Title: Batman: Gotham By Gaslight
Release Date: January 12, 2018
Studio: Warner Bros. Animation
Director: Sam Liu
Based On: Gotham by Gaslight; by Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola
Batman: Gotham By Gaslight is one of the more unique takes on the caped crusader that’s ever been created. With a plot centered around a murder mystery in a Victorian-era Gotham City – one that pits the Caped Crusader against Jack the Ripper – there are a lot of attractive elements brought forth by the newest animated film in the DC Universe Original Movies. Most obvious of which is the setting.
Considering the film’s title, there is no doubt that nailing the look and feel of 1800’s, alongside integrating Batman and Gotham city into it, would be vital to making the movie work. Gotham By Gaslight does a marvelous job doing so. Cobblestone streets are filled by a bevy of different characters home to the age. The rich are elaborately dressed and ride in carriages, while the poor walk the streets covered in soot, looking to steal from anyone. Bobbies (cops) and prostitutes collectively work the streets, each seeking out mischievous men. Batman himself has an interesting getup for the era as well.
Even a hundred or so years before his own time, Batman still manages to maintain his look. With the exception of a few gadgets swapping out for Victorian age themed ones, he still has most of the tools the base Dark Knight works with. Right off the bat, Gotham By Gaslight paints the boogeyman like reputation he is known for having in the comics perfectly.
Gotham By Gaslight takes full advantage of the architecture of the time as well. Alongside Victorian homes and saloons, the film features two standout landmarks. The first, Arkham Asylum, is the creepiest rendition of the well-known institution to date, as this age was well known for experiments and other cruel things. The second is Gotham’s version of the Chicago World’s Fair (World’s Columbian Exposition), a site which also lends to a fun climax of the movie.
Unfortunately, while the film does a solid job regarding aesthetics, it fails to tell an interesting story. Despite it being a well-known figure, like Jack the Ripper, Gotham By Gaslight’s main villain is just boring. Instead of a plot of wits between Jack the Ripper and Bruce Wayne, every scene between the two comes down to brute force. While this does lead to some awesome fire charged fight scenes, the lack of a real interaction muddles the relationship between the two. I understand it, as they hide the voice for the reveal, but there didn’t feel like there was any connection between them on a hero versus villain scale. That may sound odd, but one of the biggest strength of any Batman series has always been the dynamic between Batman and his villains.
On top of that, another of my favorite aspects of the Batman character was almost non-existent in the animated version of Gotham By Gaslight: detective work. For being the World’s Greatest Detective, this version of Bruce Wayne seemed to do very little of it. Outside of messing around with a chemistry set in his attic and noticing a secret door, not much else really goes on detective wise in the film. Most of the scenes simply revolve around Batman arriving too late or chasing the Ripper, only to eventually lose him after a fight.
To its credit, Gotham By Gaslight doesn’t rely too heavily on the source material, allowing for some room for surprise. And while the end is indeed surprising, its use of characters from the Batman universe feels hamfisted. Selina Kyle may have retained her whip and her love of cats, but her character feels off in this one, especially when it comes to her relationship with Bruce. Instead of the snarky, yet flirty, back and forth between the two, they seem to fall in love with one another instantly. The use of the Robins, Poison Ivy and Cyrus Gold is nothing more than cheap character association as well, with little to no depth given to supporting characters in the film.
Similar to Batman: The Killing Joke, Batman: Gotham By Gaslight just feels like another poor attempt at turning a fan favorite comic into an animated film. Especially considering, like The Killing Joke, the source material for the film was only 52 pages, something that definitely showed when it came to the movie’s story.
Verdict: Is Gotham By Gaslight a bad movie? By no means. Is it an entertaining movie? Outside of the setting and an interesting (albeit rather quick and slightly confusing) ending, more often than not, I found myself on my phone looking at the beautiful inks of the source material by P. Craig Russell, wishing the comic translated to film a bit better.
- Victorian and Batman integration
- World's Fair and Arkham Asylum
- Uninteresting story
- Jack the Ripper
- Very little detective work
- Shoehorned comic characters