Ever since Tim Burton Batman and Batman returns reimagined the DC icon as a fierce, violent avenger, most live-action iterations have followed suit. More often than not, when Gotham City is recreated on the big screen, audiences see vast modern skylines, dark alleys, and brutally foreboding shadowy locations. Burton’s Gotham was brimming with ornate Gothic architecture created through sprawling sets, detailed miniatures, and matte paintings. When it came time to modernize Batman for the 21st century, Christopher Nolan used Chicago as a replacement for Gotham in That Dark Knight Trilogywhich helps maintain a sense of realism and weight in each film.
To the Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, Zack Snyder filmed certain parts of Gotham in Detroit and recreated a very down to earth but gritty version of Gotham. For 2019 jokerTodd Phillips shot on location as much as possible, traveling throughout New York and New Jersey to capture the kind of poignancy and immediacy he loved in Martin Scorsese taxi driver and Sidney Lumets dog day afternoon. And yet, after decades of a dark and grimy Gotham, while the essence of this iconic city may never change, New York City, Chicago, and Detroit may very well cease to be go-to spots for future DC movies. As Cathy Yan showed in it Birds of Prey (and the Fantastic Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)Los Angeles holds tremendous potential for directors looking to put a new spin on Batman’s iconic home.
Cathy Yan brought Bird of Prey to sunny LA to show Gotham in a new light
birds of prey, which was released in 2020, shot many of its scenes in Los Angeles. What was perhaps an unprecedented creative decision eventually gave this unique vision of Gotham its own life and power. Despite being shot on the sunny west coast, Yan preserved the danger, ferocity and eccentricity of Gotham City through a cosmetic use of CGI, custom lighting and camera angles. Pure Gotham birds of prey stands out positively and proclaims its own individuality – whatever LA landmarks some fans may have been looking for, they’re nowhere to be found. By transplanting Gotham from the Midwest/East Coast to LA, Yan managed to underscore Gotham’s seedy nature in a way that hadn’t been done before.
The upside of LA’s aesthetic is reminiscent of palm trees and beautiful beaches, but the city has a lot to offer in terms of ruggedness and its own brand of wear and tear. Yan knew where to go to accentuate this look. During post-production, she used CGI to highlight parts of Gotham that are often left out of the films, such as Ace Chemicals, Founders Pier, Amusement Mile, or the offices of the Janus Corporation – a Sionis family business. Since this Gotham has a completely different skyline than what audiences are used to, Yan had the opportunity to experiment with how she would explore this environment. As a result, she had more freedom to sift through the source material and construct a more comic-accurate Gotham City.
Todd Phillips will be moving Gotham from New York to LA for Joker 2
A joker The sequel, which will see Phillips returning as director, is slated for release in 2024. Titled Joker: Folie a Deux, Lady Gaga has joined the cast as Harley Quinn, and the film will reportedly be a musical. Little is known about the film so far, aside from a few casting updates as well as the fact that a significant portion of the story will be set in Arkham Asylum – a famous, lore-steeping aspect of Gotham that Phillips showed briefly in the first film. With filming taking place in Los Angeles, this could mean a new trend for DC movies. (Historically, birds of prey wasn’t the first time a DC movie set in Gotham City was shot on the West Coast – the Adam West starring Adam West Batman: The Moviereleased 1966, was filmed exclusively in California.)
Cathy Yans birds of prey, while not a huge commercial success, received generally positive reviews and garnered a fan base of its own – showing that an LA-based Gotham worked just as well as one based in Chicago or Detroit. James Gunn says Margot Robbie is set to return as Harley Quinn in the near future – but many fans are still hoping for a real role birds of prey Consequence. Depending on how things develop – and how successfully Joker: Folie a Deux becomes – Los Angeles may yet solidify as cinema’s real-life answer to Gotham City.