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Movie Review: Gotham By Gaslight

Gotham By Gaslight takes us to the turn of the century as America’s continued industrial revolution is to be showcased at a World’s Fair hosted by Gotham City. But while the world prepares to witness the glittery glory of Gotham’s technological advances, there is a killer loose in the city’s darkest shadows. Preying on the city’s women, this killer is as precise as he is cruel. As Police Commissioner James Gordon tries to calm the fears of Gotham’s citizens regarding the butcher called Jack the Ripper, the masked vigilante Batman enacts his own detective work – with the help of confident, capable Selina Kyle – to stop the Ripper’s murderous spree. Witness a world in flames as the notorious serial killer’s controlled savagery meets the calculated stealth of the Dark Knight.

Based on the the classic Elseworlds tale, Gotham By Gaslight is a brutal adaptation that pulls no punches in its storytelling. Fleshing out the original story to expand it for film, it covers the original tale well bringing the story to animated life. The entertainment value of this movie is two fold, seeing Batman go up against Jack the Ripper and also the different setting which isn’t quite “steampunk” but has many similar aesthetics about it.

The story itself is entertaining without a dull moment. There’s a tenseness about it all as you wonder who might be a victim of the Ripper and who is the person behind the mask. And, while there’s hints throughout, the movie and story does an excellent job of leaving you guessing until the end.

But, it’s really about this world, the turn of a century, which means few interesting gadgets for Batman to use to fight crime. That leaves a dirtier story in aspects with not just the technology but also the setting as a whole.

The coloring of the film is a dark black and brown enhancing the gritty nature of it all. There colorful energy of other animated films is missing here, instead we get the personality of the world and setting. The film is a brutal one with numerous murders and a hell of a lot of violence towards women, though not just women.

The voice cast is decent though Bruce Greenwood as Batman/Bruce Wayne is a bit stiff at times. Everyone else is pretty solid and no one is negative in any way. The voices fit the characters well. There’s some interesting accents of the characters reflecting the time, small details that stand out.

What the film does really well is use its settings to not just create interesting hurdles for Batman but also explore that two worlds within. The new century they’re moving in to and and one they’ve just left. It’s a theme that’s deep within the story and expressed in details throughout the film. Batman’s use of tools in his battle, the simplistic murder techniques of the Ripper, they create aspects of the film that’s greater depth than than exists on the story’s surface. It’s one fault is not exploring that more.

The extras explore a lot of that and are well worth watching after the film. They not only shed light on the source material but also some of the themes of the film and choices made within. They all make you appreciate the film more.

This is a very different entry in the DC Animated films and while those have had no problems treading into “R” territory, none of them have been quite this brutal. An entertaining entry that will hopefully open things up to see more Elseworld tales. But, if you’re starting with any, might as well start with the first.

Overall Rating: 7.75

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