Gotham is a District of Chicago

Tim Burton’s Gotham from his first Batman movie was epic.  None too realistic, but so immersing and cinematic that it filled the role. It was literally one of the characters.  I recall some commentary about how the set design was planned and one of the designers stated, I believe, that they considered what New York City would look like if it didn’t have any zoning laws.  Buildings could go straight up without tapering inward and even jut out while built upward, and the result would be Gothic and dark.  Gotham, in fact, was an old and long-time journalistic nickname for New York.

In “Batman Begins”, more of an above-ground real feel was given to Gotham, but still visually well-crafted enough for an audience to feel teleported to a city where a man such as Batman would be needed and could thrive.  A place where an Arkham Asylum could be found.  A place where grimy streets could exists, mixed with the modern landscape of skyscrapers.

What we got in “The Dark Knight” was (literally) a sunny bright Chicago, and at night a glitzy glass and metallic city of commerce.  The city did not feel like Gotham.. AT ALL.  It had absolutely no character and looked like every other metropolitan city in the US.  Take the costumes and makeup (and burned faces) and gadgets away from the 3 main characters and you have the movie “Heat”.  I didn’t want to see “Heat: The Lost Batman Chapter”.  If I did, I’d want to see Al Pacino in a cape and Robert DiNero doing a trick where he makes a pencil disappear into Val Kilmer’s head.  But it’s not supposed to be “Heat”.  It’s supposed to be a BATMAN movie.  As in, a movie based on a comic book character.

Bookmark and Share

16 Responses to “Gotham is a District of Chicago”

  1. I agree. Gotham is supposed to be gritty, crowded, and dark. Not a place you want to raise a kid.

    This Gotham was shiny and clean. The Hong Kong scenes were completely indistinguishable (aside from all the Asians) from the Gotham scenes.

  2. eh…I’ll give you that one…but then again this one didn’t focus too much on the narrows and the darker sectors of the city like Begins did…I mean if u went to NY midtown manhattan and then went uptown to Washington Heights you’d wonder wtf happened.

  3. I completely agree. Gotham is supposed to be a character in these films as well, in fact, it should be the most dynamic character of the Batman Begins series. It is the main villain and the victim, and Batman is here to save it from itself. Both Ra’s Al Guhl and The Joker understood that Gotham would kill itself if it weren’t for Batman et al. injecting hope into the city.

    The Dark Knight did an absolutely poor job of portraying Gotham as what it is supposed to be – a dark, semi-fantastical city. You’ve already perfectly described it. It was Chicago – even a bright, clean, and modern Chicago. My biggest problem with this: The Wayne Enterprises building was completely different than the building in Batman Begins.

  4. And the lettering on it looked terrible. The kerning was all wrong!!!

  5. I understand the argument being presented here. However, I do have something that I would like to inject into the conversation.

    While Chicago might seem to be too “clean” for Gotham, it really is kind of a logical choice. One thing I remember thinking about the setting is that Chicago was (and very possibly still is) a major gathering place for the Mob. And since Gotham City has problems with the Mob, what’s the most logical city to base it off of?

  6. batman 89 rulz!! and that is not just nostalgia talkn there

  7. It looks cleaner because a certain vigilante has been doing some cleaning. Why wouldn’t it look cleaner? It was perfect in Begins and it was perfect here. Like everything else in Batman’s universe, it’s open to interpretation on looks so it’s not a flaw in the film, you just keep comparing it to the Gotham that was in Burton’s film. That’s your fault not the movies.

  8. So, I guess all “shiny and clean” cities have psychos wearing clown masks robbing their banks, enough mob leaders to fill a room, judges being blown up in cars in broad daylight. and a huge gunfight involving ALL of Gotham’s finest?

    First of all, this is quite possibly the dumbest nitpicking (untrue) reason I’ve seen listed — the reason Gotham looks grittier at night than in the day is because ALL cities look like that. Have you ever walked home alone at night in Philadelphia? New York? Camden? Detroit? Chicago? Sure, there’s crime in those cities — but there’s still normal people living there who have to walk around and do business during the day.

    Also, why wouldn’t it look cleaner what with Harvey Dent locking up most of its criminals? Haven’t you been paying attention? Did you see the amount of orange clad men on the second boat? Yeah — those guys were prisoners.

  9. This reboot of the series aims to inject some much needed gritty realism into Batman, and what better way to do so than making the setting more realistic?

  10. The Dark Knight…

    was a very BRIGHT movie.

    VERY bright.

    Heath didn’t scare me at all cause I was so happy from the sun.

    And the pretty music.

  11. I agree with a lot of what you said, but if you say you liked it being realistic, which is what i liked about the movie, (except for some aspects) you can’t say the city was too dull, because it’s just supposed to be a city. In the animated series it was just a city, so why change that? Burton wanted to make it look gothic and scary, which resulted in it morphing into what you saw in Batman and Robin, and I’ll be very upset if that happens again.

  12. Worst movie i have seen in years, the only redeeming seconds were when heath ledger had speaking parts. Sorry to say but Mr and Mrs Smith was more intriguing. Please tell me what these critics and fans are being paid to defend this huge waste of 3 hours and budget.

  13. The alternative is to shoot on the backlot and soundstages, like the 80’s and 90’s films but then you end up with a “city” that consists of just a couple of blocks and one main street. Frankly I think you’re nit-picking for the sake of it; films have always used real locations as fictional ones (the fact that the “Russian” railway sequences in Goldeneye were shot less than an hour from where I live in the UK don’t effect my enjoyment of that film) – in this instance it’s only a problem to anally fixated Batman fans who know Chicago well – the millions who’ve seen the film worldwide simply won’t care. Personally I thought the city looked stunning on screen and were I a resident, I’d be proud to see it presented in such a way.

  14. Yes, i will agree with that, Gotham looked better in Begins and Tim Burton’s Batman. I would regard Gotham’s look in Begins the best. But then again, I last saw Batman(Burton’s version) about 8 years ago so I don’t quite remember it picture perfect.


  16. Naven, go chill and rob an armored car or something.

Leave a Reply