With Batman being reinvented every few years, logic dictates that nothing new is left to mine.
Yet Fox’s stunning take on the masked crusader, “Gotham” premiering Monday (Sept. 22), sheds light onto the darkest shadows of the story. The prequel chronicles the lawlessness of the city of Bruce Wayne’s youth. It’s done seriously and with a stellar cast.
We meet Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney while she’s using a man’s head for batting practice. Smith rocks a pixie cut with fuchsia bangs and a body-hugging dress. She’s a gangster no one should ever cross.
“She has the capacity for certain amounts of wrong doing,” Smith tells Zap2it. “She wants Gotham and has to go all the way. She has to be ruthless.”
Fish Mooney is created for “Gotham” and Smith draws inspiration from an unlikely duo: Norma Desmond, the faded screen siren in “Sunset Boulevard,” and assassinated Medellin Cartel drug lord, Griselda Blanco.
“The amount of power Griselda had,” Smith says, fuels that side of the character while Norma Desmond is the mask, the old Hollywood glamour and that’s how Fish Mooney is.”
In the pilot, Fish pummels the Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) with a chair and has two of Gotham’s finest hogtied and hung upside down in a meat locker.
Gotham festers with crime, and the police force has more than its share of corruption. Detective Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) is exhausted, corrupt and cynical. Naturally, he’s partnered with Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie), who’s zealous, courageous and honest.
The show opens with Thomas and Martha Wayne leaving a movie, their sweet son, Bruce, nestled between them. A man jumps out of the shadows, brandishing a gun. Thomas relinquishes his wallet, Martha her pearls. Still, the robber fatally shoots them.
Bruce’s bravery is obvious even as a boy. The traits that will mark the villains, long before they wreak terror in Gotham, are also apparent.
Before she was the sexy Catwoman, she was a girl with feline grace, tending to feral cats. Ivy, daughter of a brutish father, takes solace in her plants. The Penguin, a sniveling toady, is a young, doomed man, whom Gordon spares.
Gordon tells a weeping Bruce, 11, ” ‘There will be light, Bruce.” He promises to nab the criminal who killed his parents.
Shooting in lower Manhattan and in a Brooklyn studio, the cinematography perfectly captures the vibe of 1970’s New York City, as a city spiraled out of control.
Gordon is intent on returning order. Though Bullock thought his police work was done, this new detective and future commissioner rekindles his passion.
“He’s a cynical old big city cop,” Logue says. “Someone like Gordon comes along and he’s reinvigorated.”