REVIEW: BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHT

CAST (VOICES)

Kevin Conroy (Batman: The Animated Series)
Jason Marsden (Young Justice)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans)
George Newbern (Justice League)
Alanna Ubach (Legally Blonde 2)
Hynden Walch (The Batman)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Gary Dourdan (CSI)
Ana Ortiz (Ugly Betty)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Parminder Nagra (Bend It Like Beckham)

Gotham Knight does something a little bit different from before. Basically this is a collection of six short films, all produced by different, independent Japanese Manga studios. The premise of the films is that they take place in-between Batman Begins and its sequel The Dark Knight. While no major events happen, the stories are separate, very enjoyable one-offs with a continuity that nicely links them all together. Right away, the whole thing screams `Animatrix’, and like The Animatrix, it gets a lot of stuff right. First of all, is the fact that they’ve brought in Kevin Conroy to reprise his role as the voice of Batman. And it’s as though nothing’s changed at all. Conroy has still got it, the darkness, the brooding, the menace; his Batman remains as perfect as it ever was.Another merit for Gotham Knight is that they’ve brought in such acclaimed talent like David Goyer, Brian Azzarello, Alan Burnett, Greg Rucka, Josh Olsen and Jordan Goldberg to write the different stories, and they all deliver some cracking stuff, each pinning down the basics of what makes the Batman (and Bruce Wayne) such a fascinating character; the urban myth of the Dark Knight, his relationship with the police, his `mask’ as Bruce Wayne, the road he embarked on to become what he is, his war against crime, the developing and refinement of his technology, hard learning curves and his code of honour.

The films also use the continuity established by Batman Begins to great and creative effect. Along the way, we see how great the ramifications of the events in Batman Begins truly are. The Arkham Asylum breakout making the whole Narrows island abandoned to madness is such a haunting premise, along with the Scarecrow’s reign of terror and still-at-large threat. The realistic approach established by Batman Begins is also utilised brilliantly, as we get fantastic incarnations of Killer Croc and the assassin Deadshot to provide the Dark Knight a real challenge.As for the supporting cast, we obviously have our favourites Lt. James Gordon (now in full swing with his alliance to Batman) and Alfred. We also have Detective Crispus Allen (a great favourite of mine from the comics) and Detective Anna Ramirez (a new character that appears in The Dark Knight). Both characters are used very well in the films, becoming nicely established as a result. Lucius Fox also plays a guest role here, and his sardonic friendship with Bruce Wayne is mirrored to great effect. We also have local crime bosses Sal Maroni and The Russsian serving as minor antagonists, with their war acting as a good little sub-plot. The writing is excellent, soundtrack is excellent and the voice-work goes without question. But how does the animation fare overall? I have a great deal of respect for Anime and the whole Manga style. While it personally isn’t my favourite, it can be truly spectacular.It’s a great tie-in product to the film franchise.

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REVIEW: GOTHAM – SEASON 1

CAST

Ben McKenzie (Batman: Year One)
Donal Logue (Ghost Rider)
David Mazouz (Touch)
Zabryna Guevara (All Good Things)
Sean Pertwee (Dog Soldiers)
Robin Lord Taylor (Another Earth)
Erin Richards (The Quiet Ones)
Camren Bicondova (Girl House)
Corey Michael Smith (Carol)
Jada Pinkett Smith (Collateral)
John Dorman (The Wire)
Victoria Cartagena (Salt)
Andrew Stewart -Jones (Beauty and The Beast)
Drew Powell (Straw Dogs)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Richard Kind (Stargate)
Grayson McCouch (Armageddon)
Brette Taylor (Rescue Me)
Clare Foley (Win Win)
Lili Taylor (The Conjuring)
Carol Kane (The Princess Bride)
David Zayas (Dexter)
Jeremy Davidson (Roswell)
Margaret Colin (Independence Day)
Susan Misner (The Forgotten)
Kim Director (Blair Witch 2)
Christopher James Baker (Sanctum)
Todd Stashwick (The Originals)
Nicholas D’Agasto (Final Destination 5)
Makenzie Leigh (The Slap)
Lesley-Ann Brandt (Spartacus: Blood and Sand)
Morena Baccarin (Firefly)
Christopher Heyerdahl (Sanctuary)
Peter Scolari (The Polar Express)
Dash Mihok (Silver Linings Playbook)
Anthony Carrigan (The Flash)
Julian Sands (Smallville)
Maria Thayer (Hitch)
Cameron Monaghan (The Giver)
Jeffrey Combs (Star Trek: DS9)
Colm Feore (Thor)
Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes)
Willa Fitzgerald (Scream: The Series)
Chris Chalk (12 Years a Slave)

