Will New ‘Gotham’ Series Suffer from Prequelitis?

Batman Gotham David Mazouz Young Bruce Wayne
David Mazouz, the actor set to play Bruce Wayne in Fox’s ‘Gotham’.

Earlier this week, news came out that David Mazouz of Fox’s short-lived series ‘The Touch’ will play young Bruce Wayne in the upcoming series ‘Gotham’. According to Variety, however, Warner Bros. is on the record as stating that the show will be about Commissioner Gordon and will not center around the Batman. And yet, Variety also stated that Camren Bicondova has been has cast as young Selina Kyle aka Catwoman. This strengthens suspicions that Bruce Wayne be less than a cameo on the show, in that his main adult love interest is also a supporting character. While neither of these spell immediate disaster, it does hint at issues that have plagued several other recent prequels.

One issue that could arise from this news is the same problem many people had with Monsters University. While the film itself had the same charm as Monsters Inc., inviting us back into the dark but cute world Mike and Sully inhabit, the ending was already ruined. Pixar could certainly convince us to sympathize with young Wazowski’s attempt to become a scary monster, but after an hour-and-a-half of movie, we knew he wasn’t going to get there. Monsters University even makes the former film bittersweet by making Mike surrender his dreams to become Sully’s sidekick. The conflict it gives our hero has a predictable outcome that retroactively makes him less heroic and more pathetic. Making ‘Gotham’ Batman’s story at all would be pointless because his origin story is quite ubiquitous and honestly beautiful because of its simplicity. Needlessly adding to it or regurgitating it would cheapen it and only weaken its box office value.

There is also a difference between pathos and a pathetic character, for which Anakin Skywalker of the Star Wars prequels is infamous. While Batman’s campaign against crime is incited by one tragedy, George Lucas gave Anakin more baggage than a Lifetime Original Movie heroine. Being a slave wasn’t enough, there was the torture and death of his mother, the oppression of the Jedi Council, and the promised fatal pregnancy of his wife. While the two actors playing young Darth Vader could have done a better job, most of his written lines focused on whining about his life because there was very little opportunity for happiness. The newer Batman films brighten Bruce’s childhood by creating young playmate Rachel Dawes. Adding a younger Catwoman to an already tragic childhood already seems to be more drama than a formative Dark Knight can handle.

Batman Gotham Camren Bicondova Young Selina Kyle
Camren Bicondova, set to play young Selina Kyle in Fox’s ‘Gotham’.

While on the subject of Selina Kyle: her addition brings to mind another series prequel that, while successful, did change the character far beyond what hardcore fans found acceptable. The Superman prequel ‘Smallville’ made what was essentially a Christlike figure into a romantic lead, and while the hero has been more or less romantically inclined throughout the years, Clark Kent is ironically far more human of a character than Bruce Wayne. As Christian Bale once stated, Batman is not a man pretending to be hero, he is a hero pretending to be Bruce Wayne. Keeping him completely chaste would undermine his history with a number of complex love interests. However, to take young Bruce Wayne and mimic the CW’s version of Superman would be an even more drastic manipulation of a character, and would likely see more mixed results.

Another statement in the Variety article hints that Gordon will be tackling some of the threats Batman would later fight. This raises the question which members of Batman’s rogues gallery are young enough to continue their life of crime to lat into Batman’s career. This also faces the problem of letting us in on the “ending”, wherein crime will not pay until the Caped Crusader is on the case. Characters like the Riddler, the Joker, Two-Face, Poison Ivy, and a number of others have, at one time, been portrayed to be the same age as Batman. Images abound of a prepubescent Penguin rigging the school dance to end with a fireworks attached to small flightless birds, because Harley Quinn stood him up. While some characters, such as the Romans, seem to be on the decline as Batman begins crime-fighting in Batman: Year One, he is instrumental in their downfall. Fans have a right to be skeptical if, indeed, Warner Bros. intends to make ‘Gotham’ an incubator for all of Batman’s future bad guys, because 1) that makes their fate predictable, and 2) no one is interested in seeing a preteen Joker causing mayhem in middle school.

An especially bad prequel side effect is how it makes intimidating characters less mysterious and more “relatable”. While characters like Spider-man thrive on knowing every nuance of their unfortunate lives, there are certain characters, like Indiana Jones and James Bond, who we love knowing less about. While some of their prequels may have a cult following, fans gravitate more to seeing these characters in their element. Whether or not Bond being a womanizer or Jones being a hothead is a good thing, learning more about their fixations and complexes only weakens our affection for their flawed but ultimately fantastic characters. They are mythological in that we want to be them, not because we understand how they tick, but because we love who they are at their best. Batman is a character best seen as someone to look up to, not someone with whom we can immediately identify.

