DC Animation returns this week with Batman: Gotham By Gaslight, giving us a brand new take on the caped crusader in one of DC Animation’s best movies/adaptations yet. Come inside to check out my full review.
A killer is loose in turn of the century Gotham (think World's Fair, steampunk styled stuff), and Batman has to track down Jack the Ripper in order to make the streets safe once again. It's a much more bloody affair, given that this release comes with an R rating, and it's kinda surprising how intense the film gets at times.
It's a little at odds with the more simplistic animation style the film goes with, choosing the blocky, cartoon style of the old Animated series, rather than the sleeker approach their "Animated Universe" (the interconnected releases) films have been using. Personally, I love the style it has and it certainly steps up the shock factor, which is exactly what I suspect the filmmakers were going for.
Anyway, the Ripper is carving up women all over Gotham and Batman is eager to hunt him down. Selina Kyle is also eager to end the menace of the killer and Batman finds himself working with her to put an end to his terror. Things, of course, become much more complicated when Bruce Wayne's boyhood mentor/friend (a nun from his orphanage) is murdered and he suddenly becomes a suspect himself. Using budding criminology techniques (remember this is a time before forensics was really a thing, including fingerprints), Batman must find a way to find/stop Jack the Ripper, while clearing his own alter ego of any wrongdoing.
It's not terribly outside the norm when it comes to Batman stories, but the presentation and alternate reality setting gives Gotham By Gaslight a much more unique quality. All your typical Batman stuff makes an appearance, including his rogue's gallery, but the twists the setting puts on them make them feel entirely fresh. It's a lot of fun noticing all the differences and finding the various ways the story manages to twist up iconic characters we've known for so many decades.
The story is interesting in that the Ripper is every bit the antithesis of Batman, and thus a more than worthy adversary. He's intelligent, methodical, and every bit as highly trained/skilled as the Bat himself. It makes for an engaging dynamic and some impressive action sequences that had me gripping the arms of my chair tightly. It may be similar to modern-set Batman stories we've seen before, but it's a better told/presented version of it for sure.
I've generally enjoyed just about all DC Animation has put out there. While there are a few misses sprinkled throughout, they're incredibly consistent in the quality they've produced. Fortunately Gotham by Gaslight is among the great ones, and at the moment, could be my favorite so far (even more so than Gods and Monsters).
The twist on the setting is certainly fun, but the story is solid and expertly crafted. Though it's on the shorter side, just a little over an hour, it tells a more in depth story with real engaging character work than many full length feature films out there. It never feels rushed and manages to stick the landing...which even some of the better DC Animated films have struggled with. Seriously, it brings in a reveal that I wasn't expecting at all. The Elseworlds setting makes you think you know what's going to happen, but the reality packs a punch.
If you're looking for a great Batman story, or just something a little different than your typical comic book movie, Gotham by Gaslight is an excellent choice. The changes made bring the world of the Bat to life in a way that feels refreshing, while delivering on great action and story. For me, the movie itself is more than worth the price of the blu-ray.
Gotham by Gaslight comes with a number of special features loaded onto the disc for fans to checkout and enjoy:
“Caped Fear: The First Elseworld” (Featurette) – Batman in the distant past of Gotham, at the crossroads of where the Gothic 19th century meets the modern age. Jack the Ripper, clashing with Gotham and its ruling elite. The documentary traces the influence of the comic book story, and why Gotham by Gaslight stands the test of time.
Batman: Gotham by Gaslight Audio Commentary – Join Executive Producer Bruce Timm, Director Sam Liu and Writer Jim Krieg as they provide details about the scenes of Batman: Gotham by Gaslight and why this is a special project for each of them. Listen in for all things Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, and immerse once more into this dark and Gothic world.
A Sneak Peek at the next DC Universe Movie, Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay: A behind-the-scenes look at the next entry in the popular series of DC Universe Movies, featuring thoughts from the talented filmmakers.
From the DC Vault – “Showdown” episode from Batman: The Animated Series; “Trials of the Demon!” episode from Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
The first featurette offers a nice look at the original comic and how the idea came to be, along with how it was adapted for the animated movie. You also get a look at the next blu-ray release, Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay, and a couple animated Batman TV episodes. Frankly, aside from that first one there's not a whole lot of value in the bonus features, and I don't see much likelihood in you ever checking them out more than once. That said, the movie is well worth the purchase price so it's a minor gripe that I think is easy to overlook.