Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Superhero Media: Batman - Gotham Knight

Billed as "Animatrix" for Batman, Gotham Knight is a series of short, animated films, that fill in the gap between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Some are pretty decent, others aren't really worth talking about, but the truly interesting part is in how it all goes together, or rather, doesn't. The Nolan Batman trilogy has a definite tone, true it may waver in Dark Knight Rises, but it is there and forms a major structural element of the series. Due to the nature of the shorts in Gotham Knight, in they are all essentially independently produced, there doesn't manage to be a consistent tone across any of them, let alone with the entire film series. The problem is that, as a different animation team handles each chapter, the look of Batman, Bruce Wayne and Gotham change drastically between the shorts and it never quite feels like watching a consistent film. 

Despite the flaws, Gotham Knight is worth a run through, as there are some truly great Batman moments to be had. In the "Deadshot" short, Bruce Wayne can be seen training with firearms, when questioned by Alfred, he makes a speech about needing to understand guns to fight effectively and respecting their power, even if he'll never use one. Across two stories, Batman defuses a mob war by negotiating a division of territory; what fucking genius. Rather than getting himself killed taking on two factions of local organised crime, Batman forces them to accept an agreement to stay out of each others' way to save lives in the short-term until he and the GCPD are better equipped to deal with the problem. In the comics, I'm pretty sure Batman would just run in and beat all of the mobsters down in a couple of minutes whilst ranting about his dead parents. God I'm sick of Batman. 

By far the best short in the anthology is "Let me tell you a story...", in which a group of Gotham children tell each other of their encounters with Batman. One child describes Batman as a living shadow, one as a vampire and one as a robot, with each description showcasing one of Bats' major skills (stealth, agility and combat prowess). In a setting where Batman is a new phenomenon, this kind of storytelling makes a lot of sense and creates a good mystique for the character without resorting to elevating his skills to mythical levels. Despite the references to the Nolan trilogy, I'm more inclined to think of Gotham Knight being linked to Batman the Animated Series, not just because of the animation but Kevin Conroy voices the Dark Knight in several shorts and the more "realistic" take on the character works for that continuity.


  1. I like Batman but I do think that with so many tittles, platforms, TV and films he is suffering from over exposure. It is unlikely that a `cashcow' will be allowed any rest in the forseeable future until more people get sick of him and he is retired for a while.

    1. It's no so much the overexposure to me, as I'm happily watching through both Batman the Animated Series and the Adam West Batman currently, it's the raising of the character to mythic status to pander to a section of the fanbase. The comics are following the same trend. It's like the 1990s all over again with the glossing over of the less "hardcore" history of the characters.