Directed by Sam Liu
In an alternate Victorian Age Gotham, Bruce Wayne is the Batman. As the masked crimefighter he encounters Jack the Ripper preying on the poor and forgotten women of Gotham and must stop him before he kills again.
Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is an adaption of the Batman graphic novel of the same name. Visually pretty much standard DC animation for their direct to video films. That’s not a complaint. No matter what character designs they are using, DC has a very crisp and clean look to each and every one of their films. It is a look and style that could benefit a theatrical release, but DC has yet to do such a thing. Why don’t they?
I found the concept of Bruce Wayne/Batman (Bruce Greenwood) pretending to be a playboy as he always does a little bit more implausible in this instance. It just doesn’t work for me. I just do not see how he could maintain his social status in that time period. The relaxed social mores that allow for playboy Bruce today did not exist then. But this is an animated comic book movie so we can let that slide.
The movie does nothing new with Batman other than transport him to a different time and that’s okay. These movies sometimes are supposed to be comfort food and not always an exciting new dish. A change in era and how they present the Bat props makes for part of the fun here. They have a Victorian steampunk style Bat-Cycle which is kind of cool. And Selena Kyle (Jennifer Carpenter) uses a makeshift Bat-Signal at the end to call Batman for help. Very nice touches.
The film is a mystery as Batman must whittle down a list of suspects to find out who Jack the Ripper is. There are clues and red herrings sprinkled along the way and when the reveal comes you do see how everything legitimately led to him. And that reveal is among the more disturbing things shown in a DC animated feature. I would call it “brave” that he was chosen to be the killer and not the original choice from the graphic novel.
Being an alternate reality version of Batman, we also get alternate reality versions of well-known characters. We have Commissioner Gordon (Scott Patterson) and here Detective Harvey Bullock becomes Chief of Police Bullock (Yuri Lowenthal). And Selena Kyle is an actress and protector of the women that Jack the Ripper gravitates towards.
The film puts just about every well-known Batman character it can think of into this movie in major and minor roles. There is even at least one lesser known character-at least outside of the comic book fandom-that they placed in here. This shows more a love of the Batman character and their universe than it does of the story but that’s not a bad thing.
It is my understanding that this is a very loose adaption of the graphic novel. I am curious what the original story actually has to say. I have only read snippets here and there about it and it strikes me as a different animal than what we have here in the movie.
It’s an enjoyable entry into DC Animation. You will have a good time with this. The story is solid and the animation as always is good.