Mar 2, 2018

[Movies] Batman: Gotham by Gaslight (2018) Review

Most of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies had either focused on the more popular stories from the various DC Comics or served to support the New 52 reboot be animating their stories. This has been a sound enough strategy and we've gotten some pretty fun stories out of the deal. But I suppose it was only a matter of time before they'd get around to their Elseworlds stories.

Batman: Gotham by Gaslight was a great choice for a first Elseworlds exploration since (1) Batman is always a good choice and (2) steampunk is still a thing, even just aesthetically more often than not. And to be fair, the comic this was based on already had a nicely solid story.

So here we are with an Elseworlds story presented as an animated feature. And versus some of the one-off animated features released in recent years, this one nicely stands out as a very enjoyable movie indeed.

Synopsis: Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is an animated movie directed by Sam Liu. The screenplay was written by Jim Krieg as based on the graphic novel of the same name by Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola.

In a Victorian era Gotham City, women are being murdered by a mysterious killer that the newpapers have come to call Jack the Ripper. Bruce Wayne (Bruce Greenwood) is still a rich beloved citizen of the community but he is also secretly the bat-garbed vigilante known as the Batman. And thus far he hasn't been successful at identifying the killer. The citizens of Gotham on the otherhand can't distinguish between the two mysterious figures and assume that the Batman is responsible for the Ripper murders.

Outside his Batman persona, Bruce meets Harvey Dent (Yuri Lowenthal) for a night at the theatre, where they encounter the actress Selina Kyle (Jennifer Carpenter). She's been quite vocal in her crticism of the Gotham police about their inability to apprehend the Ripper. Bruce and Selina realize they share a connection in the orphanage of Sister Leslie (Grey Griffin), and they quickly realize that a lot of the victims had also been associated with her.

What I Liked: The animation style of recent DC movies has been pretty consistent and this movie was quite beautiful indeed. The fight scenes were well choreographed and excuted well on-screen. Even though we didn't get the usual Batman fun of different gadgets or very colorful villains. But the relatively muted setting didn't take away from the signature Batman action.

And I really appreciated the core mystery driving things, which totally fit the setting. Batman isn't quite Sherlock Holmes, but he plays that role to some degree in this movie in order to solve the murders. The end reveal wasn't quite surprising once other suspects had been eliminated from suspicion, but I didn't figure things out earlier than what sort of felt appropriate to the pacing of the story.

What Could Have Been Better: There was that desire to have more nods to the larger Batman gallery of characters, but I suppose it's only fair we get what we go. Sure we always end up with versions of Jim Gordon, Catwoman and oddly enough Human Strange, I think we could have expanded things a bit more. Plus the waste of characters like Poison Ivy (Kari Wuhrer), who barely had an actual role in this story.

I also wish we had more of a chance to find out more about the setting in itself. The story takes front and center from the get-go and there's not much to fully appreciate how this Victorian Gotham is supposed to differ from the conventional setting. There's the odd airship and of course a world's fair, which always seems to crop up during this period but that's about it.

TL;DR: Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is a fun Elseworlds adventure and one of the best DC animated features in a while. It's a great adaptation of the comic and a nice celebration of a different version of the caped crusader. Thus the movie gets a good 5 twists in the investigation out of a possible 5.

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