knight.

I have loved this trilogy.  Even though Chris Nolan does tear away and dismiss nearly all the things that make Batman a comic book character in exchange for realism.  A gamble that worked.  A gamble that could ONLY…ONLY work for Batman.  (DO YOU HEAR ME YOU TWO?) Nothing flashy…nothing fun….bleak….realism….and we ate it up.  But it wasn’t the realism that sold Nolan’s Batman to me.  It was his world building.  His scope.  Making everything seem so GRAND yet keeping it contained mostly in one city.  Gotham City.  The name I would have called this movie over The Dark Knight Rises.  This film isn’t really about Batman to me.  Its about Gotham.  Batman is barely in it.  And we see how a city tries to survive and hold out without him.  When the sh*t started hitting the fan in this movie, I kept muttering to myself…”This looks like a job for Superman.” or “Where is the Justice League?”  But Nolan isolated this trilogy into the loneliness of realism to not have to worry about those things.  He wanted it to be about Gotham City.  That, to me, is the point of The Dark Knight Rises.  The point of the entire trilogy.  A symbol giving a city’s citizens strength to protect themselves.  To rise up and be their own heroes.  And in that regard, Nolan knocks it out of the park.

No.  Its not perfect.  No.  Its not better than The Dark Knight.  No.  I didn’t like it better than Avengers.  But Yes.  It is a must watch.  For GRANDNESS alone it is a must watch.  You will feel the hopelessness and uncertainty of who is going to save the day right along with Gotham’s citizens.  You will love everything Joseph Gordan Levitt does.  Though there is a final bit with him that is a little hit or miss with avid comic book fans.  You will wonder what the hell Bane is saying sometimes but will never wonder how dangerous and scary he is.  You will realize that in a film of terrifically portrayed bleakness, Anne Hathaway’s scenes as Selina Kyle are probably the only ones that feel fun.  You will be saddened as a DC fan at the end when it dawns on you that Warner Brothers will now attempt to tear this entire trilogy down to reboot the franchise. 

The Dark Knight Rises is probably the only way you could end this series.  By itself, if we knew more were coming in this universe, it would be worth nitpicking.  But as a denouement to probably one of the GRANDEST trilogies since The Lord Of The Rings, it rises to the occasion.  Christopher Nolan made Batman into Lawrence Of Arabia.  And for that, we should thank him.  Watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

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