Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Review: The light never fades on "Batman: Gotham By Gaslight"

Batman: Gotham By Gaslight Review
Every year, a handful of animated, direct-to-video DC superhero movies are released throughout the year. Like sprinkles being shook all over the cake of the year. Every year, I wonder more and more why Bruce Trimm and his other collaborators aren't in charge of the DCEU. Clearly, he has a wicked sense for what makes the DC heroes tick, and he makes wonderful superhero adventures time after time. How Warner Brothers hasn't, at the very least, attempted to get the attention of Trimm to work for the DCEU is beyond my abstract thought, and he could work some real wonders.

At this point, if you've been paying attention, the animated DC movies have been fun, they've been popular and they are selling. So as with all sorts of various franchises, its time to get a little weirder. "Batman: Gotham By Gaslight" was a non-canon one-shot comic which essentially asked the question, what if Bruce Wayne operated in Gotham City during the Victorian Era instead of present day. These types of stories have happened a lot in the comics, both Marvel and DC. There was a story in Marvel which put its characters during the colonial period in America. I never read the "Batman: Gotham By Gaslight" one-shot, but I was certainly interested in the movie. The animated DC movies had earned the opportunity to start to get a little more weird, and a little more daring with their adaptations.

Being a huge fan of Batman, I found this to be a very fun, clever look at Victorian Gotham. Right as the film begins, there are parallels involving characters you know that put a big smile on my face. Poison Ivy is an exotic dancer at a circus-like production. Dick Grayson, Jason Todd and Tim Drake, all of whom wore the Robin uniform at one time, are orphans working as errand boys for a local criminal. Funny enough, they stick up Poison Ivy on her walk back home. She rescued by Batman, whose costume is very Victorian. The fights are visceral, and even brutal. There is no wonder this movie got an R-rating, and not just for language. But this adventure is tougher around the edges.

Batman saves Ivy from the orphans and their master crony, but he does not save her from Jack The Ripper, a killer that has been loose in Gotham for an unknown amount of time. Some people are beginning to believe that Batman and Jack The Ripper are the same person. This becomes the mystery of the film. Who is Jack The Ripper? Batman is on the case, and I like that the movie did a good job of portraying Batman's detective skills, something that has been drastically missing in many of his recent movies.

The movie features clever riffs on Arkham Asylum, Blackgate Penitentiary, Harvey Dent, Leslie Thompkins is a nun instead of a doctor here, Selina Kyle isn't quite Catwoman, but she's close, James Gordon and Harvey Bullock are characters here, and long time fans of Batman will enjoy how the characters, places and concepts have been "updated" for the Victorian era. I figured that Jack The Ripper would end up being their version of The Joker, but I was wrong. The reveal of Jack The Ripper is quite the surprise. I am not sure if this is the ending of the original comic book, but I think it certainly worked here. Just because there are some clever representations here, doesn't mean that you know the story as it unfolds.

The animation is really good here, and seems to be getting better and better with every film. The fire in this movie, in particular, stood out for me. I know that's probably weird, but I assure you its true. It feels very natural when fires break out here. Bruce Greenwood was an interesting choice to voice Batman, but as I heard his voice more and more as the movie went along, I learned quickly that he will happily be absorbed into the Batman voice fandom. I would love to hear him voice the character in any future films.

"Batman: Gotham By Gaslight" is another fun DC movie, and it will make you wish we were getting movies like this from the bigger wigs at Warner Bros.

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