Starring: Bruce Greenwood, Jennifer Carpenter, Chris Cox, John DiMaggio, Grey DeLisle
Written by: James Krieg (screenplay), Brian Augustyn, Mike Mignola (graphic novel "Gotham by Gaslight")
Directed by: Sam Liu
Distributor: DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Run Time: 1hr, 18 mins
I remember first picking up “Gotham by Gaslight” at my local comic book store (Golden Eagle Comics). For me, it was strange because it was a self-contained book. No issue one, no second or third book to come back and get. Also, despite the “Elseworlds” title, I knew this was a “What If?” Book (hey, I was an avid Marvel guy at the time). I loved it. It was not my doorway into more mature material (that honor goes to “The Killing Joke”), but it further propelled my need to seek out more serious content (“Arkham Asylum” followed a few months later). In short, I have some reverence for Brian Augustyn's and Mike Mignola's story about Batman meeting Jack the Ripper. So imagine my surprise when I discovered this was a combination of “Gotham by Gaslight” and its sequel “Master of the Future”.
There are many in fandom that hold source material to such a high regard that they are blind to anything different. DC Entertainment’s animated adaptation of Batman: The Killing Joke has an additional subplot involving Batman and Batgirl that adds an unnecessary element to the story. Most members of the fan community, myself included, hated that element. Batman: Gotham by Gaslight does something similar, however, I found it to be refreshing. These tweaks, which I won’t spoil here, gave Gotham by Gaslight a new twist and developed its characters further.
Set in 1889, Bruce Wayne is still the Batman and works to protect Gotham from the dark characters that populate its streets. The city’s population is in constant fear of Jack the Ripper, who has now come to Gotham. The deeper layer, much like that of the original comic, is that Bruce Wayne is the chief suspect of the Gotham City Police Department. So not only is Wayne out to stop the Ripper, but most prove his innocence without revealing his secret identity.
Despite, the comic being a seminal book in my life, I have long forgotten the exact details of who did what or what players were involved. So in watching this new take on the story, I was able to shed that fanboy layer of angst over the changes. Instead, I found it to be insanely perfect. Director Sam Liu and writer James Krieg have shaped a story that is truly a Gothic tale. Furthermore, both Bruce Greenwood, voicing Batman, and Jennifer Carpenter, voicing Selina Kyle, mastered the vehicular of the time. I never felt out of the moment or forced to make a leap in my enjoyment. In fact, as the tale came to an end, I wanted more from these characters as their future was going to take them down a certain path.
The rating for the film is “R”. I would say that is a hard “R” and I have already told a few people who have children that this is not a film to have their kids watch. The brutality still surprised me at first, but in no way is it a deterrent. After a lifetime of watching the SuperFriends and Batman: The Animated Series, I still get that initial shock when I see a Batman cartoon push the boundaries of animated storytelling. A story like this has to, as the villain hunts women of certain nature and kills them.
Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is part of the new standard for the DC Entertainment, one that I see many of their next animated features following. There will always be the likes of Scooby-Doo! & Batman: The Brave and the Bold, however, the audience of comic book readers are getting older and want more from their entertainment. Enjoy the dark tale before you, furthermore enjoy the two bonus episodes from Batman: The Brave the Bold and Batman: The Animated Series. Both are completely fitting and worth watching with the kiddies.
Blu-ray Special Features
• “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.
• 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 and voice cast.