A Child’s Gotham

As NYMag mapped out New York’s most legendary comic book locales to celebrate The Watchmen and Gawker related the not-so-critically-acclaimed blockbuster back to the real NYC of 1985, it got me thinking about my own movie-induced childhood image of the city. While the real-life griminess shown in the Gawker post was the inspiration for Alan Moore’s original story, it was the youth-geared films of the 1980s  that informed my idea of NYC living. Now that I actually do live in New York, I can look back at most of the following (minus Batman, which I know, is not youth-geared; its inclusion is due to the face that I was allowed to watch it) as romanticized, somewhat watered-down visions of a city that, no matter how deep the economy dives, will never exist in such form again. That said, the Gotham in my very young mind was appealing enough to create a sense of magic that, while not often apparent to me now, I am sometimes reminded of and that serves as one of those pesky things that makes it hard to leave this godforsaken island.

Batman (1989, dir. Tim Burton)

Gotham City is sort of the pinnacle of oddly appealing dystopian New York in 1980s films. Batman wasn’t the first movie to showcase such lasting images as homeless people lighting trash fires, dark, rat-infested alleyways and ominously humongous building, but it may have been the finest.

Ghostbusters (1984, dir. Ivan Reitman)

Sure, it may not be as blatantly dark of an image of NYC as that of Batman, but the attention paid to Gothic architecture, supernatural terrorists and classic landmarks makes made this comedy classic one of the most interesting portrayals of Manhattan in the 1980s. The fact that the movie could hint at the scary underground of the city while simultaneously providing light-hearted escapism may have been its biggest strength.

Gremlins 2 (1990, dir. Joe Dante)

Make no mistake: Gremlins 2 is not very good. I would have liked to replace it with the first Gremlins on thislist, but it has occurred to me that the only scene from the original that takes place in NYC is the first one (which is a pretty awesome Chinatown scene).That said, this sequel also plays with the idea of an apocalyptic evil endangering the city’s streets, while also contrasting the grime of the previous decade with new Trumpian development.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990, dir. Steve Barron)

Along with Gremlins 2, this film’s 1990 release makes some of the grittiness slightly anachronistic, though not entirely. Regardless, the images of indoor spaces from this film may be more lasting in my mind than those outdoor ones of the others. Undergound dens strewn with pizza boxes, graffiti-filled arcade parlors, (presumably) coke-fueled news stations…this movie may, more than anything else, be responsible for my living in New York City right now.

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One Response to “A Child’s Gotham”

  1. grovenyc Says:

    I recently just watched “The French Connection” and it got me thinking about the same thing – THAT is a New York I could get behind…

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