10 Times the GCPD & Commissioner Gordon Were Completely Inept
Batman lore carries with it a long list of memorable gadgets, gizmos, vehicles, and villains to go along with iconic characters such as Alfred Pennyworth, Dick Grayson, and Barbara Gordon. Yet, Bat history also features the long-running joke that is the complete buffoonery of the Gotham City Police Department. Which makes sense. Without the ridiculous antics of the GCPD and its world-weary leader, Commissioner James Gordon, there would be no need for Batman. As such, the numerous Bat films often make sure to remind us just how inept the police force actually is and why crime continues to exist despite help from a billionaire vigilante boasting an arsenal of high-tech weapons and ninja-based crime-fighting skills.
Here is a Top 10 list of the GCPD’s more ridiculous moments, many of them taken from Tim Burton’s pair of Bat flicks and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Why? Well, you can’t really poke too much fun at the Joel Schumacher films because, well, they were designed to be campy. And there’s not much too say about Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice or Justice League since the GCPD makes only a few brief appearances and doesn’t have time to make any inept decisions.
As a final caveat before we get started, please note that this is all in good fun. The Dark Knight trilogy ranks amongst our favorite film series, while Burton’s Bat flicks remain an entertaining gothic fantasy. So, please don’t take any of this personally.
10. Gordon Orders the Entire GCPD into the Sewers to Find Bane
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Christopher Nolan employs a number of silly contrivances to keep the complex plot of The Dark Knight Rises flowing from A to B, the most egregious of which sees a bedridden (and decidedly bitter) Commissioner Gordon order the entire GCPD down into the sewers to find the villain Bane. Naturally, this offensive tactic quite literally blows up in his face as Bane uses explosive laced cement (?) to confine the entire police force in the sewers for the duration of his Gotham City occupation. No matter. This silly bit of plotting leads to a stunning payoff as the police force eventually gather and march down the city streets in unison to battle Bane and his minions in patriotic fashion at the film’s climax. Though, even this grand finale feels a tad clunky since one would expect an actual army of police officers to utilize a more strategic form of combat as opposed to just … running at a bunch of gun-toting baddies. Then again, this movie features a man dressed as a bat and another man who is all but immune to pain (unless one happens to knock out one of the exposed mask parts on his face). So, who the hell cares?
9. Joker, a Wanted Criminal, Announces Time and Date of Parade, Police are Still a No Show
This one has always been a bit baffling. Near the end of Tim Burton’s Batman, Joker, a wanted criminal who has openly admitted to poisoning and murdering people, goes on TV and tells the world of his intentions to hold a parade at midnight during which he plans to dump $20 million in cash on the denizens of Gotham. One would think that, with the enemy so openly exposed, Gordon and his police force would seize the opportunity to take down a maniacal crime boss once and for all. Nah. Instead, Joker and his goons parade unscathed through the streets of Gotham on lavish floats and balloons whilst dancing to music by Prince. As such, it’s up to Batman to swoop in to save the day with his Batwing after which the police force finally shows up and contributes to the conflict by shining a few spotlights on a bell tower.
8. GCPD Murders Batman
Batman Returns (1992)
After the mishandling of Joker’s unit at the climax of Batman and the force’s ineptitude in stopping the Red Triangle Gang at the beginning of Batman Returns, you would think the GCPD would have a little more tolerance for ole Batsy. Especially considering his knack for cleaning up their mess. Instead, after the Penguin sends the Ice Princess to her death in a very fortuitous moment that pegs Bats as the murderer, the GCPD storm in and proceeds to blow the holy Hell out of our masked hero without a second thought. Of course, Gordon tells them to hold their fire, though that directive might have better been served had he issued it before his team opened the door. Indeed, the more rational approach might have been to give Batman a chance to explain the situation (or read the guy his rights), but because Burton needed the GCPD to turn against their dark knight — in a plot point that is never resolved or referenced again — having Gotham’s finest unleash their arsenal on the Caped Crusader makes the most thematic sense.
