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Holy Rusted Metal Batman!

Ben McKenzie To Play James Gordon on Fox’s Gotham

Actor Ben McKenzie, who is best known for his roles in Southland and The O.C., has signed on to play the future commissioner of Gotham City and lead role on the new Gotham TV show, James Gordon. The series is being helmed by two procedural veterans, as the pilot is being written by Bruno Heller of The Mentalist and directed by Danny Cannon of CSI and Nikita. All those things add up to a police drama that just happens to be set in Gotham – but Fox is still promising that we’ll also see some notable characters, for better or worse.

The plan is to have the series follow both Gordon and Bruce Wayne as they evolve into the roles they are ultimately set to play as Police Commissioner and Batman respectively. The Hollywood Reporter describes Gordon:

Gotham‘s Gordon is a rookie detective for Gotham City Open Police Department’s Homicide Squad. A college football star,
and a war hero, Gordon was fast-tracked through the GCPD
ranks. He’s brave, energetic and honest. Driven to live up to the classical virtues of a father he barely knew, he’s an idealistic soul, to the point of naiveté. That virtue is tempered by analytical intelligence and an ambitious alpha male ego — he’ll back up his naive ideals with action.

That all sounds about right as far as the character goes, if not in complete adherence to comics continuity in the general tone and attitude for the character.  While Gordon and Batman are constantly teaching each other new things about the definition of justice and ultimately that plays better with Gordon as an older man, it will be nice to see Gordon given the focus for a while.  How much of the focus he’ll get remains to be seen.

As we’ve discussed previously, Fox is also planning to bring in major villains like the Joker, Riddler, Penguin, and Catwoman, and this doesn’t quite work with the motivations of these characters historically.  After all, a big part of the Joker especially (but to a certain extent all of them) is how much he calls into question Batman’s own motivations and effect on Gotham.  Does Batman keep these villains in check or do they exist only because he exists?  Also, most of them have origins that are at least in part tied into Batman already existing.  With no Batman in Gotham City yet, what will be these characters’ reason for pulling villain hijinks? And of course, there’s the fact that Smallville dragged on far too long without Clark putting on a costume to the point of ridiculousness, so if Gotham is successful, will we see Fox milk that cash cow for all it’s worth past the point of the show making any sense?  That all remains to be seen.

For now – Ben McKenzie seems like a solid choice to play Gordon. He’s aged in a way where he remains attractive but is way less baby-faced than he used to be.  He’s done cop dramas before.  Sure, he’s no Gary Oldman, but who is?  Ideally, Gotham will focus on the police of Gotham City and leave the super-villains for another project. Has anyone mailed Heller and Cannon some trades of Gotham Central yet? Get on that, internet.

(via The Hollywood Reporter)

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  • Kate Drew This

    I had a conversation with someone about this the other day. I have such a hard time with “young” James Gordon. I know it’s my own hangup, but I just cannot picture the character as being under 45. Ever.

  • Anonymous

    I heard The Mentalist and CSI and I did cringe.

  • Anonymous

    Joker could be young as Gordon in the crime world as goon known for being a prankster. The Penguin could be a young entrepreneur known for playing dirty to get things done. The Riddler could be one of those serial killer who toys with the police. They all don costumes and larger-than-life personalities in reaction to “the Bat” in the future.

  • Jeremy

    It’s Fox. If the show is any good, it’ll be cancelled.

  • Rachel Banzhaf

    I really hope the Batman villains don’t show up pre-Batman. Selena Kyle, Harvey Dent, maybe but not their alter egos. I don’t know Penguin’s origin story (don’t think it was in B:TAS, which is my main exposure) but he seems like he could already exist.

    I hope they can resist putting little girl Barbara in lots of dangerous situations. She’ll have to exist (or be born really early into the show) but she doesn’t need to traumatize her!

  • Mark Brown

    If they make “Joker” the Red Hood, this could be awesome.

    And (assuming they stick close to the Year One chronology), there’s some room for a logical wrap-up that doesn’t have to require the Bat himself: at a certain point after the Wayne murder (where both Gordon and pre-teen Bruce are present), Gordon gets transferred away from Gotham (to Chicago), which could be at right around the time a teenaged Bruce Wayne leaves Gotham to begin his walkabout/training.

  • Mark Brown

    Most versions have Catwoman active in costume before/as Batman appears (so she doesn’t need to be directly inspired by him).

    And the Joker was once the Red Hood (in fact, both Begins and Year One have the Joker playing card being used within a year of Batman’s appearance, suggesting that he was already using that identity by the time they met).

  • Erin Treat

    Young Gordon seems to eliminate the possibilty of Renee Montoya being in this. Maggie Sawyer still could be though. I’m so nervous that Fox could screw up such an important, unique character.

  • Anonymous

    “If they make “Joker” the Red Hood, this could be awesome.”

    Good god, YES!!!

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    Despite the misconception, very few of Batmans villians rely on Batman to exist in any way. In fact, a fair chunk of them were in business before he even donned the hood.
    Monk, Savage and Guul predated him by centuries, Penguin, Bane and Ventriloquist had been at it long before Batman showed his face.
    Close to half of Batmans enemies are mundane mob bosses who have developed their own memorable personalities. Like Falcone and Maroni.

    Honestly, the ‘no baddies ever existed until Batman!’ argument is rather questionable, and only a handful of his rogues have origins that could even be debatably tied to Batman.

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    Penguin had been around for years before Batman. He started out as an art thief who eventually killed off a mob boss and took control of his gang, and hes been a consistent criminal figure in one form or another ever since.

