Batman Begins To Begin: The Beginning
- Gotham: Series 1 review by Count Otto Black
Prequels are tricky - just ask George Lucas! There are two problems with this series. Firstly, it's a Batman spinoff in which Batman himself doesn't appear because Bruce Wayne is 12 years old and hasn't invented him yet, so it has to concentrate on secondary characters instead of the elephant who should be in the room but isn't. And secondly, it's far, far too long. It's equivalent to the entire Star Wars saga (including the ones they haven't made yet) or the whole Harry Potter franchise, and twice as long as Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, which actually had grown-up Batman in it fighting villains and everything. And it only covers a few months in the youth of the Caped Crusader - we are literally watching Bruce Wayne grow from adolescence to manhood in real time! At this rate, we'll first see him in a bat costume round about 2020 at the very earliest.
Meanwhile, we see a great deal of a wooden actor portraying the utterly one-dimensional Detective Jim Gordon, who, unlike every other version of the character going right back to 1939, is blandly handsome in an off-the-shelf standard action hero way, does not have facial hair or glasses, and above all, looks nothing like the much more expensive Gary Oldman. We also get to know a lot about Oswald "Penguin" Cobblepot as we follow his rise from creepy little mook to crime-boss of Gotham City, which is just as well, since he's by far the best character. Even so, he was born in the pages of a comic-book so he's not that complex, and his limited schtick gets a bit repetitive over the 15-hour running-time, despite the writers trying to flesh him out by turning him into a cross between Steerpike from "Gormenghast" and Norman Bates.
As for the others, they're a mixed bag. The lad playing Bruce Wayne manages rather well, but is mostly left on the sidelines in an interminable and very dull subplot about corporate corruption (or something), and his cute romance with 13-year-old Selina "call me Cat" Kyle seems more appropriate for an audience far too young to be watching something featuring explicit footage of spurting blood, dismembered body-parts, and eyes being torn out with spoons! Ms. Kyle, alas, is played by a truly dreadful actress, as are several other major characters. The grittily rebooted Alfred is far more interesting than Jim Gordon (as well he might be - back in the day, his dad was Doctor Who, so he should know all about improbable heroics) but doesn't get anywhere near enough to do. And talking of gritty reboots, does Maxie Zeus really deserve one? Mind you, since even the Riddler gets one, why not? I kept expecting King Tut to show up as a serial killer who literally mummified people.
As a mini-series, this would have been very good indeed, perhaps even great. As a bloated maxi-series, there's far too much padding, especially in the first half, and after taking forever to get anywhere, the storyline resolves almost nothing that really matters. Ah well, there's always Series Two, if you have the patience. I'm not sure I do.
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