Gotham City has an old, relatively vague history independent of when Thomas and Martha Wayne were shot down in an alleyway, usually the first and primary thing that comes to mind about the motivation that drives Batman: the crime that got so bad that it took his good-natured parents away from him. The surroundings responsible for the billionaires’ murder weren’t created overnight, though, and intensified in response to their death, a time period that often goes unaddressed unless a detail about Bruce Wayne’s transformation into the brooding hero needs mentioning. As a response to the character’s unrelenting popularity the folks at DC aim to use that largely unexplored space to provide an origin story for the city’s violence and corruption, an attempt to recapture the magic of Smallville in a darker environment. The result is Gotham, a blend of crime-case procedure and mobster politics that also fills in the gaps between the orphaning of Bruce Wayne to where Batman begins.

Taking pages out of the playbook of the comic-book series “Gotham Central”, the show largely focuses on the interworking parts of the Gotham City Police Department, notably the arrival of rookie detective Jim Gordon in the midst of rampant corruption. The OC star Ben McKenzie brings initiative and fire to the character, a war veteran and straight-laced servant of the law who’s thrown together with a dirty partner in Harvey Bullock, whose sympathetic flaws are marvelously embodied by Donal Logue. Their first case together? The murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, later revealed to be connected to the city’s organized crime activity. In their investigation, Gordon quickly gets introduced to key players pulling the strings in Gotham, notably a swanky nightclub operator in Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) and her aging, rational boss, Carmine Falcone (John Doman). Then, there’s Oswald Cobblepott (Robin Lord Taylor), an attendant to Fish whose wavering allegiances also come to the surface in response to Gordon and Bullock’s investigation, working him into a position of persistent danger and upward mobility if he plays his cards right.

Against the backdrop of a Gotham City that combines Tim Burton’s gothic vision with Christopher Nolan’s stark approach into a relatively timeless metro area, Gotham comes in hard and fast with its nods to the DC universe, eliminating any early concerns about how much of the mythology it’ll incorporate. In fact, the show actually suffers from an oversaturation of these references, especially in how many of the classic villains have benign links to the GCPD in their pasts and, quite simply, how many have already shown up and taken shape into their well-known personalities. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, nor with tweaking what’s known about the universe into its own continuity, but it does detract from the production succeeding as a credible prequel to the age of Batman — touted early on as a selling point for the show.

It’s fascinating to see the riddlesome Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) as an awkward, morbid Dexter-like puzzle-solver working in the precinct, and to see a young Catwoman giving prowler pointers to a young Batman not long after she witnessed the infamous Wayne murder.

The areas where Gotham works are within the politics of the GCPD and the evolving criminal element, and, by association, the origin stories of Jim Gordon’s fight against the department and The Penguin’s ascent up the crime ladder. Elevated by Gordon’s furious diligence against the powers-that-be who keep him from properly doing his job. Gotham is in a comfort zone while exploring maneuverings of Robin Lord Taylor’s brilliantly grimy performance as Oswald Cobblepott. Combining the knowledge that he’ll eventually become a massive player in Gotham with the unpredictable, volatile nature of his younger self exemplifies what a prequel can accomplish.

Gotham really exposes the crux of its issues in the origin story of Bruce Wayne, built around the young orphaned billionaire developing the gumption and skill to investigate his parents’ murder, planting the seeds for his growth into the Caped Crusader.

As Gotham grows in it’s first season it becomes fascinating show dealing with the city before Batman came along and as it heads into it’s second season who can truly see the show has found it’s footing and will hopefully be around for sometime to come.