    As for two-face, his origin does not really rely on a relationship with Wayne (though the age thing is a factor) his whole backstory is tangling with the falcone family and getting his face melted with acid as punishment by the crime boss as an example to anyone who would try and stop him.

  • Kate Drew This

    Actually, Barbara Gordon was adopted as a kid, so they’ll very likely stick her in as a 10 year old in season 2 (if it goes on that long).

  • TKS

    Am I the only one on the planet who’s getting a little tired of this joke? People like 24. People like Sleepy Hollow. The Simpsons is good and has been on for more than 20 years. Raising Hope, New Girl, and Mindy Project are all good and going strong…

    I mean, I like Firefly, but it ended almost 12 years ago. It’s time to let it go.

  • Adrian

    True but how interesting and long-lasting can the show be without Batman in it and with no crossover potential?

  • Nuuni Nuunani


    The Batman mythos opens with a wealthy couple being gunned down for a few pieces of jewelery in a part of town that was supposed to be far safer than it turned out to be.
    When an older Wayne returns to Gotham, we find a city where crime families have carved up large chunks of town, where figures like the Red Hood, Penguin and Henry Ducard have been active for years.

    Some takes on the mythos like to excuse this with throw-away lines like ‘all of Gothams officials are corrupt’ or ‘the police do their best but the lawyers don’t do their jobs’ but what if there had been no Gordon? What if the Gothom police had not been operating in all those years? Would it have been worse? Was the city always in such shambles or did it worsen during Wayne’s youth?

    I dare say that a show about a Gotham without Batman has far better odds of being interesting than any iteration of SHIELD or HAMMER or SWORD could ever be.

    Gotham City is practically a character in its own right that despite being treated with reverence in the comics and given many complex layers to the problems facing it from corruption to a disparity of rich and poor, and of ‘brilliant’ people trying to do things like ‘prove crime is a mental disorder’ and despite the severe crime issue, the city continues operating, with an expansive industrial and shipping industry alongside massive museums and art galleries containing some of the worlds priciest of pieces. A city where its wealthy residents hold many times more wealth than everyone else combined, and is richly contrasted by the people living in slums to those living in the swallows of splendor.

    A television series would give us a chance to explore the locale of Gotham which is a story in its own right. Batman for all he is a good character, would take away from Gotham far to easily. On top of that, can we really appreciate all that makes Gotham Gotham from the perspective of some rich kid who inherited a fortune?

    Honestly, there is so much potential here that im surprised it hasn’t happened already.

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    It is indeed true that for a period of time, Fox had an issue with canceling shows pretty quickly and having a baffling habit of contracting dozens of programs, only to let them all go within a season out of a hair brained cost cutting measure. But they stopped doing that nearly a decade ago when they got someone in charge who bleeping noticed it was pushing away audiences.

  • Katie Frederick

    At first when I saw the article title, I though it said Bret McKenzie would be playing Gordon on the show, which gave me quite a unique and confused mental image

  • electrasteph

    Is she still his adopted kid/niece in the New 52? That was true in Crisis in Infinite Earths, but is that still canon?

  • Adrian

    I like the enthusiasm but I just don’t see the appeal for a general audience, which is what Fox will want.

    If it weren’t on a major network like Fox I’d have a bit more faith. For now, it’s wait and see for me.

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    Well if I was trying to sell this to a general audience that I pretend had never heard of Gotham or Batman, I would advertise it as a story about a dark, grim city that was once a bustling utopian metropolis that has since slowly descended into a horrific state of decay. I would play up the crime family angle, selling them on the various gangs and criminal organizations who have recently moved in and are vying for control of a city that is being torn apart in their struggles.

    I would evoke the supernatural horror of crocodile men, vampires and plant people, showing a city with terrors and monsters, and a police for who struggles to keep the citizenry safe, much less dealing with the growing criminal element who are proceeding to slowly corrupt the city and make it their own.

    I would press the point of super intelligent madmen and serial killers. Psychopaths who concoct complex chemicals to commit crimes for the sake of the act rather than any sort of payoff. Geniuses who leave riddles behind at each caper and laughly mock the efforts of those trying to catch him. Of a well intentioned anarchist trying to better the city by destroying what he sees as the heart of the problem, the government itself.

    I would point to a massive disparity of the city having the wealthiest of the wealthy and the poorest of the poor, and of snobs who are so out of touch that they see crime as a mental illness to be treated instead of a felony to be punished.

    And for good measure I would spin tales of a ‘court of owls’ and a ‘league of assasins’, and ‘the underworld olympics’ weaving the idea of ancient organizations, grandiose conspiracies and terrors from all over the world conjugating on this one city, poised to bring it all down.

    Put a nice little bow on that package and I can see anyone grabbing it up.

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    Im not sure if it is the greatest of sources, but Gail Simone certainly believes that is the case. She mentioned it fairly recently on her Tumblr as an aspect of the character that fascinates her so much. (Though I may be paraphrasing a little. It was a few weeks ago that it was mentioned)

  • electrasteph

    I’d take that as a yes, then. She’s the current writer; I hope she knows. :)

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    It should be pointed out though that adaptions are notorious for rewriting cannon (The batman animated series invented Harley. and completely reinvented Mister Freeze. Not to mention that every single Batman cartoon has a radically different take on the Riddler each and every time.)

    So this is not necessarily a guarantee that they will maintain the current adopted cannon. DC tends to give people a fairly loose leash when it comes to adaptation and lets people get away with alot more than one might expect. (And then they seek out the awesomer elements from said adaptions and bring them home, adopting the brilliant orphaned concepts)

  • Mark Brown

    Though, with DC editorial involved, that is no guarantee.