In the end, real Bat fans are really looking forward to a show about Jim Gordon and the cops that only recently have begun taking center stage in the comics world. While Batman continues to be one of the most interesting characters that comics has to offer, the ‘Gotham’ series has a lot it can learn from former cases of prequelitis. Here’s hoping the show recreates the city that created Batman, rather than recreating the World’s Finest Detective as a lovestruck Encyclopedia Brown.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. RoundPorter

    I would think at this point Gotham was corrupt but not as dirty as when Batman appeared. This show should be about Gotham’s gradual descent into the den of evil that it becomes before Bruce Wayne returns as Batman.

    I mean the Wayne’s getting killed wasn’t the peak of the dark times, it was the time when there was a hope before they died.

    But I have a feeling everything is going to be super dark and super wrong already 10+ years before Batman even shows up.

  2. Ambrose

    Why Selina Kyle? They’ll have to go a bit out of their way from their goal to focus on Gordon to have her story fill out a whole season let alone multiple seasons. If the series is focused entirely on Gordon I can’t see her being in more than a couple of episodes

  3. Paul Carroll

    I thought of an idea that can connect this show with the DC cinemas.. they can focus on the teen Bruce and the death of his parents. One thing I read in the new 52 even though they spoke on it very briefly, was Bruce looking into the death of his parents and the relation to the Court of Owls. They can show Bruce early detective skills which is never really showed in the movies. I think that would be a great way to connect and start off Ben Affleck’s Batman by intoducing a fresh new different character we haven’t seen on the big screen yet.

  4. What I want to see in this show is how Gotham PD will deal with the new Class of criminals. How well they adapt to stop high level crimes and introductions of “super villains”. Not like super powered villains but crime lords that fight Gotham PD as well as each other.

  5. CaryPhillips

    Hopefully in the later series (if there are any) we’ll meet young jason todd (i don’t know how they’d work the time frame of it), i can just see that character working well in the kind of universe they’re trying to create by the looks of it

  6. I’m excited for this show, but there is so much room for error. As long as they keep this focused on Gordon whilst subtly telling the story of Bruce’s journey to becoming batman, they should be okay.

  7. patrick

    This whole concept is just lame, and clearly birthed by a committee of WB executives desperate to put something DC related on their network.

  8. I am really looking forward to this show, but I don’t know how they can make Bruce interesting when his character isn’t interesting until he leaves Gotham.

  9. David Mancini

    I want this show to do well, being a comic-movie lover, but I feel people are going to feel disappointed at the fact that it is not primarily going to star Bruce Wayne, the same criticism Agents of SHIELD is getting for not starring the superheroes that made these shows possible. Regardless, I am excited to watch anything connected to the DC universe.

  10. Liz Kellam

    I know it’s not the same network, but I would like to see this show tie into Arrow sometime in the future.

  11. I just hope there’s more of an emphasis on Jim and not setting up a Bruce-become-Batman show.

  12. I like the idea of setting up the Wayne/Gordon storyline, but surely any story they want to set up would have to involve the Batman. I can’t help but think that Mazouz is too young for this show to work properly.

  13. feliciano

    GOTHAM is the new Smallville

  14. I have been reading everything about the upcoming Batman TV series “Gotham” and honestly it sort of feels like it’s going to be a new Smalville series, except the main character is not Bruce Wayne but instead young Detective Gordon. However I like the idea of having a unique main character based on the famous comic book. I am looking forward for the first episode of the show and hopefully it will a true gritty violent theme for the city of Gotham.

  15. This show will either sink or swim. I personally despised Smallville, and Im’ really hoping this does not go that route. The premise of centering around Gotham PD/Jim Gordon is very intriguing though. We always heard about Gotham being a “cesspool” of crime before Batman picked up the cowl, this show will give us a firsthand look. Some of the villians can also be great additions IF used properly. A great example would be the young Penguin they casted. He is noticeably older than Batman in the comics, so it makes sense for him to be in his 20s in this show, and kind of show his origin. This show could be excellent for Batman lore, or horrible.

  16. I am really excited about this show coming out, but I agree that being a prequel might have some downfall for some viewers because we already know the outcome. And because of that they can’t change anything about how the characters meet.

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