Why do we like Batman so much in this day and age ? The answer, I believe, is a simple reflection of what our society has become or at least how we perceive it. Many of us perceive our world today as a kind of damned Babylon; corrupt and diseased. Batman is an anti-hero designed for a diseased world. He’s goth, he’s dark, he’s scary, and he’s a lethal weapon. All of which are attributes you’d expect in a typical villain, at least one from the old days. But a dark world needs a dark hero.
All of this may seem obvious to fans of the Batman Universe, but have you noticed that, as our own world gets darker and more corrupt, the world of Batman and Gotham City are painted in an equally darker tone. Look at the movie franchise and notice how the Batman from the latest movie trilogy is a lot darker than the one from the previous movies, who was in turn much darker than the1960s TV series. Batman has had to toughen up in order to face such twisted corruption. (much like how our own society has become). That is where the brand new Netflix TV series, simple named ‘Gotham’, comes into play and paints a rich historical tapestry to help us much better understand why this city needed Batman so badly.
The series takes place about 2O years before Batman surfaced. It is told from the perspective of detective
Jim Gordon who struggles constantly to fight the cities corruption. Gotham City is not run by the Major. it is controlled by two very powerful mafia-style gangs who have their hooks and influence in every corner of Gotham, including the Police Precinct (GCPD). When Gordon arrives the whole department is under the control of the gangs. Even Wayne Enterprises is corrupt. Bruce Wayne, as a young boy of about 12, has to face the loss of his parents and this becomes a secondary storyline in the background. It shows how Bruce is protected and raised by his loyal Butler Aflred, who is much grittier and tougher in this series. They’ve written, into his character, a background as an SAS soldier. This works well in the story and provides another explanation for Bruce’s fighting skills.
Throughout the first season villains, from the comic series & movies, are introduced in different episodes. The Riddler, Joker, Two-face, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Cat-girl, and Penguin. The Riddler, Cat-girl, and Penguin are more regular characters, especially Penguin who is characterised in such an interesting way. The series shows a much more realistic story of how the character Penguin became into being. His back story is quite different from the Warner bros movie (which was more fantasy than real-life). It’s actually refreshing, if a little disturbing, to see how believable a character like Penguin can be. And how he fits into a real life city such as Gotham; he is, in affect, a believable by-product from an unforgiving world. All the characters are twisted and affected by the cruelity that is Gotham City. Not one character seems untarnished, accept maybe Gordon who refuses to give in to the corruption overtaking the police force. It is a miracle that he doesn’t get taken out, as he vows to ‘clean house’ in the GCPD and Gotham City. This is probably one of the few plot points I find hard to suspend my imagination toward. (ie: In the real world figures like this are notoriously gunned down… eg. J.F Kennedy)
The environment and characters of Gotham, on the whole, are quite believable. There is a real street wise and richly raw approach to ‘Gotham’. The city could be Chigago, New York, or any other over grown metropolis that suffers from modern day corruption and crime. Personally I love the darkly realistic flavour. This TV series is a winner for me. It builds so well on the existing world of Batman and it ticks all the boxes as a TV going experience: Great characters, Ingenious plot, Gripping stories, and a believable Universe. All of this is marinated in beautiful dark overtones, gritty realism, and cool gothic sensibility.
9/10 Kingsley Smith
Written By: Kingsley Smith
Kingsley Smith is a veteran musician who cut his teeth in the Hamilton music scene 25 years ago. He has been in dozens of original and cover bands. Has opened for Tania Donnelly, Anika Moa, Pluto, Renee Geyer, and The Black Seeds. Has 3 solo albums and recorded keyboards for other artists including Cassidy and Max Creepy. He is a multi-instrumentalist in his home recording studio and has been working hard this past year on new material for a new studio rock project known as Audio Storm. Kingsley also produce’s and DJ’s a music radio show called the NZ Hard Rock Show featuring the latest original hard rock from all around the country. It is played on 12 FM stations around NZ and also overseas on Rock Bandom Radio.