Batman: Gotham by Gaslight Movie Review (SPOILER WARNING!!!)

So, after waiting what felt like an ungodly length of time, I finally got to see the animated Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, and I thought it only right and proper to do a review for it, especially since there don't seem to be that many reviews for it as of now. So without further ado, here it is.

And, it goes without saying, that as much as I try to avoid it in this review, there are some SPOILERS. You have been warned.

First thing's first, it needs to be understood that this movie is really more inspired by the graphic novel of the same name rather than a direct adaptation. The only things the movie has in common with the comic are the Batman costume, the setting, the premise of Jack the Ripper Vs. Batman, and Bruce Wayne being framed and jailed for the Ripper murders. That's it. Everything else is completely different (right down to who Jack the Ripper actually is). But you know what? That's okay. Because I loved it anyway.

First off, one thing the animated film has over the comic is that it feels more like a "full" adaptation of Batman's world in 1889. In the original story, only a handful of characters besides Batman made it over into the comic. Here, numerous characters make the transfer. Albeit, some of them are little more than glorified cameos (such as Cyrus Gold), but their presence is still appreciated, because (again), it feels like more of a true adaptation of Batman's world, not limiting itself to just Bats, Alfred, and Gordon. Selina Kyle in particular is a standout, capturing almost everything I love about the character at her best even with this being a non-costumed version (though she's still quite the classy dresser). Her concern for the prostitutes and other voiceless people of Gotham City feels like it's taken straight out of the Ed Brubaker Catwoman series, and that's definitely a good thing.

Also, she sings!

The art style in the movie bears pretty much no resemblance to Mignola's distinct panels, but that honestly doesn't bother me, because the film looks great and the animation is smooth and pleasing, and overall as well done as we expect things from Bruce Timm and co. to be. The fight scenes in particular are all top notch, being appropriately grisly and brutal and beautifully choreographed. I especially love the greater emphasis on boxing type punches, which is appropriate for the time period and setting.

Voice acting is mostly good. Bruce Greenwood gives arguably his best vocal performance as Batman yet (though I still consider Under the Red Hood to be the best Batman thing he was in overall). He's got the right level of seriousness and menace as Batman, but as Bruce Wayne shows the appropriate level of charm, which really shines through in his interactions with Selina Kyle (voiced to perfection here by Jennifer Carpenter). Alfred's VA proves the latest in a long line of great deadpan British performances, and everyone else is perfectly fine, save that Grey DeLisle as young Jason Todd simply doesn't work because the voice is obviously female, lacking the "deceptive" quality of say, Bart Simpson and Timmy Turner (both of whom were voiced by women but still convincingly sound like young boys, Jason in this film does not).

So in action, voice acting, animation, and just plain having fun with translating all the major Batman characters save Joker, Penguin, and Riddler into a Victorian setting, the movie scores high marks. To be honest, I think that much of what worked about another great DC Animated Original Movie, Justice League: Gods and Monsters, works here. Like in that film, the dark tone, evident fun the writers have with playing around and showing how all the characters are now different in their own ways, and the reveal of who the villain is that in both worked as a legitimate surprise, work in BGbG's favor. Jack the Ripper's identity is one that I definitely did not see coming. From all the evidence I had picked up on, it seemed almost certain that Harvey Dent was the killer. Indeed, towards the climax of the film, as Harvey shows himself to be a duplicitous, misogynistic hypocrite, it seems like the writers are not only showing their hand, but shoving it in your face. And then the reveal comes of who the killer really is, and it turns out the writers had me completely fooled (and likely others too).

If I have any one complaint about the film (aside from a plot-hole late in the story where Bruce escapes prison by disguising himself as a policeman when his face should still be recognizable), it's that it's ending is much too abrupt. I mean seriously, it ends without any confirmation that the framed Bruce Wayne will be exonerated, no follow-up to the fiery death of Jack the Ripper and destruction of the World's Fair along with him, nothing. To me, that's kind of lame, and feels like a real cop-out. But, that one admitted flaw can't keep this film down entirely. Now to re-iterate, this film is almost entirely different from the graphic novel it shares a name and basic premise with. So, if you are hoping for a faithful adaptation, look elsewhere. But if you're willing to enjoy a very good animated Batman film on it's own merits, then I definitely recommend this one. It's not The Lego Batman Movie, Under the Red Hood, or Mask of the Phantasm, but to be honest, I'd say it's the next one down as far as how I'd rank my animated Batman films.

Grade: A-

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