TV Review: Gotham (Season 1 – 2014/15)

(vague season one spoilers only)

Being a casual batman fan, I was intrigued by Gotham’s premise but I kept away from anything to do with the show because the last thing I needed was to start another TV show only to be stuck waiting for new episodes week on week. So now with Season 3 of Gotham almost entirely released I decided to give it a shot.

Violent. Gotham City is violent, how could it not be with some of the craziest ‘people’ alive fighting for control of its streets? I don’t think even the Dark Knight Trilogy portrayed the city as the living, breathing entity Gotham City is supposed to be. Being given the ability to see the city from street level, business to business, mob to mob was refreshing. Crimes and characters with much more personal incentives and implications crossing between 4/5 recurring heroes and villains. Creating new gripping drama in an unfamiliar time-frame with familiar characters.

Matching this with unique interpretations of many character’s origin stories including Catwoman, The Riddler, Penguin and so on provide insight to someone like myself who hasn’t looked past the movies and video games for Batman lore. Interactions between The Riddler, currently named Nygma (he’s not evil yet. Strange and weirdly likeable in fact)) and James Gordon are interactions you never even thought existed but glad they are and there are many different examples through season 1. There is a particularly funny scene between Nygma and Penguin, as one tries to escape the other nonchalantly. But fails to do so. Comedic moments like these are rationed out, but generally hits the mark. And shouldn’t really be your reason behind starting this show.

Taking away the multiple batman references you’re challenged to catch during every episode, you’re left with a good crime-drama with the great dynamic between Gordon and Bullock. Each episode typically sets them out to solve an often disturbing crime or catch a serial killer with odd motive and ends with them having solved that crime. Crimes which are smaller scale, similar to Marvel’s shows Daredevil and Luke Cage. Cleaning up the streets rather than saving the world. Inter-spliced are all of the doings of Fish, Penguin, Cat, Bruce Wayne to create the arc of the whole show. Predictable but saves face with it’s deeply intriguing characters with their varied and conflicting motivations. The battle for Gotham is a good watch for a drama fan, (probably) a great one for a true Batman fan.

Rating: 8.5/10

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Review: Jarhead (2005)

Time in the desert: 122 days, 5 hours, 22 minutes.

Separating this film in my mind from The Hurt Locker and American Sniper was a little tough, the films share the now abundantly clear ‘war is hell’ message. But Jarhead turns it on its head a little bit. What’s more hellish than war? Training for a war you’ll stay at least 200 meters away from at all times might just be.

Watching Swoff (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his rag-tag group of jarheads navigate war is different in that the intensity of the scenes do not derive from the huge action set pieces or intense firefights with the enemy. Rather the war takes its toll psychologically with the gruelling training and hard-asses Swoff has to call his superiors, ultimately all leading to in-fighting and emotional trauma you’d expect from your anti-war movies. But the closest we get to having a foreign entity to blame causing such trauma to our war heroes is through a high powered rifle scope.

 

I enjoyed Swoff’s rapidly changing circumstances. Right as I find myself getting bored of sand, army camps and misery we are shown the delight that is raining crude-oil and burning oil wells, changing the scenery from wide-open nothingness to the hellish backdrop of Iraq, or hell. That works too.

Such a backdrop would suit the final action scene where the jarheads are finally able to unleash all they learned through training by wiping out uncountable enemies through sheer superiority. Instead, Jarhead hammers home a different message. No spoilers but you feel incredibly frustrated for Swoff and his spotter when their time to go home arrives. The war took everything from them and gave nothing back, even if what they wanted came from pure blood lust. Swoff’s experiences are frustrating, unsatisfying and pointless.

The darkest point for him comes when he has to leave the war behind, war he dedicated years of his life to, war which he had very little impact on. Watching on as everyone else celebrates the end of violence. What are they celebrating after all? Leaving behind all the blood, sweat and tears and coming away with nothing to show for it. Leaving him isolated and purposeless. Death might be the worst thing about war, but it’s not the only thing that makes it as damaging as it is.

Encapsulating the war experience well in a tidy, unique way with some great acting and tightly written dialogue. The narrative leans more on its psychological journey than its physical one, so if its action you’re looking for you might be better off with American Sniper. Look for something less heavy-handed and more well-rounded and you’ll find yourself at Jarhead.

Rating: 8.0/10

[on par with my ratings of Quantum of Solace and Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials]