Gotham: A Decade Late and Short on Respect

Gotham-S3“I don’t think superheroes work very well on TV. Probably because of the costume thing. TV is about real people and faces, and not so much about magic and the supernatural things.”

Quick, can you name which superhero-hating critic this quote is from? Or is it from one of any handful of arthouse directors declaring comic book films/shows to be the end of cinema as we know it.

Would you believe it came from Gotham head honcho Bruno Heller?! [via THR]

Heller, showrunner of Fox’s Batman prequel series, was quoted as saying such to The Hollywood Reporter at the Edinburgh Television Festival when asked about the decision to have Jim Gordon as the main character of the show.

Bruno Heller Gotham

Somehow, this opinion from Heller is both mind-bogglingly nonsensical and explains a lot, given who it’s coming from.

We’re currently in nothing short of a heyday when it comes to superhero films and television (even if the former is starting to show wear-and-tear). DC is building its own television universe, with successful shows like Arrow and The Flash now welcoming Supergirl into the mix.

Meanwhile, Marvel is producing some of the most satisfying adult superhero shows on Netflix, with series like Daredevil and Jessica Jones rewriting the rules on how great a comic book adaptation can be.

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But Heller apparently doesn’t notice this. He’s too busy making Gotham, one of the most misguided, dissonant and all around disappointing superhero adaptations ever.

Now, Heller has finally vocalized his view on the genre, which Batman fans have been left to interpret for the past two years of the show: that superhero stories are dumb, don’t need to be respected, and that fans will be placated with hollow winks and nods.

Heller’s most prolific project to date has been as a creator of HBO‘s Rome, which ran on the service from 2005 to 2007. In almost every way, Heller is running Gotham like we’re still living in that timeframe.

Up until the mid-2000s, superhero film and TV wasn’t really taken all that seriously.

batman 1989

With a few exceptions, two scenarios were likely to happen: the movie or show would stay true to its comic origins and be complacent to simply throw the characters on screen with no dramatic effort — i.e. 1989’s Batman and 2002’s Spider-Man — or the film/show would sidestep a lot of the material’s more outlandish elements for the sake of being grounded, like Smallville substituting the classic Superman suit for everyday clothes and almost everything in X-Men.

You know, so as not to frighten the “normals” out in the audience.

That all changed for the film industry with the releases of Spider-Man 2 and Batman Begins, which showed that live-action superhero stories could be something dramatically significant while still honoring their source material.

Gotham is a well-shot show, I’ll give it that, but it’s a show with no respect for its source material.

TV was a little slower on the uptake, with the 2012 premiere of Arrow reintroducing the character in a grounded way and then morphing it over the years into something more comic accurate.

Gotham is a well-shot show, I’ll give it that, but it’s a show with no respect for its source material. Because of that, it usually ends up falling into the traps of old.

It’s a show with a flat main character, a detective dynamic based entirely on cliche and coincidence, a C-grade script and a Star Wars prequel-level of reliance on little kid versions of classic characters — stretched into an unbearably long 20-some-episode run.

That’s simply the routine bad practice that goes into the show, not uncommon in many other basic cable shows.

Gotham Cheesy

It’s the series’ frequent cheesiness and villain-of-the-week approach that makes it so frustrating. Anyone familiar with Batman mythology knows the Dark Knight’s rogues gallery is full of rich, fascinating characters that can thrive in the TV format.

Instead, they’re frequently wasted in some campy one-and-done exploit. With 23 episodes available to create an arc, there’s no reason viewers should only be given episodic winks and nods in place of a satisfying story.

But, clearly, the problem comes when the characters wear silly costumes.

Heller is so wrapped up in the aesthetics of the show that he seemingly hasn’t noticed that there isn’t anything all that real or human about the emotions of it.

And that’s not even touching on how Gotham totally does get into magic and the supernatural. Sure, it may be under the guise of science but the show’s approach to fear gas, freeze guns and reanimating the dead stretches even the broadest suspensions of disbelief.

The best part? In this show of “real people and faces” that eschews magic, there is literally a character with a fake, malleable face. Guys, I can’t even …

In case there was any forgetting this.
In case there was any forgetting this.

Look, Bruno Heller is free to think what he wants, say what he wants, and make the show that makes many Batman fans cringe if he wants. Gotham is getting ready to head into its third season, with who knows how many after that (Heller has said that the show ends when young Bruce Wayne puts on the cape and cowl, which could be not far off at all with how fast they are pushing his journey).

We’re now free to know why his show feels a decade late and wonder “Why is he in charge of this?”

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