It’s a riddle worthy of Edward Nigma himself. How do you make a Batman show without Batman?
Well, if Gotham is any indication, you make it just like everything else.
If that sounds overly critical, it’s not meant to be. For the most part, Gotham is a fun ride. The pilot shows great potential. It hints at the rich source material provided by DC while at the same time showing that it is ready and willing to take that material and make it it’s own. It’s respectful of Batman fans, while still being accessible to the rest of the audience. It’s just a little…dull.
It may be because I’ve been a Batman fan all my life. To peak my enthusiasm, you need to do more in your pilot then gun down Thomas and Martha Wayne in an alley. I’ve seen that too many times to count. It’s also difficult for the show to sell a lot of danger or suspense, because fans know that (almost) all of these characters are alive and well twenty-plus years later. In short, the comic book elements of the show need a little more life breathed into them. They need to do something novel, while keeping their respect toward the material. (Though, if they can’t do that, it may be best to pay it safe.)
The police procedural part of the show is more interesting, if not a little formulaic. Gotham is a city ruled by crime, and it’s interesting to see a police procedural take place in this environment. It seems like Gotham is eager to embrace that affect, which gives me high hopes. On the other hand, though, they do follow the formula a little too closely in the pilot. Hopefully the y device to take more risks later on.
Visually, Gotham is beautiful. The cinematography is great, the sets beautiful, and the ambiance excellent. The acting, on the other hand, is hit and miss. Donal Logue (Harvey Bullock) and Jada Pinkett Smith (Fish Mooney) steal their scenes out from under everyone else. Benjamin McKenzie (Jim Gordon), on the other hand, is likable but a little wooden. Hopefully, he becomes more comfortable with the role as time progresses. The lowest points come from some of the supporting cast, particularly the future villains, who seem to be playing caricatures. In the pilot, Gotham takes itself seriously, and the actors need to take their characters seriously as well. The actors would be helped along these lines by some better dialogue–the pilot heavily favored exposition over characterization. Hopefully this, too, improves with time.
The actors at the screening promised us that Gotham really kicks off after episode seven, and the pilot is promising enough that I’m willing to give them that chance. The Gotham pilot airs tonight on Fox at 8/7c.
I was lucky enough to attend a screening of the Gotham premiere at Wizard World Chicago Comic Con this August. Although this review is based off of that screening, all opinions are my own.
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