7. GCPD Loses Track of the Tumbler
Batman Begins (2005)
Batman enjoys gadgets aplenty, and most are on full display during the big GCPD v the Tumbler chase midway through Batman Begins. However, gadgets don’t actually help him escape. In fact, despite using a number of devices, including bombs and the ingenious idea to hit the off switch to his vehicle at one point during the pursuit, Batman manages to break free of the police simply by ramming through a road barrier, smashing through a small obstruction and a gate, and “vanishing” via a perfectly straight path into a nearby forest. Not very subtle. Call us crazy, but you’d think a police force that has its own helicopter would be able to quickly regroup and pick up the trail. After all, the Tumbler isn’t the most subtle of vehicles and leaves a trail of discernible destruction in its wake. A small police unit would likely be able to find the exact location where the massive tank veered off the road and would then need only follow the dirt path to the waterfall entrance where they would find Batman alone with a drugged-out woman right underneath Wayne Manor.
6. Gordon Lights the Bat Signal for Some Reason
Batman Forever (1995)
At the end of Batman Forever, it’s pretty clear that Edward Nygma, aka the Riddler, is the bad guy. We’ve known this since the beginning of the film and are quite frankly astonished that the World’s Greatest Detective didn’t pick up the clues much earlier. Of course, Batman is too busy fighting Two-Face, gawking at Nicole Kidman, and raising his 25-year old bastard son to take 5-10 minutes to solve some fairly simple riddles. Though, to be fair, it would help immensely if Bats had even a smidgen of help from the city’s elected police commissioner.
Indeed, at the film’s big finale, Nygma shines his logo in the sky for all to see from his holy rusted metal island location. So, again, you’d think Gordon and his team would head to the Riddler’s lair and stop him from quite visibly sucking the brains out of Gotham’s citizens. Nah. Remember, this is the Gordon that failed to stop the Joker and the Penguin in the previous two films. Quite frankly, it’s astonishing he still has his job. At any rate, Gordon lights the bat symbol and … waits. Thankfully, Batman shows up in spectacular fashion and flashes an impossible-to-see-from-that-distance thumbs up which
inspires Gordon to rally the troops and take the Riddler head on gives Gordon an excuse to head home to watch more of The Box.
5. Penguins Run Amok in Gotham – No Police
Batman Returns (1992)
Here we have another instance of a criminal mastermind uncorking his dastardly plan on Gotham City with nary a policeman in site. In this case, the Penguin unleashes a hoard of missile-toting penguins on the city in an attempt to “punish all God’s children!” The admittedly cute little guys waddle their way (slowly) through the city and eventually gather in the heart of Gotham with ridiculous ease and are only thwarted when Alfred, at the last second, reroutes their signal, after which they turn around and waddle (slowly) all the way back to Arctic World where they first started. Was Gotham on a curfew? Where the hell is everybody? You’d think the GCPD would show up in an armored vehicle and mow the little bastards down, or at least try to redirect them away from the city; or, attempt to go after Penguin who has openly admitted to living at the zoo amongst other penguins and indeed was witnessed jumping into ice-cold water by two (repeat two) police officers following his machine-gun assault on a crowd full of innocent, veggie-toting spectators. Gordon’s next actions are quite clear: send every available cop to the sewers to smoke him out!
4. GCPD Murder Batman (Again)
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
Once again, considering everything Batman has done for Gotham, particularly in the animated series, one would imagine the GCPD showing some restraint for the guy. In Mask of the Phantasm, someone who looks like Bats is wandering around the city murdering criminals. So, naturally, Detective Harvey Bullock assembles a massive task force to find and take down the Batman which culminates in a fairly violent (for a toon) standoff that leaves the Dark Knight straight up shook. Not to worry, Batman manages to escape by … getting in a getaway car. No, really. Despite hundreds of men, a helicopter and any number of available vehicles, the GCPD simply refuses to follow an allegedly dangerous vigilante after he drives away in a car. What’s more, Bullock glares into the camera in a manner that suggests this particular story beat isn’t over yet. It is.
A few things here. First, this city has seen its fair share of criminals, right? All of whom have openly murdered people a number of times. Why can’t Bullock muster the same type of task force he employed for Batman, who is only suspected of murder, to go after, say, the Joker, who is living quite openly at the nearby World of the Future exhibit? Secondly, why bring a chopper if the damned thing can’t be bothered to follow a car — nay, a convertible with Batman in the front seat? It’s no wonder the criminals escape Arkham Asylum on a daily basis. The GCPD is incompetent as Hell!
