Comic TV shows are all the rage nowadays, and Fox's Gotham has an edge over some of the others in its genre thanks to the massive volumes of Batman source material. As any Batman comic fan can attest, however, Gotham regularly strays from and changes DC canon. The show has taken liberties with everything from Batman's infamous gallery of rogues to young Bruce Wayne himself. The departures from traditional lore and even past seasons while still giving nods to comic canon actually really work as it allows Gotham to set itself apart from other Batman adaptations.
I was recently able to chat with Gotham's Emmy-nominated director of photography Crescenzo Notarile. In response to a question about what the Gotham production team might be changing for Season 3, Notarile had this to say:
As far as big changes, fortunately with this kind of show that we're doing, we are encouraged to think outside of the box. We are encouraged to make changes. We are encouraged to be as audacious as we can. And it's very fun and juicy for a cinematographer because of the nature of the show, being a DC comics strip, you know, there's no right or wrong per se. You can alter reality, change reality. Our world of Gotham is our own world, we have developed it in our own way. It's an entity in itself. So we can create the way we see fit.
It's really thanks to the fact that Gotham City has become a character unto itself that the production team can go its own way. The city can switch from a busy metropolis - not to be confused with Metropolis, of course - to a seedy underworld from scene to scene, and liberties can be taken from episode to episode without diverting the overall arc. Gotham is a world in which a mayor can be a member of an ancient cult who is later resurrected from the dead as a vengeful swordsman, but it's also a world in which the mob can be king with guns and money. There are no real limits to how real or how fantastical the show can be, and so the crew gets to be imaginative in how they bring Gotham City to life. The only real irrefutable fact about Gotham is that it really, really sucks to be a uniformed cop because they all die.
The finished product of a Gotham episode is an amalgamation of the creative efforts of many units behind the scenes, ranging from location scouts to costumers to cinematographers like Crescenzo Notarile, who happens to have a unique perspective when it comes to finding new ways to show classic comic elements. He had this to say about his preparation for Gotham:
One of the main ingredients I fed myself before I started the show is I looked at comic books. I wasn't really per se a comic book person, so I grabbed a bunch of comic books and collected a bunch of big volume books of Batman from the library and I looked at a lot of the comic books. The first thing that hit me was the compositions. Very grand, abstract angular compositions. Lows looking up, highs looking down, Dutch angles, a lot of giant elements in the foreground or frame where things are very small in the background, and I found that to be very enticing and that influenced me a lot.
As the cinematographer who tackled more than half of the episodes for Season 2 - including the season premiere, the Emmy-nominated "Azrael," and the season finale - Crescenzo Notarile is responsible for a lot of the distinctive looks of Gotham. We might never guess that Gotham is actually New York City in disguise thanks to the angles, lighting, and coloring. Jim Gordon, Bruce Wayne, and the assorted villains have their adventures against a changing backdrop that continually makes Gotham unique from previous seasons as well as decades of lore.