Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, 2018.
Directed by Sam Liu.
Featuring the voice talents of Bruce Greenwood, Jennifer Carpenter, Anthony Head, Scott Peterson, John DiMaggio, Grey DeLisle, and Yuri Lowenthal.
Based on the graphic novel by Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola, Batman: Gotham by Gaslight envisions Batman in the Victorian Age as he chases down famed serial killer Jack the Ripper in Gotham City.
Over the last few year’s many of DC’s Original Animated Movies have been set within a continuity, each film building off the last, but every now and then DC does a one-off that is either based on an original idea or a graphic novel. For their latest film, they adapt the classic Brain Augustyn and Mike Mignola graphic novel Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, the first Elseworlds story, in what is the first truly enjoyable and great DC animated film in a long while.
Batman: Gotham by Gaslight a great adaptation. The film is able to incorporate more Batman characters into the story than the actual book, most prominently Catwoman, and add new elements into it while honouring Augustyn’s original story. The additions and changes really help the story’s appeal and flesh out this Victorian take on Batman, broadening out the world of Gotham. Its nice to see characters like Gordon, Harvey Dent and Hugo Strange play a role in the mystery and help or hinder Batman.
Bruce Greenwood is no stranger to voicing Batman. He’s played him Batman: Under the Red Hood and Young Justice, but what makes his work in this film so different is he spends more time playing Bruce Wayne than he does Batman. Greenwood doesn’t do a significant change to his voice, as say Kevin Conroy did between Bruce and Batman, but he still makes each personality sound distinct. He catches many of the best aspects of Bruce’s character, from his compassion, fake playboy charm to the hidden intelligence as he watches others. This also helps Greenwood as Gotham by Gaslight spends much more time emphasizing Bruce than it does Batman, examining his relationship to many of the other characters.
Nowhere is Bruce and Greenwood’s performance strengthened by his report with Selina Kyle, played by Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter). Carpenter is great in the role, delivering a sultry vocal performance that makes her sound completely different than her roles in Dexter or Limitless. Much like Greenwood, Carpenter imbues a sense of compassion and intelligence, as well as feistiness, in Selina throughout the film. Selina isn’t just a side character, though, but plays a major role in the film’s story as she sets out to stop Jack the Ripper herself. Her addition to the story is organic; she’s not just placed in there for the sake of mythology, but is a prominent member of Gotham’s social circles with a personal interest in discovering the Ripper’s identity.
The animation in the film is very well done. It’s clear a lot of work went into recreating the Victorian era for this film, from how Gotham City looks to the clothing the characters wear and hair styles (there is quite a variety of moustaches throughout this film). The choreography in the action sequences is quite well done with the movements coming across in a fluid and smooth manner. The fights between Batman and Jack are great to watch, particularly the one on top of the dirigible, as they viciously trade blows while Selina’s movements and whip action give a great impression of her abilities.
One of the best aspects of the animation, though, is how we actually see Batman’s eyes. Gone are the white lenses we normally get, but we’re allowed to see his eyes, giving us a better look at Bruce Wayne himself under the mask. There is also a lot of detail in the background, from the picturesque scenery to all the moving parts of the fight scenes. Gotham by Gaslight is definitely one of the most impressive looking animated films DC has ever put out.
The blu-ray has quite a few special features on it, though only two that deal directly with the making of the film itself. They are:
Audio Commentary: Director/producer Sam Liu, writer Jim Krieg and legendary animator Bruce Timm give commentary over the film on how they adapted the graphic novel to film, explaining the changes they made and how excited they were to create such a different Batman film. It’s a pretty insightful commentary as the three give behind the scenes stories on how it all came together.
Caped Fear: The First Elseworld (20 min): Aside from the commentary, this is the most extensive look behind the making of the film and one of the best features DC has put on one of their animated films recently. This gives much more insight into the creation of the Gotham by Gaslight graphic novel and the production of the film. Of particular note is how much research actually went into adapting the look of the Victorian Age for the film and how this was to be a mystery tale first and foremost.
Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay Sneak Peek (8 min): A look at what we can expect from DC’s next animated film, Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay, and how they hope to make another unique film for the animated line. Its an interesting look at the film that raises my curiosity about the film with what seems like a good voice cast and animation.
Bonus Cartoons: There are two bonus cartoons from past Batman shows, The Brave and The Bold and the classic The Animated Series. ‘Trials of the Demon’ from Brave and The Bold and ‘Showdown’ are included, but aside from the fact that both these episodes take place in the distant past, neither one really has much to do with an Elseworlds-type tale.
Sneak Peeks: Also included are sneak peaks at some of DC’s past animated films, Batman: Bad Blood and Justice League Dark. Given that these are old films, plus previously released sneak peeks about them, they’re not quite worth the space on here and would have been better served to hear more from Augustyn and Mignola on the original story or the Elseworld brand.
Despite the lack of features about the film itself, the Blu-ray for Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is worth the money for the film alone. It’s a great tale that smartly adapts a classic story with a talented cast. Greenwood and Carpenter do an excellent job as Batman and Catwoman, particularly Carpenter, and the changes to the story flesh out Victorian Gotham while surprising fans of the original story. Gotham By Gaslight is a very good, entertaining and fresh piece of Batman material.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★