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Jeffrey Wright Vs. Gary Oldman: Here's Who Played The Better James Gordon

Commissioner Jim Gordon is one of the longest-running and most integral Batman characters of all-time — so much so, in fact, that he appeared in the very first panel of the very first Batman comic (per Nerdist). As such, audiences always expect to see a new version of Gordon alongside every new version of the Dark Knight.

While the character has been portrayed various ways over the decades, recent interpretations of Gordon have generally portrayed him as Batman's most trusted ally. As Gordon rises through the ranks of the Gotham City Police Department at the same time as the Caped Crusader begins foiling evildoers, Gordon is usually depicted as evolving from an understandable hesitance about Batman to seeing the vigilante as a necessary evil ... and eventually, a friend. 

To date, the most popular rendition of the character in live-action has certainly been the one portrayed by Gary Oldman in Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" trilogy, where he went from goodhearted detective to one of the most prominent figures in Gotham. But now, with the release of "The Batman," audiences have a new Gordon to stack up against Oldman's, with the also-praised version played Jeffrey Wright. Between these two excellent performances, who plays the best version of the Batman's iconic partner? 

Gary Oldman embodied the comics Gordon

In 2016, when J.K. Simmons was cast as Jim Gordon for "Justice League," Yahoo! Movies asked for "The Dark Knight" veteran Gary Oldman's take on the character. To that, Oldman answered, "The thing you've just got to get used to with Gordon is he's a really sound detective, first of all. And he's really incorruptible, which is a kind of wonderful quality to play and sort of, like, true blue." 

This statement displayed just how well Oldman knew the comic book iteration of Gordon, and by extension, how he played the character in all three "Dark Knight" movies. The essence of Commissioner Jim Gordon is his incorruptible nature, even when surrounded by corruption. 

In Oldman's first outing as Gordon, he is seemingly alone in a department saturated in corruption. Even his partner works as a "low-level enforcer" for Carmine Falcone. He refuses to participate in the action, and when his partner, Arnold Flass (Mark Boone Junior), tells him it makes others nervous, all he can do is declare he isn't a rat (but notes, jokingly, that it's only because there's no one to rat Flass out to). That changes when Batman enters the picture, and while Gordon isn't a boy scout — he supports Batman, despite the fact that vigilantism is a crime — he remains determined not to cross certain lines, and to always make what he feels are the right choices for the good of the city. Oldman's Gordon spends three films spearheading the overhaul of the Gotham City Police Department, constantly facing dirty cops and setbacks due to those around him falling to greed, fear, and weakness. All the while, Gordon remains strong in the face of temptation and challenge, staying true to his intentions all the way until the end of "The Dark Knight Rises."

Jeffrey Wright offered up a new take

One of the more difficult aspects in making a movie like "The Batman" — where the characters and mythos have already been adapted so many times — is doing something new while simultaneously remaining faithful to the source material. Thankfully, Jeffrey Wright understood the full weight of his assignment. Speaking to Screen Rant, Wright said, "It's not trivial stuff. That comes with its responsibilities. Like Paul, I don't know if it's scary, or it's thrilling. I think it's thrilling, and it's an exciting challenge to take on."

Wright took the challenge to heart, portraying the character in a more haunted way than past actors, while still getting across the incorruptible quality that Oldman spoke of. Whereas Gary Oldman's version of the character represented a beacon of light and hope for what the department could be, Wright represents a weary figure who is holding strong despite how beaten down with corruption his entire department has become. When he accepts Batman as an ally, it's not necessarily out of choice so much as a sound moral realization that the Dark Knight is the only figure he can actually trust. Wright's Gordon doesn't necessarily understand Batman, but clearly has a deep respect for what he's doing, even if he disagrees with smaller details (such as when Batman tries to get him to not use a gun, to which Gordon humorously responds, "Yeah, man ... that's your thing.")

This Gordon's most intense scene comes when the police bring Batman into the station and attempt to unmask him: Not only does Gordon step in, but he gives Batman an escape route. Wright's Gordon is gritty and unique, not beholden to the character in the comics, and yet somehow faithful to it in its own way. 

Oldman remains on top

While Jeffrey Wright's James Gordon is a beautiful and haunting version of the man, Gary Oldman still remains on top as the portrayal to beat. His take on the character embodied Gordon in a way that would fit alongside any of the live-action Batmen, embodying the comic book character like no one else ever has. 

Bruce Wayne is a man on the edge of sanity, and as Batman, he pushes the boundaries of good and evil. To battle the worst Gotham City has to offer, he must constantly take himself to the edge: Having someone like Gordon there to keep hold of him when he gets too close is sometimes the only thing keeping him from becoming all he battles against. As Oldman said, Jim Gordon must be incorruptible. He must be the honorable man who will never allow himself or any others to violate the boundaries of what's good and right — even when he gets stuck in the lie at the heart of the ending of "The Dark Knight," the following film shows him struggling with wanting to reveal it. 

Jeffrey Wright's Gordon, meanwhile, feels the closest we've ever seen a live action Gordon to the edge. This fits with Matt Reeves' grittier take, but if this Batman ever were to cross the line, it isn't far-fetched to imagine that his version of Gordon would follow him there, rather than pulling him back. 

One could say that of all the incarnations of Commissioner James Gordon to date, Gary Oldman's isn't the Gordon we deserve, but he will always be the Gordon we need. Luckily for Jeffrey Wright, his time as Gordon is just beginning, and he may end up with more opportunities to grow into a character that can unseat the current top cop.