3. Police Allow a Grown Ass Man to Adopt Another Grown Ass Man
Batman Forever (1995)
Did anyone else find it kind of weird in Batman Forever when billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne decides to adopt 25-year old Dick Grayson after his parents are murdered by Two-Face in perfect deadeye fashion? After the circus debacle, which the GCPD once again blundered, Commissioner Gordon decides to drop newly orphaned Dick off at Bruce’s house with the intention of connecting him with someone who had experienced a similar life-altering trauma. (Kudos to Jimbo for not giving two sh**s about what kind of psychological doors this action might open for Wayne.) One would expect Bruce to consult Dick in the art of life or, perhaps, offer to help the man find a new job or a new set of cast members to carry on the Flying Graysons gig. Except, Bruce takes him in and becomes something of a surrogate father figure, which doesn’t fully jibe.
One might also expect Gordon to come back and check in on the situation or at least state his intentions more clearly: “Hey Bruce, can you talk to this kid for a bit? He’s going through the same thing you did and I figure it’s probably best if he talks to someone he can relate to. He doesn’t have to live here. In fact, he’s 25 and has his own home and a steady income. He pays taxes and health insurance. All I need you to do is talk to him. In fact, I’ll sit outside and wait for you two to talk and then I’ll drive him home. Actually, he has a motorcycle. I shouldn’t even be here. I probably could have just called. Also, Alfred is probably too old to play servant to another man child. I’m blabbering now. I’m going home to watch The Box.”
2. Gordon Didn’t Know Bruce Wayne was Batman?
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
This one is actually quite hilarious. Throughout The Dark Knight Rises, practically everyone is able to deduce that Bruce Wayne is Batman. Robin (?) knows it. Bane knows it. Selena knows it. The only one who is genuinely shocked to discover Batman’s secret is Gordon. When Batman reveals the news, the man is legitimately baffled in a manner that suggests he might have spent a good deal of time contemplating about this very subject (despite what he says) and might have even drawn up a list of names but never ever considered Bruce Wayne as a suspect. Like, ever. Gordon is genuinely shocked at the reveal which makes you wonder what name would not have surprised him. Like, if Batman had said, “I am Peter Foley!” would Gordon have been less surprised? Or would Gordon have had that same reaction no matter the reveal? Either way, you’d think Commissioner Gordon would have been able to piece the puzzle together considering his relationship with Bats and his proximity to the Wayne murders. After all, this Gordon has proven to be vastly more clever than his counterparts. To have him stupified by the Bruce reveal kinda sorta undermines Gordon’s character. In hindsight, his reaction should have been, “Bruce Wayne? Well, obviously. I’ve known since the moment you saved Mr. Reese at that intersection. Actually, I’ve known since you left that Wayne Enterprise stapler in my office all those years ago.”
1. Gordon Tries to Move a 13-Ton Bell
During the big climax of Tim Burton’s Batman, the Caped Crusader battles the Joker via his Batwing and ends up crash landing on the
model steps front of Gotham City Cathedral. After an extended pursuit sequence to the top of the gothic high rise, Joker sprays acid on one of the tower’s bells and sends it careening to the base of the building where it blocks the police from following. At this exact moment, Commissioner Gordon, an older man in his mid-60s, shows up with a police unit and … tries to move the bell by himself. That’s right. In a bit of questionable stage directing by Burton, one of Batman’s most respected allies is painted as a clown when he inexplicably tries to push aside what is likely a 13-ton bell. What’s more, every member of his police unit knows he’s an idiot which is why none of them step up to help him. Imagine if Gordon had managed to move the bell and the man turned out to possess some kind of superpower? And then, in a deleted scene, we see him transform into — wait for it — Martian Manhunter!
Bonus: Stephens Lets the Joker Get Under His Skin
The Dark Knight
Finally, as an added bonus, as perfect as The Dark Knight is the film has a few plot contrivances of its own. The worst instance is when the Joker, who Batman and Gordon have finally captured in an extended chase sequence that nearly killed them both, uses some fairly simple language to provoke Detective Stephens — and the man falls for it! We never see the actual struggle, probably because there was no way Nolan could direct it to make sense, and are therefore led to believe that the Joker outmaneuvered Stephens (despite the high ground advantage) and made his way through the GCDP unscathed in order to make his phone call. The big question here is: if Stephens hadn’t fallen for Joker’s trick, or, at the very least, just stood outside the interrogation room, what was Joker’s next move? What if Joker had asked, “How many friends of yours have I killed?” and Stephens responded, “None. I’m new here.” What if a large group of guys had stepped into the room to back Stephens up? Chances are, Batman would have come back to the police station and continued his assault on the clown after Rachel’s death — and maybe even killed him! Thus, breaking his rule … so, maybe the Joker did have everything planned out to perfection!
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