Monday, September 22, 2014

Thoughts on the "Gotham" Series Premier

I honestly don't watch a lot of television, especially new television.  With the advent of Netflix, and with my general disinterest in most television show premises, I just don't tune in the way I used to (and I'm certainly not alone in the new web-centric world).  But something about Gotham sparked my interest, not only because I'm a huge Batman fan, but because I happened to be free tonight at 8 o'clock.  I find most Fox shows like The Following to be over-edited, cliche-ridden and to feature overbearing music.  So what did I think of Gotham, you ask? The "what-if?" prequel tale of Bruce Wayne before he was Batman, of James Gordon before he was Commissioner and Catwoman...while she's... already... Catwoman?

I thought it was alright.  There are good and bad things here, with the overwhelming majority of it being just... meh.  On to the good first; Gotham city itself is very well-realized and captures a comic book setting very well.  The styles of the city-dwellers, the cars, the buildings, the lights... it's all very reminiscent of the Gotham from Batman Begins, and that's a definite good sign.  From a visual effects and art design standpoint, it's just glorious.  I also thought Robin Lord Taylor gave the best performance of the episode, playing Oswald Cobblepot a.k.a. The Penguin.  I also liked Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney, a character that I believe is original to the show.  

The bad? I thought this episode was rushed as hell.  Slow down for your own sake, show. Too many character introductions, too many scenes that start and end within the same minute, and too much dialogue saturated with exposition and lacking in character or natural emotion.  The actor playing Gordon, Ben McKenzie, is a bit stiff and overly serious (although that seems to be how he's written).  It would have been nice to see a father/son relationship seed being planted between Bruce and Gordon to potentially grow in future episodes, but the show is more interested in the revenge element.  This stifles the character development because now it's all about the plot.  Also, Gordon's girlfriend Barbara, (I AM SO CONFUSED) played by Erin Richards, gets some pretty bad dialogue and her performance is just as wooden as McKenzie's; scenes that are supposed be showing us their loving relationship are painfully dull. 

Time for the meh.  Batman's origin story has been done to death, and Gothom didn't really add much.  I'll cite Batman Begins again because the scene in which Bruce's parents are killed is portrayed very similarly to how it plays out in Begins.  However, the emotion just doesn't resonate as strongly, and Bruce's over-dramatic scream he did at the end did not help.  It's like the "Uncle Ben dies" scene from the two Spider-Man origin movies; the original film resonates strongly, so to see it done again just takes away some of the impact.  Not to mention the show as a whole is a lot gorier than the Nolan films; I feel that excessive use of gore is often used as a crutch to make a show or movie to seem more dark and edgy, but here it was just distracting.  When blood is overused, it stops resonating, and I think Gotham falls into that trap at points.  And as a side note, the music was completely negligible.  You hear the Batman music composed by Danny Elfman (or even Hans Zimmer) and you just think, "Wow! That's Batman!"  Unfortunately, that element is sorely missing and is desperately needed. 

Neither committing to full-out comic book tone like the animated series or the Burton films, nor giving us a satisfyingly gritty take like Batman Begins, Gotham falls a bit flat.  There are plenty of easter eggs for longtime fans, and that was appreciated (if a bit shoehorned in at times).  The editing during fight scenes uses a bit of shaky cam and super-fast cutting, which I hate with a fiery passion.  While I certainly didn't think the main cast was anything to write home about, there are a number of supporting characters that really shine, and I hope they get their chance to play fully-fledged villains if the show takes off.  But will I be watching?  It's hard to say.  Maybe if I get that incredibly rare Monday night off again, I'll flip to Fox and see if things have improved.  I thought the first few episodes of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer were terrible, and now it's one of my favorite shows.  So let's see if any of Gotham's potential can be fulfilled.